“We’re a weird band,” states Princess Goes drummer Peter Yanowitz. He’s not wrong. But weird like David Bowie, Bjork and Brian Wilson’s Smile might be termed “weird.” In other words: unconventional and quite possibly irresistible. Princess Goes’ second full-length album, the 12- song Come of Age, is the trio’s most accessible work to date, yet it’s still chock-full of innovative songs that traverse a thrilling and often surprising sonic and lyrical landscape. The first single, “Shimmer,” highlights Michael C. Hall’s powerful, ethereal vocals atop quietly propulsive rhythm lines, and features Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) as guest guitarist. “Shimmer”’s equally stunning and expansive video was directed by Tim Richardson (Elton John, Billie Eilish, Givenchy). “Take Me Home” serves up a soaring emotive trippiness that morphs into headbanging moments worthy of the heaviest metaller or your favorite Zeppelin album, while the haunting “Jetpack” showcase Hall’s poignant lyrics and penetrative voice, at once bell-clear and diaphanous, as the song builds to a wild and harrowing conclusion.
The 12 songs on Come of Age are by turns foreboding, mystical and danceable, Ray Bradbury-meets-the-Jetsons in its galactic aural scope. The ominous semi-drone beginning of “Blur” morphs into synthwave spectacularness, the song’s dynamics suiting Hall’s lyrics about “an illicit formative encounter.” Some of Hall’s most pointed writing is on the title track, “Come of Age,” the irresistibly bouncy musicality cut by the singer’s trenchant words: “Godzilla goggles seeing nothing but King Kong makes it hard to get along,” he sings, before deadpanning, “did you really mean it when you told me I was good / or are you just a devil spitting Hollywood.” “Come of Age,” explains Hall, is neither a command that the audience come of age, nor a suggestion that Princess Goes has reached some adulting milestone. As with much of what the trio does, it just intuitively felt right. It was likewise an easy decision to include a remixed version of a previously released song, the fan favorite “Let It Go.” Princess Goes felt the cut, as originally written, was sort of an outlier. It started with Yanowitz. Katz-Bohen took it home, sped it up and it became a little more EDM, but also fun, poppy, and anthemic. The LP’s mixer and frequent collaborator Brandon Bost (HAIM, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga) worked on the song with the Princess Goes (and also plays some bass and keys to the album), and now the band can hardly wait to play the new, slightly more expeditious incarnation of “Let it Go” live.
The New York City-bred trio have been gigging and recording DIY-style for several years, self-producing and releasing a debut EP in April 2020 and a full-length debut, Thanks for Coming, in 2021. Touring the West Coast as well as the UK and Ireland found new fans clamoring to see the eclectic trio. Fan and press raves followed. The Associated Press lauded the lineup’s “mix of glam, dreamy ‘80s New Wave, acoustic folk, Nine Inch Nails intensity,” while Billboard noted the trio’s “palpable theatricality.”
Hall, Katz-Bohen and Yanowitz are seasoned performers forging new creative ground together in PG: Hall is best known for playing moralistic serial killer Dexter Morgan from Showtime hit Dexter as well as David Fisher from HBO’s revered Six Feet Under. Katz-Bohen has played with Blondie since 2008, while Yanowitz is a veteran of the Wallflowers and his own group, Morningwood.
Though onstage and on paper they’re a keyboards-drums-vocals band, Come of Age is rife with guitar and bass, instruments that play a bigger role than on previous recordings. “I think the original sounds that Matt and Peter first made came about because necessity was the mother of invention,” says Hall. “It’s what was in the studio when they first started making instrumental tracks, electronic drums and a lot of keyboards.” The musical evolution on Come Of Age was organic. “We really fully embraced not limiting ourselves,” says Yanowitz, “and we did embrace the guitar heavily--electric and acoustic--and a lot of bass.”
“We like the fact that a lot of the times you can't tell instrumentally what's what,” furthers Katz-Bohen. “People say ‘that sounds like a guitar,’ but it's actually a keyboard playing through a guitar amp. There's always that ‘what makes that sound? What is that thing?’” The songs manage to be at once catchy and intoxicating, soundtracky musicscapes for the ages, synth-heavy but multi-faceted.
Writing new music since the release of Thanks for Coming, PG recorded Come of Age at the band’s Clubhouse near Manhattan’s Union Square. The central location allowed for stellar guests, including next-door neighbor Maria Peña Paris, a Colombian poet who became the Spanish voice on the Latin-tinged “Whatever Whispers.” “We make a lot of noise at the studio, so she probably gets the brunt of that, and she knows all of our songs,” they recall. One of the lyrics she contributes to “Whatever Whispers” -- “what kind of glory are you looking for?” came to Hall as he was waiting for coffee before going into the studio. The trio worked up the first version together in the studio, starting with Katz-Bohen jamming on a uniquely tuned 1910 upright piano. Other guests populating Come of Age include singer Chantal Claret (Morningwood) on “Beija,” and Grammy-winning opera singer Anthony Roth Costanzo on “Saving Grace.” Illustrative of Princess Goes’ experimental open-mindedness, the title track came from the street. Literally. “I live in Bushwick, in Brooklyn,” begins Katz-Bohen. “You'll find a random lot of garbage on the streets. But there was a keyboard, I think from the early to late ‘80s. It’s not great, but it does have this one beautiful sound which became the basis of ‘Come of Age.’ So I sent that around to the guys and everyone put their magic on it.” Clearly, Come of Age flowed sans any preconceived notions or touchstones. But there’s a clear cohesiveness to the album. “Everything you hear still sounds like it's ‘in the Museum,’ which is our terminology for something that fits in with our aesthetic,” explains Katz-Bohen. Which leads to the shortened band name: There’s no crazy story behind the original Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum moniker; there are far more interesting things about this trio. But for enquiring minds, they now go by Princess Goes because, in short, it’s shorter. Princess is now free to Go anywhere and everywhere, travelling lighter as PG instead of PGTTBM.
The group’s evolution is ongoing and often unearthly, spacy and provocative in the vein of Bowie’s Blackstar. (Hall played Thomas Newton in the original New York cast of Bowie’s off-Broadway musical swan song, Lazarus.) “I think the vibe of the latter third of Come of Age, goes to a place that's a little more expansive or hopeful or mystically minded,” Hall says. “Though I suppose it starts on that note too. You want some things to have a musical unfolding and flow, but you also want some sort of evolution that makes sense lyrically. I think we managed to do both those things with the sequence.”
And for newbies to the Princess Goes sphere, fair warning: If anyone goes to a PG show to see the “guy from TV,” once Hall is onstage singing, he says, “that actually sort of takes care of itself. If people have some sort of preconception, it’s pushed aside once we're up there doing our thing. It's not unique to this band,” Hall says. “I go to dinner, and people are like, ‘Hey, you're that guy!?’ And I'm like, ‘I'm not actually that guy.’ It’s just another version of ‘I'm not that guy’.”
Although Come of Age is the group’s second full-length album, Princess Goes are as excited as first-timers. “Until now we've been gestating in this small world, being in our own cocoon and working the last bunch of years,” says Yanowitz. “I feel like this group of songs and this sort of statement that we wanted to put out with Come of Age tied in nicely to that. It also felt like we kind of graduated out of that scene the three of had created, and maybe wherever we go next is to the wider world. The making of Come of Age felt like a bookend to the way we were working, a stepping-off point for something new.”