From The Mars Volta to The Memorials
written by: Taylor Brennan on February 17, 2011
If raining is the result of God crying, then thunder results from Thomas Pridgen playing drums. In his newest project, the former drummer of the Latin infused-prog group The Mars Volta does what he does best, and melodically pummels the holy hell out of his DWs and Zildjians.
Pridgen’s new band is called The Memorials, a collective of Pridgen and two of his best friends from before his Volta days; singer Viveca Hawkins and guitarist Nick Brewer. The band officially formed in December of 2009, and after a year of building up buzz, released their eponymous debut LP and set off on a cross-country tour.
The band’s first album, The Memorials, kicks off hard with the single “We Go to War,” proving one can take the man out of The Mars Volta, but maybe not The Mars Volta out of the man.
Though there is no debate Pridgen was a phenom well before joining his last band (locking down major endorsements at age 9), he certainly learned from his past experience working in Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s band. The ‘Volta composer and guitarist is well known for his in-studio direction, which is to say the band is his country and he’s Mubarak. While these tensions may have had their part driving Pridgen from the group, Pridgen has admitted he was very tough on his band mates in the recording of The Memorials, pushing them to their musical limits and getting them to open up and form the sound he envisioned.
The result is something fans of Thomas Pridgen will really like and open-minded fans of The Mars Volta could maybe like. Of course, The Memorials has plenty of moments (and whole songs) featuring drum fills fans both expect and at the same time still can’t believe. Luckily, Pridgen uncharacteristically chills out in songs like “Real” and at the end of “GTFOMF” and brings dynamics to the hour plus record.
When it happens, the reserved drumming is a nice compliment to Hawkins smoky voice that walks a thin line of hard rock, soul and jazz. Viveca is certainly a talented singer, and her voice fits well as a piece of the unique sound The Memorials strive for. On the record however, her vocals are lathered in studio effects and layers that really take away from the raw emotion one gets the feeling she is capable of.
And as Pridgen occasionally overplays, so does Hawkins, holding sustained wails when the music could stand to take a breath. Brewer is perfectly at home keeping up with Pridgen. Between the hard and hooky riffs like “GTMOMF” and “We Go To War,” he lays down the foundation for some of the trio’s most memorable songs. Songs like “Give Me The Stuff” feature Brewer holding down the groove while wildly going Hendrix over the chorus. Nick Brewer is not a name you’re familiar with yet, but as this young band continues to tour and release material, he could really establish himself as a force.
The Memorials is a good record. The Memorials is a good band, with the potential to be great.
The only issue right now is that they are a young band, and that’s the easiest problem any group could have. The record was written within just a couple of weeks, and there are many parts of the album that could stand for more development and thought, though the talent and ability of the band shine in every instance. Early interviews show the excitement of Hawkins, Brewer and Pridgen discovering and embracing each other’s abilities and their potential. In this regard, it makes sense they would plow through two weeks at a studio, develop almost every first thought, make a record, and tour their asses off.
Right now, The Memorials are on a grassroots, 31-date, coast-to-coast tour funded by their fans. The band’s website talks of their aspirations to immediately tackle Europe once the U.S. dates are done. This ambition will mix well with the experience that comes from extensive shows and sound-checks, and as long as the three members find the best way to execute their natural chemistry (and Pridgen keeps bringing the thunder), The Memorials next batch of songs could really lay the groundwork for an impressive career and following.