Interview: Kory Gregory of Prince Daddy & The Hyena on the Prince Daddy “DNA”

Posted: by The Editor

Personally, I have been following Prince Daddy & The Hyena’s music for years now. From seeing them perform in basements to filling up huge venues with fans yelling out their lyrics. It has been incredible to see this band grow and change into who they are today. On their third LP which is self-titled, the band push themselves creatively to deliver their most diverse yet cohesive record to date. I got to speak with lead singer and guitarist, Kory Gregory, about the record and their experience growing as a band.

Sarah: What was the writing process like for you? 

Kory: I feel like it was the same as it ever was. Something that kind of kick-started it was having intrusive and obsessive thoughts about one thing or another. It was not really a decision to choose or say “hey, I’m going to write these songs.” It was more that I just sat down to write songs and it just so happened that everything that I wrote about was about the same thing which was mortality, and impermanence and just how fragile things like that are. It was an accidental conceptual record. It wasn’t a specific decision to write a concept record about characters and death. It was more what I was dealing with at the moment. It happened organically and there was no math involved. 

Would you say this album was more cathartic for you than your other releases? 

At the time of writing each one, each one was written kind of like a therapeutic exercise along with everything else. This one for me is definitely the most organic. There were no conscious decisions being made. However, I felt like this record is our most cohesive and conceptual record to date. Where in the past, it was a decided thing, like Cosmic Thrill Seekers will be a concept record. It was very rewarding to have this record be eye-opening in the sense that it all fell into place without the effort of making a web of characters and concepts. It happened more accidentally. 

This album is very conceptual in relationship to your previous records, what made you decide to write as this 3rd person character rather than completely from your perspective? 

I see the album as kind of first person but exaggerated. There’s very little of me writing from someone else’s perspective. I think for me what it is, is me talking from my perspective but exaggerated, unrealistic, stretched out, and hyperbolic way to get certain points across. I feel like a lot of the things we talk about on this record are too big and dense to just talk about it at surface level. So I felt like I had to let myself be okay with not being realistic in my work and it not being my actual reality. It is a lot more stream of consciousness and a lot less calculated. I let myself speak. I was never worried about being “right.” It was more about a stream of consciousness and writing about a topic like this would be a disservice to make it organized and clean. Because I don’t feel like the subject matter like dying, and fear of death, and impermanence, can be organized, it’s more chaos thoughts. Not calculating anything was important and having it more “diary-esque” was important. 

On Cosmic Thrill Seekers mental health definitely took center stage as the theme of the record, but from what I’ve gathered on Self-Titled it’s a lot more complex than that. Can you speak about how you decided thematically on what to include on the record?

I feel like actually this record is kind of like the exact opposite of CTS. Where on CTS I was really worried about finding the destination, like the answer to a question. Whereas this one is more about the question. This record doesn’t have a mission statement of any kind or is not really trying to say anything but what the question is. I feel like there isn’t a climax and resolution. There’s a puzzle that’s never really solved. Where in CTS it’s kind of very specific to try to find what’s right and what’s wrong; very black and white. Where on this record it’s all one gray area. It’s an intentional mess. If something made too much sense to me I felt like it didn’t belong on this record. 

Instrumentally you definitely took a step back from the more fast-tempoed nature of your previous records, what made you decide to transition into some more indie-rock influenced sounds? 

I honestly don’t even know if I agree if we took a step from the fast stuff. I feel like some people may say that because for the first time there are some slow songs and pop songs. But, I also feel like there are just as many fast songs and if anything they are faster. I think it was just taking what we thought as the core of Prince Daddy and stretching it so far to the point where it may be unrecognizable. The fast songs are faster than ever and the slow songs are slower than ever. All of those things were all present but we took it to the point where we exaggerated and challenged ourselves. During writing this record, and considering the themes and where it came from I wanted from song to song to feel like whiplash in a car accident. I wanted things to feel like impact. I wanted it to go from fast song to slow song to soft song to hard song to completely acoustic to synth song. I never wanted it to feel comfortable. I didn’t want any pockets where there was any sort of familiarity. If there was familiarity I wanted it to be so familiar that it was unfamiliar. For instance a song like “Curly Q” is one of the only PDaddy songs which are theoretically correct. In the context of a PDaddy record where none of the other songs are like that it is a source of unpredictability. In the record that song is weird because it is so not weird. In the context of the record it’s so specific that there isn’t any pothole to fall in. I don’t want anyone to identify any parts as “the PDaddy part” but yet it’s still who we are. 

It’s salty and sweet. 

Right, it’s me making sure I honor what the heart of this record is, which is probably one of the most overbearingly feral fears. To organize that and calculate it and put it into its filing cabinet would do it injustice. I wanted to avoid giving it a “table of contents” of sorts. The characters aren’t really characters like they were in CTS. It is all just ghosts, there’s no character arcs. It’s just this messy stream of consciousness and overbearing or racing thoughts. It was important to me to maintain that whiplash feeling. 

I know that you’ve been recording with Scoops for years now, how has your recording relationship with them changed going into this record?

We’re only getting more and more excited and comfortable with each other. When I was writing this and making a demo, Scoops was the first person I would send it to. We would bounce ideas back and forth. The more comfortable we get with each other the more experimental we get. We just get more and more excited to try new things. I think he more than anyone, besides the people in the band, knows what the Prince Daddy DNA consists of. We trust his judgment and ideas because there is a shared creative vision. With Scoops he’s only present for the music part of this. At this point in the record’s journey he is uninvolved. His job is over. His effort goes into the recording and it shows. We have a lot of fun and he helps us maintain tasteful exploration rather than us losing our minds and playing with synths all day. 

Prince Daddy is rooted in the DIY scene, how have you brought those ethos throughout your music and in touring while transitioning into more popularity?

There was never really a transition. The only thing that actually changed is the size of the rooms we’re playing. It’s still just us in a van traveling and being homies before anything. The amount of people singing along in a room is insane. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I think we treat it exactly the same. Since writing these songs this is the first time where for all of us this is our job. We don’t have side jobs, this is it. That gives us more opportunities to dive into it all. To get better at our instruments and hone in. I have a vocal coach now ever since we finished CTS so I don’t damage my voice. We really put every aspect of ourselves into it. Our dynamic is the same as when we played basements. Just going from show to show and seeing our friends from other towns and cities. The magic in the room is what we love. That’s what makes writing songs for me so enjoyable. It’s the same as 6 or 7 years ago when we were playing basements. 

You all have a gratifying stage presence, how do you maintain that over the years? 

I really don’t feel like any of us think about it too much. I’m a music appreciator first before I’m even a performer or songwriter. I think all of this works because we all love music. I feel like we’re pretty self aware in that sense because we see it from an appreciator’s perspective beyond someone who is just writing it. I feel like what we do to maintain the PDaddy DNA beyond the songs and the lyrics is the level of transparency and realism. There’s no characters at play. When Kory, Adam, Cam and Daniel get on stage, it is who we are. There’s no rock star attitude or script. We never write a setlist, there’s not things we say between songs. It keeps it fun for us. It’s the main factor at play and we make sure we are as real to ourselves and to each other and that’s what presents on stage. It doesn’t take effort for us. 

What does community mean to you? 

I would say community is very important to me. I think of the community around PDaddy are the bands we tour with who we become friends with and we continue to tour with and go to their shows and they come to ours. The fans who come to the shows since forever. Most of my friends I have met through touring. Just Friends for example, or Mom Jeans, or Oso Oso, or Remo Drive, or Retirement Party, or the Obsessives, these are people I talk to daily. Those are people I’ve known forever. There are also people who don’t play in bands but come to me at the merch table after a show and we just talk and have a meaningful conversation. The next time they come through hopefully I remember them. To have these people who are just giving each other a hand is pretty amazing. That’s how the community is and the community is responsible for my entire living. 

How would you describe Prince daddy? 

We are the most un-extravagant, normal people you will ever meet. If you find anything remarkable about us, that’s great. I really feel like a lot of who we are comes from the fact that I am not an exciting person. We’re an unpredictable little conglomerate of sounds and we don’t have any kind of image or narrative. It’s kind of what the PDaddy DNA is, is being unpredictable and not having a trajectory. Everyone would have their own idea of what PDaddy LP 4 would sound like and that’s exciting to me. That’s the main selling point for me as a listener. I want the comfort to come from the discomfort. 

To wrap things up, what music have you been into lately? 

During lockdown I got super into movie scores. I go into phases. But a lot of orchestral and electronic movie scores. The stuff that made me go down my “synth-hole” is probably the Blade Runner soundtrack. But that will probably change in a month. Right now it’s John Carpenter movie soundtracks but next it could be Bruce Springsteen. I just like music, I love the concept of just listening to a song because I have an interest in music. I’m just curious about what music is, it doesn’t take me liking a song to get pleasure out of it. 

Prince Daddy & the Hyena is out April 15th. You can pre-order the record on Pure Noise Records. 

Interview by Sarah Knoll

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