Silicone Prairie Keeps the Midwestern Weirdo Punk Flag Flying High
After piling up an immense amount of punk releases from Warm Bodies and The Natural Man Band, the Kansas City-based artist Ian Teeple returned in 2020 with his latest recording project Silicone Prairie. Shortly after coming back from touring with Snooper last fall, we caught up with Teeple through email to discuss the recent tour, the origins of the new recording project, and its visual accompaniment.
After piling up an immense amount of punk releases from Warm Bodies and The Natural Man Band, the Kansas City-based artist Ian Teeple returned in 2020 with his latest recording project Silicone Prairie. Recorded all by himself at home, Teeple compresses the goofy mechanics of Devo and Dow Jones and the Industrials, The Coneheads and D.L.I.M.C. into a blender and pour out a dizzying high-speed of oddball punk melded with trebly new wave nerves and lo-fi outsider pop across his 13-track debut album, My Life on the Silicone Prairie.
The debut album's opening track "PD2TB" is unapologetically strange with its swarm of jagged riffs, drum machines and synths that possess the sonic spectrum Teeple admires. "America" is one of the many highlights here with its sharp, angular guitars and stop-start rhythms that underlay a vocal delivery that's filled with effervescent charm — it's also got one of the weirdest music videos about a goblin and a girl named Lindsey. Aside from more frenzied and energetic arrangements like "Dance to the Beat," "Open Module," and "Picnic at Hanging Rock," some songs are accompanied with bedroom jangles that carry the rippling Dunedin Sound of classic Flying Nun bands ("Lay in the Flowers," "Born into Trouble," and dashes of art pop ("River of Time," "Goodbye," "Come Away"). There's even an instrumental ode to the late-electronic pioneer Patrick Cowley. Between the hyper-active guitar passages, explorative rhythmic melodies and keyboard bursts, Silicone Prairie seams into peculiar territories that'll make you return more than once.
Shortly after coming back from touring with Snooper last fall, we caught up with Teeple through email to discuss the recent tour, the origins of the new recording project, and its visual accompaniment.
Paperface Zine: So how was the tour with Snooper back in October? The shows in Canada looked incredible and it looked like you were filling in for someone in Snooper too.
Ian Teeple: Tour has been completely mental, I'm particularly proud of how the Montreal and New York City shows went! Montreal we played at Casa Del Popolo, which I was pretty nerded out to hear was owned by the Constellation Records people. Joe Chamandy and his Retail Simps put the show together and crushed and we sold it out! And yes, I was actually playing guitar in Snooper for their Canada dates because their bass player couldn't get their passport fast enough. I learned the song's acoustic style with everyone in Snooper acapella singing their parts, it's one of my favorite tour moments ever!
PZ: Talk to me about how that came about. Also, how did that T.V. Eye show go? The bill was stacked with fellow art punks PATTI and Chronophage.
IT: I'm glad it makes sense to you, I think so too! Our live bands are very different, but I think our recordings came about in a really similar way. Actually it's funny, Blair and Connor have been my close homies ever since they booked Warm Bodies in Nashville about four-to-five years ago. So we were actually sending each other our records as we were making them! I feel so proud to be in the Snooper universe, they ask me to master their stuff and do art all the time which keeps me going. They introduced me at the merch table as "the designer" one night I think haha. The T.V. Eye show was super psycho!! Both locals are among the best in the game, I particularly love Chronophage. Shout out to Parker!
PZ: Who did you recruit for the Silicon Prairie backing band for this tour and how has it been translating these bedroom recordings live?
IT: The band is me on guitar and vox, Cassandra Gillig (acclaimed poet/writer and leader of our other band Perfect Lovers) on bass, Kyle Rausch (Shy Boys, ACB's, Koney, Fullbloods, basically every band that encouraged me to start playing music when I was young) on drums and vox, and Leslie Butsch (Natural Man, Dean Monkey & the Dropouts/one of my oldest friends) on sax, moog, and vox. It's been really fun playing with them, we really locked into a groove on this tour. The band is way different from the record, which is good because it's more engaging and less thin/drum machine-based than on the recordings.
PZ: You can really go down quite a rabbit hole with all the project's you've been part of. Tell me a bit about how you got into music and the different projects you've been part of in the Kansas City music scene like Natural Man and Warm Bodies.
IT: I just keep making stuff and don't look back, I think I'm getting less and less cringe as time goes on... hopefully. Please reader, listen and discern for yourself!
PZ: Take me now through the origins of Silicone Prairie. Was this a project you had in mind for a while or did it emerge out of pandemic boredom? It feels very much like an expected offshoot to Natural Man.
IT: Actually yes, Silicone Prairie was going before the pandemic happened, I sensed Natural Man was nearing its end and I didn't have a band really to play the songs I was writing, so I just started recording and figured I'd suffer the consequences later. And here we are! There's one song on the Natural Man LP called "Knife Sharpener" that's sort of the first Silly P track. But yeah, the pandemic happened and I had about half an album, so I just buckled down with all my free time and finished it and put it out. It was really a high moment in a dark time.
PZ: My Life on the Silicone Prairie is a heady collection of lo-fi gems that melds trebly contemporary weirdo punk with a smattering of Hardcore-era Devo and the unusual, but endearing songwriting of Dead Milkmen. How did this album come about and did you approach it differently compared to your previous work?
IT: I liked that Dead Milkmen song "Bitchin' Camaro" when I was in grade school, I think it was the first "punk" song I'd ever heard. I adopted that accent they talked in for awhile as a kid. This album to me was an exercise in limitations, only being able to record four tracks on the four-track! I of course made it more complicated in the end, but I'll be forever haunted by how well it turned out I think.
PZ: I love how the music perfectly compliments the artwork. How did the music video for "America" come about? Some of the visuals especially with The Clear Man remind me of the old The Mr. Potato Head Show.
IT: That's all about Carrie Wallen's deranged mind. We lived together during the pandemic and I asked her to freestyle a music video with me just using the people in our pod basically! It was really wild and loose and we came up with a deranged concept and the execution I think matches the music really well... Carrie is a genius!
PZ: What has it been like working with fellow visual artists like Wallen and Snooper's Blair Tramel for the videos?
IT: It was really smooth and easy actually, they are both wizards when it comes to editing and presentation, and I was lucky enough that they both agreed to work on those videos! Blair's animations are out of this world, her Instagram is a constant source of inspiration. Music videos are actually an awful lot of work, many hours go into something that you can't really sell or recoup costs so... big shout out to them for their willingness to knock it out of the park! Me and Carrie just made a video for a new song that will eventually come out on the next album, it's going to be even more insane-o. Big movies on a small budget!
PZ: Since the tour has wrapped up, what's next for Silicone Prairie?
IT: Yes! Right now, I am sort of languishing and struggling finishing the next Silicone album, but it's going to be sort of like Dark M.O.R. Freedom Rock. Heartland Music for sad people during dark times? I don't know :-).
My Life on the Silicone Prairie is out now through Feel It Records.