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The Prize: Melbourne's New Power Pop Dynamos

Melbourne's hottest new addition The Prize play a well-worn power pop style that's loaded with an arsenal of hooks, tight harmonies, and plenty of ascending guitar lines that explode out of the speakers. Following the release of their debut EP Wrong Side of Town, we caught up with drummer-vocalist Nadine Muller to find out all about her new band and their upcoming run of shows with Sunnyboys and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

Photo by Izzie Austin

The Prize is one of the hottest new additions to hit the Naarm/Melbourne underground scene. Comprised of drummer-vocalist Nadine Muller (Killerbirds, Wolfy and the Bat Cubs), guitarist-vocalist Carey Paterson (The Fighting League, TV Colours, PTSD), guitarist Joe Imfeld (Tyrannamen), guitarist Austin Haire, and bassist Jack Kong (Beans, Gonzo), The Prize bring three guitars and five voices that harmonize together to create some of the best power pop their city has heard in years. Formed during the pandemic, The Prize has been kicking around the scene since their first show in November '21, opening for garage punks Civic at The Croxton Bandroom. With an arsenal of hook-laden tunes with tight harmonies and plenty of ascending guitar lines that explode out of the speakers, The Prize's well-worn power pop styling and early punk propulsion reverts back to both genres' heyday, evoking The Shivvers, The Toms, The Real Kids, and Road to Ruin-era Ramones.

Their debut EP, Wrong Side of Town, released through the always reliable Anti Fade Records back in September, is a refreshing and thrilling rock 'n' roll joyride packed with succinct, speedy, power-pop treats. On the opening title track, The Prize blast through the gates with their raucous, fast-paced guitars and a big, anthemic chorus that really hits the sweet spot for anyone who's a sucker for hyper-melodic power pop. "Easy Way Out" is a vivacious, shack-shaking garage rock tune that features a ripping guitar solo, while "Don't Know You" features an infectious melody, one that's sounds similar to something Paul Collins would've penned way back with The Nerves. There's also a sensational cover of The Incredible Kidda Band's obscure 1979 classic "Fighting My Way Back."

Following the EP's release, we caught up with Muller through email to find out all about her new band and their place in the Naarm/Melbourne underground scene.

Paperface Zine: Hey Nadine, congrats on the new EP! Without a doubt, our favorite EP of 2022. First, tell us how The Prize formed and what the vision was when coming together?

Nadine Muller: I was living with our bass player Jack at the time and we started a muck-around band with our housemates to get through the idle time that was endless months of lockdown in Melbourne. Funnily, that consisted of members of The Murlocs, Beans, and Civic so it was a pretty decent, silly project. When we had little breaks of freedom, Carey, Joe and I would catch up and jam a little bit with the hope we might be able to get something off the ground and when we finally started writing and jamming, Jack was there to play some bass for us and luckily we got to keep him. Aussie and Joe are good mates and I think Aussie had been wanting to start playing in a band so it all fell into place pretty organically. I am a big power pop fan and thought that style was underrepresented in the Melbourne music scene. We all have pretty similar musical influences so the sound just came together from what we were mostly listening to at the time. My partner introduced us all to The Toms during that period so I'd say that the first album probably has a lot to answer for.

PZ: You guys went on tour last September with The Chats, which must've been huge. What has it been like navigating the Naarm/Melbourne scene so far?

NM: We've all played in bands in Melbourne over the years and a lot of our friends are in great bands here so we've had a lot of support from the music community here. It's a pretty tight-knit little network down here.

PZ: You mentioned '70s power pop as an influence, but what else has shaped your sound? I realized recently your dad is Dean Muller of Cosmic Psychos!

NM: That's right! So I grew up on a lot of '70s and '80s punk music like Ramones, The Saints, and Joan Jett and that all still certainly plays pretty heavily into my songwriting and possibly DNA. I think when we started the band, we were all listening to a lot of power pop, but also maintaining a pretty steady diet of classic rock 'n' roll like Thin Lizzy, The Angels, and Divinyls.

PZ: Take me through the line-up of The Prize. What's something special that each of you brings to the table?

NM: I'd say I'm the whip cracker of the group because unfortunately, somebody's gotta do it! Carey is the smart one. Joe is the clean one, Aussie is the reliable one, and Jack is the tardy one [laughing]. All the boys are very talented musicians and I think what I lack in technique I make up for in energy.

Photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

PZ: What do you all do when not making music?

NM: I work as a freelance makeup artist and hairstylist. Carey works in an office, Jack is a teacher, Aussie (very conveniently) works at a record pressing plant and is an artist. And Joe (also conveniently for us) is a screen-printer.

PZ: There's been a bit of hype around you over the past couple years especially from your live performances and the title track off your debut EP. Talk to me about the debut single, how it came about, and what you envisioned for it when initially composing it?

NM: The guitar lead line in that song was something that Joe had written a few years ago. It's a very catchy and distinctive riff so I really wanted to do it justice with the vocal melody and lyrics. Jim McCullough of Civic and I worked on the lyrics together. It was in the thick of lockdown and a lot of people were packing up and moving back to their hometowns. The song refers to that feeling of wanting to escape and make a new start but then just ending up right back where you started. We're all very pumped that people finally have something to listen to!

PZ: How do you approach your songwriting? How do your initial ideas for your tracks develop?

NM: Until this band started, I hadn't ever really written more than a couple of songs — which were basically always after breakups [laughing]. So I was pretty out of my comfort-zone attempting to write enough lyrics to put together a set. I'd gone through a few rough patches that year, as well as all the emotions that came with lockdown so most of the songs I wrote are a bit dark, but we put them to a snappy beat and some big riffs and they sound a lot less negative! Carey and I share the load of the lyrics (usually whoever writes it, sings it) and the riffs are just whoever has got something cooking and then everyone throws in their two cents so it has been a really good dynamic.

PZ: Prior to the official release of the singles, the only things you had online were live recordings from your Frankston show last April. Do you think with the lack of releases you have, that helps bring more people to your shows especially if they're craving more music from you?

NM: Yeah for sure! I think word of mouth has played a major part in getting people to our shows. We haven't had anything tangible out so it's been a pretty nice surprise to see people coming along and weirdly, knowing words and singing along to songs, just from seeing us live a few times.

Photo by Jamie Wdziekonski

PZ: You have played some really solid shows last year, including Jerkfest 7. What was that like?

NM: We love Billy. Jerkfest is always such a well curated day. We had a great time playing that. I got to see R.M.F.C. that day for the first time and we've since tee'd up some shows together in Sydney later in the year to promote the new 7" so we're looking forward to playing with them again.

PZ: You've played a couple shows with Civic who we interviewed for one of our past print issues. Those shows must've been pretty intense.

NM: Our first ever show was opening for Civic at the Croxton band room — which was a pretty daunting size room for our first gig! But it was a lot of fun. Jim is kind of an honorary member of The Prize as he and I worked together on the lyrics of a couple of the first few songs the band wrote and he also played bass for us before we had Jack, so he's been there right from the garage.

PZ: What's been the craziest show you've played so far?

NM: Probably the Croxton show with Civic to be honest! No one had seen us before and we didn't know what the reaction would be. I'd never done lead vocals before and It was the first show any of us had played (or been to) in almost two years of lockdowns so it felt pretty special.

PZ: How do you think you've grown since playing your first show together?

NM: I think we've become a lot more confident with songwriting and our live shows are getting tighter and for us, more relaxed.

PZ: What's next for The Prize?

NM: We've been knuckling down, writing and recording for an LP release in 2023! Our first show is with Aussie legends, The Sunnyboys in Melbourne on January 28th, followed by some shows with King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. Plus a few local festivals including Tent Pole Fest and Ninch Fest! We've also got our first overseas tour shaping up for UK/Europe around August! It's gonna be a fun year!

Wrong Side of Town is out now through Anti Fade Records.


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