Psych-pop outfit King of Prussia started in Athens, but its leader Brandon Hanick has since traveled the globe, settling for a spell in Barcelona, Spain, where he wrote and recorded half of what would become King of Prussia’s new double-album, Zonian Girls… And The Echoes That Surround Us All.
The other half of the record, which marries lilting pop melodies with dense, deliberate arrangements and is out Apr. 8 via Minty Fresh, was put to tape right here in Hanick’s onetime home with the help of The Glow Recording Studio‘s Jesse Mangum, and features contributions from notable locals like Mike Mills.
Flagpole caught up with Hanick, who kicks off a 23-date U.S. tour Thursday, Mar. 27 at Flicker Theatre & Bar.
Flagpole: Zonian Girls is an incredibly collaborative record. What did you hope to achieve by incorporating so many contributors?
Brandon Hanick: The collaborative, inclusive approach is something we’ve done on pretty much every King of Prussia record. It was born out of our desire to create really lush arrangements and never limit ourselves to what four or five people could do. We’d rather try to do what’s right for each song.
All of the core members of the band play several different instruments, but when it comes to strings and horns, we have to call in the experts. On this last one, we recruited some UGA School of Music students to play strings and horns, and even had Mike Mills play piano on a song at his house.
When everything looks, sounds and feels different, you take greater notice of your surroundings. Everything seems more important.
Being open to having a lot of different people play on the records and recording in numerous locations makes anything possible. Plus, it’s just fun and breathes new energy into the project. That said, [for the next record] I think we’ll try to record, mix and master everything in one place in a short period of time.
You recorded part of the album in Europe and part here in Athens. What role did geography play in the final product?
I think you can hear Europe—Barcelona, in particular—in the songwriting. Pretty much everything on the album stems from my three years of living in Barcelona. I’ve even thrown in some Spanish lyrics where they make sense. And I think you can hear Athens in the arrangements: brassy horns, lots of harmonies and lots of instruments.
The idea of a concept record—and a double album at that—is anathema in the singles-centric age of Soundcloud. Was there a conscious decision to sort of buck the trend?
Not a conscious decision. I just had all of these songs that I had written while living in Barcelona, and they sort of divided themselves into a lighter half and a darker half. I had to record them all in order to feel that sense of completion and continue writing new songs.
The plan was to release the album as two separate records six months apart, but it just wasn’t practical money-wise to do two separate releases. So there you have it—a double album! I must admit, I am a bit concerned that the average person just doesn’t have the patience and attention span to sit and listen to 20 songs in a row. But for those that do, I think they’ll enjoy the album even more.
Musically, the album has kind of an ecstatic feel. Even the darker songs exude a certain immediacy.
I think it comes from the fact that I wrote all of these songs while being the “foreigner.” When you’re making a life in a new and totally different place, everything seems hyperreal—more intense than “real life.” I hardly spoke a word of Spanish when I moved to Spain. When everything looks, sounds and feels different, you take greater notice of your surroundings. Everything seems more important.
And though I planned to stay in Barcelona indefinitely—and likely could have—there was probably some part of me that always knew I would return to the States someday. So, there was probably this subconscious sense of immediacy in everything I did while I was there, including songwriting.
What’s the significance of kicking off the tour in Athens?
Athens is where King of Prussia was born, and it will always kind of be home, or at least feel like a home. We started last year’s tour here too. I live in Atlanta now, so that’s where everyone’s meeting up before heading out on tour. We’re starting in Athens and ending in Atlanta, and playing about 30 shows in 23 days in between. Very excited to hit the road with our friends Case Conrad from Sweden.
King of Prussia plays Flicker Theatre & Bar Thursday, Mar. 27 with Old Smokey and Case Conrad.
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