Minibeast is the musical creation of Peter Prescott (Mission Of Burma, Volcano Suns, Kustomized, Peer Group). Minibeast combines surf, psych, punk, easy listening, 60’s children’s music, and soundtrack influences to create instrumental soundscapes. Live, Minibeast is a 3-piece band with Keith Seidel, Eric Baylies, and Peter Prescott.
INTERVIEW WITH PETE PRESCOTT (GUITARIST/VOCALIST)
(Interview conducted and written by Connor Sullivan)
Q: How did this project emerge?
A: I made one bedroom-recording record, wanting to wipe the slate clean and do something I’ve never done before — something more psychedelic, more dubby, more stonery. I wanted to do more chanting vocals than choruses. I did the guitars and keyboards so that they would give off that dubby sound. Alec Redfearn, who has in a band around here called The Eyesores, played bass. Rick Pelletier was the drummer, and he was in a band called Six Finger Satellite. That incarnation of Minibeast was around maybe a year; they all had other bands, and were starting to be so active with those bands that we couldn’t play much. So I went and finished the album we have released called Free Will, Kickstarting it. After that was done, I thought maybe it’d be nice to play live again. I stumbled into a guy named Eric Baylies, who plays bass in a couple other bands, and another guy named Adam Autry, who still plays drums in Olneyville Sound System. [Autry] was in the project for six or eight months before moving away. But then we got a drummer named Keith Seidel, who completed the project the way I wanted it to be. The first version of Minibeast was really dreamy and trippy; this has much more urgency to it, with a little punk creeping back in. We even sound like a post-punk band, sort of; but the real fringe ones — like The Slits or Gang of Four. It’s still not a pop band, though. It really hinges on the rhythm section created by the bass and drums, which make this big bed I can lay in.
Q: You recorded Minibeast’s debut, Free Will, entirely by yourself. Are you transitioning into a more multi-instrumentalist role?
A: Totally. I don’t even really play drums, right now. This stuff was around even ten, fifteen years ago in my head. I’m no virtuoso at any instrument, but I don’t think you have to be to play punk.
Q: Is the project still pretty lyrically involved?
A: There are some songs that have lyrics, and some that don’t. I didn’t want to make it one way or another. Minibeast is selfish; it’s just me and the other two guys doing what we want, which sometimes doesn’t involve singing.
Q: Can you draw any parallels between Minibeast and Mission of Burma?
A: Burma was never an impovy group. We were never a pop band, but there were still sing-along songs. We worked the songs out; this is 180º away from that, and is built much more on improvisation. It’s much more built on feeling and rhythm than it is singing along to something. Frankly, I’d like to see people dance to our stuff. It’s miles away from Burma, in that respect. Minibeast doesn’t fit firmly into a genre. The only label we can really throw on it is “psychedelic.”
Q: Did any listening experience(s) elicit the comparatively psychedelic and improvisational sound of Minibeast?
A: It’s definitely influenced by the music I’ve been listening to the past twenty years. I love soundtracks, and would love to create make movie music for a movie that doesn’t exist. Roger [from Mission of Burma] has done soundtrack stuff for PBS, actually. I really love that stuff. I love Can and Krautrock. We really value the rhythmic underpinning.
I used to work at a place in Boston called Mystery Train Records. Everyone came in to buy records to sample off of, and I really came to like some of those guys. They had an open mind to just about anything.
Q: One interesting aspect of Minibeast’s sound is its inclusion of samples from educational children’s show. What function does this serve for the broader sound?
A: If you take a sample and use it completely out of context, you disconnect it from it was and it becomes a completely different thing. At thrift stores, if there’s a wacky and out-of-place record, there’s bound to be something on there, either a sound or something somebody sang, that would be cool to have in this wrong context. Also, records like that are the easiest to sample, since you don’t have to pay for anything because no one gives a shit. James Brown’s record company once hired someone solely for the purpose of looking for artists that sampled James Brown and charging them. But I don’t think anyone cares anymore, as everything’s free online. You don’t even hear people talk about “pirating” music anymore.
Though some of the things we sample are funny, I don’t think of Minibeast as a “funny” band. My favorite bands always have something funny and something irreverent. In the 90s, I loved The Jesus Lizard, and at least half the set, I’d be laughing. They’re hysterical, but also kick ass. It’s nice to have a sense of humor about things, but that shouldn’t be the main goal of the music.
Q: Any record shops around Providence that you’re partial to?
A: There are actually a bunch of really great ones. Analog Underground is awesome. Armageddon is good. My favorite one is probably the Time Capsule in Cranston. There’s some expensive stuff on the wall, but most of the stuff there is $3. Wickenden has a couple good ones, too — Olympic and Round Again. This is an excellent environment for record-buyers.
Q: An upside to the climate of modern music is how conducive it is to DIY music. Practically anyone can record something and put it up on bandcamp. How do you view these innovations?
A: I never could’ve predicted any of this, thirty years ago. But I love that stuff — the more DIY, the better. Big money music that fills stadiums has only gotten more conservative, which I find weird. In the 90s, when grunge got popular, there were bands that played to a lot of people that you never would’ve expected, so I figured the mainstream would’ve only gotten weirder instead of more conservative. But DIY music at least is getting even cooler and weirder. Maybe that’s the way it has to be. DIY music needs to flourish in a tiny basement or club instead of a big stadium.
Q: What prompted the move from Boston to Providence?
A: Six years ago, my girlfriend and I wanted to get a house, and there’s no way we could’ve afforded one up there. To be honest, I’d probably been in Boston enough at that point, so it was for the better.