The Memorials are kind of a big deal. Spearheaded by ex-Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen, The Memorials are hard-hitting, melodic and honest in their delivery, creating music that will raise your adrenaline and leave you wanting more. Contributing to Thomas Pridgen’s musical chaos are vocalist Viveca Hawkins and guitarist Nick Brewer.
Having released their self-titled, debut album earlier this year, the group has been touring constantly, and they aren’t showing any signs of stopping.
Funny and incredibly friendly, the group talked about getting together, their experiences at Berklee, past collaborations and touring. We laughed and joked, but most importantly The Memorials have acknowledged one important thing: Texas loves them some Memorials.
MVRemix: So, give the readers a little background on yourselves, and we’ll go from there.
Thomas Pridgen: Well, I’ve been drumming my whole life. I met Nick at Berklee, but I’ve known Viv my whole life. I went to Berklee to learn how to play drums, when I already knew how to play drums and left earlier than most people. After The Mars Volta, I called Nick up because he was the only guy who I could think of that could play with all of my crazy stuff. And after that, it just started developing. We called up Viv, and then we just started making music, and now it is bigger than anything we can control.
MVRemix: How was Berklee for everybody, and Thomas is it true you lost your virginity at Berklee?
Everyone: We all dropped out of that school [laughs].
Nick Brewer: I hated that school.
Thomas Pridgen: You know after awhile how people just continue to ask you the same questions? So, I would just give them answers like, “yeah, I lost my virginity at Berklee,” or “yeah, I met my dad at Berklee.” Also, don’t get it twisted. There have been interviews where Nick will say he loved Berklee, and some where he says he hated it.
Nick Brewer: I learned everything that I needed on my own, not at Berklee. The connections were one of the main things that I got from it.
Viveca Hawkins: I think we can all come to a consensus on that. The networking and all of us going there gives us a whole different dynamic, because we all came from different backgrounds, but we all have that core music theory also.
MVRemix: Regardless of mixed emotions, did you ever meet any of the alumni from Berklee?
Thomas Pridgen: There are a few people who go back and check out the school every once and awhile.
Viveca Hawkins: There are some people who Berklee have listed as alumni, when they only attended the school for like a month. They claim all of these people and give out honorary degrees to people who do not even do music most of the time. Most of us have come into Berklee around the time where it is more about the funds, and not the talent.
Thomas Pridgen: Education is run by people who want money, you know? The books that they had were not in-depth and did not help in making someone a gigging musician. I just wish they had classes that dealt with people who wanted to play music. Like, the majors were ridiculous. It’s not like you join The Mars Volta and they say, “well, you have a performance major, that’s awesome.” No one really cares. The teachers there are cool, but there are a lot of holes in the curriculum. The classes should go more towards giving you the skills you need to just go and play.
MVRemix: For your self-titled album I noticed a bunch of Jack Daniels was involved, Thomas became a dictator and Viv had to write lyrics in a week. Did the recording process just flow, or were there a few bumps?
Viveca Hawkins: I definitely was not able to write those lyrics in a week [laughs].
Thomas Pridgen: The whole record was done in a week, because I’m just used to working on records really fast. When Nick and I got together to record, we only rented out the studio for a week. I just wanted it to be out already, so that way we could do gigs. With Viv, I gave her no time, because when you put pressure on people, they tend to overkill things, and I wanted Viv to overkill it. With Nick, he didn’t really have time to focus on his guitar solos, so sometimes it would be me saying, “just start the solo out on a high note,” and he would do it. I just wanted to keep the honesty in it, to where if you listen to a certain part you won’t say, “that was rehearsed.” I just wanted to keep it real.
MVRemix: Viveca, I enjoy listening to your lyrics, and it’s great to see you being the front-woman of such a hardcore band. How do you do it, and where do your ideas come from?
Viveca Hawkins: I really didn’t know how to approach this type of music, so I took a lot of ideas off of Thomas and Nick. It was a combination of how the music made me feel and stuff that Thomas would throw at me, like “what if you were a natural disaster?” or “what if you were God?” So, I would just elaborate on that and make a story out of it. I like to tell stories; that is the kind of songwriter I am. It may not be the most metaphorical or typical stuff you hear in most progressive or hard rock, but it definitely works as something that people can gravitate to.
MVRemix: Blood Thirsty Unicorn Records; who came up with that?
Viveca Hawkins: I did [laughs]. Well, here is the thing. I used to say that Thomas was my unicorn and how amazing and talented he was. So, one day, I looked up the definition to what a unicorn is, and what it said was strangely similar to the type of man Thomas is. You would have to look up the definition in order to understand it.
MVRemix: Viv, you’ve worked with artists such as Talib Kweli, Cee Lo Green and MF Doom. How was it working with them?
Viveca: I actually did not get the chance to meet MF Doom. It was one of those things where I was working with his producer, so we ended up making a song together indirectly. I did some background parts for Cee Lo, and he was funny. He is very short, tattooed and creepy [laughs]. He is definitely original though; I cannot think of anybody else who has made music like his, so it’s cool to be able to spend some time with people like that.
Being a female in such a male-driven industry can be weird, so I just do my job and enjoy it. The project that I was involved with the longest was with Blackalicious. Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel are some of the coolest dudes you’ll ever talk to. I love hip hop and soul music, and I love being able to fuse that into what we’re doing in The Memorials. I even rap in our new album.
MVRemix: Thomas, you’ve recorded tracks for Currensy and Mos Def, and you played on Foxy Shazam’s latest album. How was it doing the Foxy tracks and working with Currensy and Mos Def?
Thomas Pridgen: Foxy Shazam was hella, hella, hella, fun. Eric, the lead singer, is one of my good friends, and the whole band was there. I was able to work with this producer named John Feldman, who is the lead singer for Goldfinger and another good friend, and he asked me to come in and do some songs since another drummer couldn’t. So, we went through three songs in like an hour. I like “Wanna-Be Angel,” because it has an old-school style to it. I had a lot of fun with those dudes.
Currensy had happened because some dude had called me and said “I work for Damon Dash,” and I didn’t believe it. So, Damon calls me, and I go out and meet Currensy, smoke some blunts and chill out for a few minutes, and then we headed to the studio. It was weird, because I recorded with Currensy before I recorded The Memorials album, and Nick was in New York at the same time that I was and at the same party I was at, all while I was recording with Currensy. Overall, I’ve had fun with just about everybody I’ve worked with.
MVRemix: Have there been any that you did not enjoy?
Thomas Pridgen: Yes, and those are the ones I don’t tell people about [laughs]. I played on some horrible albums where someone was like, “play the crash on the snare because that’s tight.” So basically if you find an album where I’m playing the crash instead of the snare, that’s the album. There was another one where I had to take the bass drumhead off to make it sound like an 808 bass drum. So hopefully I will never have to deal with anything like that again.
MVRemix: How has the touring been, and has Texas been your best state so far?
Viveca Hawkins: Austin was tight. Emo’s was the first bar I ever walked into in Austin. It was fun, but really hot. We played in Denton, and that was crazy. We also played the Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, and that was off the chain. It wasn’t overcrowded, and the weather wasn’t too bad. We stayed the whole night and saw Weezer, and Cut Copy absolutely killed it. They went onstage right before we did and went crazy.
MVRemix: Any last words?
Thomas Pridgen: Word! Just kidding man, thank you for the interview.
If these guys are rolling through a town near you, definitely check them out. A mixture of the psychedelic sounds of Hendrix, the otherworldly, neo-soul vibe of Erykah Badu and the powerful, energy-inducing music that is rock, The Memorials is a testament to music of all genres, showing how a group of talented individuals with different backgrounds can work together and bring so many influences to the table to create a sound that is fresh and full of conviction. Brace your ears and hold on tight, because The Memorials will take you on a ride that you will not want to get off of.