‘Thanks For Coming’: Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum’s Michael C. Hall, Peter Yanowitz & Matt Katz-Bohen Discuss Debut Album
With disparate influences ranging from the glam, experimental music of David Bowie to the poetic sounds of The Velvet Underground and bands like 8 Eyed Spy and Sonic Youth, Thanks For Coming is the debut album by Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum. The band features vocalist, lyricist, musician and actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), drummer Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers, Morningwood) and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen (Blondie).
There’s a heightened sense of awareness and romanticism that exists in the band’s songwriting, as exhibited in tracks like “Armageddon Suite.” Then there’s the fun but deeply dark and disturbing undertone in songs like “Eat An Eraser.” There’s also material which began as subliminal inspiration on vintage instruments, as was the case in the groove-ridden “The Deeper Down.” Thanks For Coming also includes the band’s unique spin on Phantogram’s “Cruel World,” a song which has since become a staple of their live show.
While eschewing traditional rock instrumentation in favor of theatrical sensibility and a colorful, stripped-down synth/drum approach, Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum combines the best elements of glam, pop, new wave and theater, as well as the noisy, art rock vibe of the New York City scene. The result is a welcomed debut that’s both ethereally melancholic and hauntingly brilliant.
I recently spoke with Michael C. Hall, Peter Yanowitz and Matt Katz-Bohen about Thanks For Coming and much more in this exclusive new interview:
How did Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum come together?
Peter Yanowitz: The three of us met in the most unlikely of places for a rock band — on Broadway doing Hedwig [and the Angry Inch]. Mike was Hedwig and Matt and I were also part of the show. It started with us just being in the band playing someone else’s music. After we’d finished the show Matt and I kept jamming and Mike heard some of the instrumental ideas we’d started and offered to sing on them. One thing led to another and three years later, here we are.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Matt Katz-Bohen: I think we would all agree that [David] Bowie is someone we can really get behind. Then there’s a lot of the noisy art rock of New York City, starting with The Velvet Underground, No Wave, 8 Eyed Spy and Sonic Youth. There’s a lineage there we can all appreciate, just getting into that vibe from hanging around the East Village.
What’s the band’s approach to songwriting?
Michael C. Hall: There’s no set formula. We’ve written songs in every way possible. There have been instrumentals that have been the beginning of things. Then there’s melody ideas and songs with structure but no musical accompaniment. Most of the lyrics on these songs were written in the past few years. It’s been a pleasant surprise and welcome exercise to find myself in a situation where I’m called upon to write words.
What was the recording process like?
Yanowitz: Just like songwriting we don’t walk into any one routine. I’ve always been a big fan of accidents in the studio. I love it when you stumble upon something you never intended and then build upon it as a foundation. There’s something about accidents that makes the art feel more real. Sometimes we’ll all be in the same room, and other times we’re sending each other tracks. Then there are times when Mike will come in with a vocal line and we’ll figure out what the music is around it or vice versa. We’ve gotten into the business of finishing each others sentences any way that we can.
I want to ask you about a few of the tracks on the new album and get your thoughts, starting with “Armageddon Suite.” What can you tell me about it?
Yanowitz: That was one I took the lead on and came during the crazy year we had in 2020. It came out of nowhere but had a certain energy I found interesting. Mike heard it and found the perfect words for it. It was one that existed for quite a while but didn’t find a home until Mike and Matt put their stamp on it.
“Eat an Eraser.”
Katz-Bohen: That track started out as a jam with Pete on drums and me on a Rhodes Chroma. It’s an interesting title. Fun but deeply dark and disturbing.
The Deeper Down:
Katz-Bohen: That one started as a synth progression on an old, ridiculously clunky synth called a Jupiter. I sent it around and we all put our touches on it. The lyrics are pretty heavy.
What made you decide to do a cover of Phantogram’s “Cruel World?”
Katz-Bohen: We got to see Phantogram when they were in Brooklyn a few years ago and were completely blown away. There was something about that song in particular that really stood out to us, so we decided to do a cover of it.
Michael, what can you tell me about the upcoming “Dexter” revival?
Hall: It’s hard to answer without revealing things, but as much time that’s passed since we left him has passed in his fictional life. The cameras are just going to turn back on and we’re going to find out what the hell happened to this guy. It’s all been written and were going to start filming soon.
One of the things I wanted to ask you about was your approach to narrating, and particularly reading Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary.” How do you approach doing a project like voice over for a novel as compared to series television or Broadway?
Hall: It’s impossible to prepare in the same way because there’s just so much material. It’s story telling but you have to depend on instinct. In this case it’s done in a soundproof room. You’ll have conversations about shading of nuance but are given a lot of leeway. I worked a lot on the character of Jud Crandall’s accent. It was a fun ride and I’d love to do more of it.
What excites you the most about the new music and next phase of the band’s career?
Yanowitz: We’re excited to keep making music and putting out as much of it as possible during this weird time when no one can play live.
Hall: This is the largest amount of our music we’ve shared with people, so that’s exciting. We’re also looking forward to performing live again. Whenever we’re released to do it we’re ready to go.
Thanks For Coming is available now. Click Here to choose your preferred music service.