The Pioneers of Prime Time TV, consisting of frontman Thomas Thorp, Jon Berry, Asher Deaver and Melody Berry, have been piecing together beautiful soundscapes out of La Luz, New Mexico, a city with a population of about 1,500. For years, Thorp, co-founder of the band, has worked hard at getting The Pioneers of Prime Time TV out of the small town. Now in its sixth year, the band has been signed by River Jones Music Label, released its first recorded piece—an eight-track EP titled The River is Held Up by the Grace of God—is about to embark on another tour and is in the process of recording a full-length album, tentatively titled Lookin’ Like a Booky.
The Pioneers of Prime Time TV began like many bands do: in a garage between two friends. In the beginning, Thorp thought he was just teaching a kid how to play guitar. Little did he know how much the lessons would teach him about music and life.
“He was my friend, I’ve known him since he was real young and he was 14 or 15 when I started giving him lessons,” says Thorp of band co-founder, Paul Bishop. “His dad just died and he was spending like $30 for 30-minute lessons. So, I told him he could come over to the house and I’d jam with him. The criteria for each guitar lesson was to write a song. So he was a real natural; he just picked it right up. To my surprise, the songs we were writing were the best that I’ve been involved with.”
After so many lessons (and having written about 26 songs from them), Thorp decided it would be good to put on a show with the idea that the newly-formed band’s name would change each show.
“We played a gig at a festival that I throw each winter. It’s at an ice skating rink and it’s very low-key, but there were about 200 people or so there,” says Thorp. “A reporter was there who took our picture and put us on the front page of the paper. So, we were kind of stuck as Pioneers of Prime Time TV at that point.”
After about a year and a half, Thorp met Jon Berry, a first-year all-state, all-national violinist and all-state choir boy who needed a space to record. Luckily, Thorp had a studio and offered him the opportunity to record if he laid a couple of tracks for The PPTV.
“He came over to record and me, him and Paul jammed and there was an immediate lock,” says Thorp. “Us three together were just really natural. And without Jon even knowing, me and Paul decided he was in the band.”
Soon after, the band began facing a few lineup changes and Bishop, suffering from a rare condition, passed away.
“He died about a week and a half before his 18th birthday. Needless to say it still sucks really, really bad, partly for the music, but mostly because Paul was my best friend, my brother and my son all rolled into one,” says Thorp. “When his dad passed away, I kind of stepped in because he didn’t have anyone. We got really close. It was detrimental. I had the funeral at my house; that’s where his mom said his favorite place to be was because that’s where we played music. I took a fast from music for a couple months.”
But Thorp went back to music to find Jon’s sister, Melody Berry, and fellow musician Asher Deaver to round out the group, and meet Bishop’s all-time crush, singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews, to tour with—they will be embarking on their fourth tour together in January. So The Pioneers of Prime Time TV may not have one of their original members, but his dream lives on.
“I’m still trying to do all the things that me and Paul had talked about,” says Thorp. “We gave ourselves a deadline of when we were going to get signed. Things were patchy, but we made that deadline. And I’m touring with his super crush.”
The Pioneers of Prime Time TV at The Wire, 247 N. 2nd Ave., Upland, (909) 985-9466; www.thewire247.com, www.myspace.com/thepioneersofPrime Timetv. Sun, Jan. 2. 7PM.