Icy Inconveniences

By Tamara Vallejos

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Posted May 17, 2012 in Music

Photo Natalie Tsui

Young Prisms doesn’t let a little snow—and one less band member—get it down

Media types—journalists, PR people—love a dramatic story. Maybe sometimes a little too much. So when Gio Betteo, bassist and one of the primary songwriters for San Francisco-based shoegazers Young Prisms, gets asked for the sensational details of being trapped in Heathrow Airport in December 2010, he laughs it off.

“I think that story got blown out of proportion,” he says of the event, which happened after an ice storm left all flights—and thousands of passengers, including all of Young Prisms—grounded and stuck in London for days. “Some people thought it was this huge disaster and have tried to make it into a bigger story, but the truth is we were just stranded inside the airport for four days trying to get home.”

Oh. Well, that’s less exciting than what the band’s record label website says. But then Betteo continues.

“Well, it was definitely the most bizarre trip we’ve ever had,” he concedes. “It was our first international tour, right after a f@*ked up North American tour where there was a lot of sliding on ice. But we thought that was all behind us—except it wasn’t. We were supposed to do four UK dates after arriving in Europe, but the roads were closed due to ice, so we got stuck in the city of London for four days.

“And then on our way home, the runways all froze over. It was total mayhem; the airport closed its doors and if you left you weren’t allowed back in, so we were stuck inside with no food and absolutely nothing to do.”

Later on, Betteo mentions the other defining incident of that trip: the abrupt departure of the band’s first guitar player, who quit after Young Prisms’ first two gigs in London. So we’ll give Betteo some credit, because that, instead of tales of icy inconveniences, is the story that really matters here. The band was just about to begin writing songs for its sophomore album when the loss of a member forced the group to consider its approach. But the dense-yet-ethereal sound Young Prisms thrives on necessitates multiple guitarists so the group brought on Ashley Thomas to round out singer Stefanie Hodapp, drummer Jordan Silbert and guitarist/songwriter Matthew Allen.

That regrouping, plus the desire to transition from the lo-fi aggression of 2011 debut Friends for Now, led to sophomore album In Between, in title and in sound.

“There were a few album names that were being tossed around, but in conversation Matt and I kept saying ‘in between’ a lot,” says Betteo. “Like, ‘This record is in between the harshness of our first record and where we want to go next,’ or ‘The band is in a weird in-between state because we have a new guitar player.’”

As for the music, Young Prisms’ hazy layers of sound are still intact, but things have gotten a bit more melodic, partly thanks to greater emphasis on dreamy female vocals.

“That old crunchy, overdriven insanity is still on a couple songs, but for the most part, I wanted In Between to be easier to listen to,” Betteo explains. “I think there are a lot of differences compared to Friends for Now, but maybe it just sounds that way to me and not to an outside listener.”

Audiences can be the judge of that, when Young Prisms swings by Pappy and Harriet’s tonight to show off the new record, which just dropped in March. Betteo says the group is stoked for its first gig at the fabled venue—and it’s probably comforting to know the group doesn’t need to worry about snow and ice.

Young Prisms at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com. Thurs, May 17. 9pm. $12 in advance, $15 at the door.


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