Penguin Prison :: Will make you think... while shaking your ass
Chris Glover, better known as the new sound that is Penguin Prison, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the lyrics of his band’s music. On the self-titled debut album, Penguin Prison revisits a feel good sound that is reminiscent to what as been associated with the music of the 80s, and in addition, covers some pretty hefty topics like sexual liberation, corporate greed, and the 99% movement that has become known as the Occupy Movement.
But Glover is definitely no 80s-wannabe copycat. With a musical background that includes attending the same Performing Arts school as the likes of Alicia Keys, Penguin Prison has developed a sound that intends to make you think while you shake your ass on the dance floor. Currently on tour opening for the Swedish Indie band Miike Snow, I caught up with Penguin Prison’s Glover in New York and discussed his influences, the intent in developing a mega-hit album, the desire to have his music take him around the globe, and that name.
Making it fit together
BeBe: I am totally in love with your CD. I grew up in he 80s, and when people speak of your music, people and groups such as Chic, Michael Jackson, Prince and Human League are thrown around to describe your music. I definitely feel that, primarily because of the feel good beats behind the music, and, of course, the melodies are phenomenal. You do you a mixture of some pretty hard core messages in your songs , but the music is very feel good. Does that make sense?
Penguin Prison: First, thank you. And yes, I always try and combine having a good time with serious lyrics.
BeBe: What is also very fascinating about the CD is that every song on the album stands independently on its own. And that reminds me of MJ in that one of his main goals when producing an album was that he wanted every song to basically be a hit. And I feel that on your album. Was that your intention? And, how long does a recording process take to create a collection of potential hits like this?
Penguin Prison: I definitely tried to make an album where every song would stand on its own, and it would fit together as an album, but I didn’t want one song to sound like one of the other ones. It is so hard to do that. The whole album fits together, but each song says its own thing. And, I always try and make each song a "hit." The melodies are very important to me with substantial lyrics. Hopefully you come up with something that has some substance, but at the same time, has a pop sound.
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Watch the video to "Don’t Fuck With My Money":
Compared to George Michael
BeBe: And it has been quite a long time, as far as I’m concerned, since we have had a male pop star. Your music has the potential of making you such. It’s really been since somebody like George Michael where we had that male pop star. How does becoming the next male pop star feel for you?
Penguin Prison: People have compared me to George Michael a lot. And I think it’s cool! I never really listened to George Michael that much. My influences, as you said earlier, have been more like Michael Jackson and Prince. But many more people have independently been coming up with that comparison to George Michael, so there must be something to it.
BeBe: Your influences were just limited to pop music makers either, I understand. I believe you grew up in a household where country music was a big part of your youth.
Penguin Prison: I definitely listened to a lot of different music from the Beatles, Mama Cass to Patsy Kline while growing up. I’ve listened to all kinds of different music and try and make all kinds of different music.
BeBe: The reason I mentioned the country music you listened to in your youth because in such music there is a lot of attention paid to lyrics and storytelling. And I was just wondering if even subconsciously that influenced how you write music?
Penguin Prison: Up until recently, the lyrics I wrote were really abstract, metaphorical and poetic. And then I made a conscious decision to write lyrics that were more acceptable and more lingual. I studied song writing. Like "Don’t Fuck With My Money" on this album has a pretty clear statement. It is fun and something people can dance to, but also smart with something interesting at the same time.
The Occupy connection
BeBe: Having an album with so much depth, was it difficult to come up with what song would be your lead single?
Penguin Prison: "Don’t Fuck With My Money" (DFWM) was always the song I was focusing on. Ever since I wrote it, it was my favorite song on the album. When I play it live, people always sing along so I always wanted to focus on that one.
BeBe: And I’m sure it is just by circumstance, but the music video for DFWM happen to take place at the same time Occupy Wall Street was happening.
Penguin Prison: Yes. I wrote the song, obviously, before Occupy Wall Street started happening, but once that started happening, it was about the time I was thinking about the video for the song, and I thought it would make sense to some extent. A lot of the message in the song is shared by the Occupy Movement, so I thought it would make sense to film the video there.
BeBe: Another song on the album that pops out or me is "Multimillionaire." I don’t know if it is because it is very biographical for me (laughs), but it really hits on how many people live today.
Penguin Prison: That song is about credit card debt and living beyond your means. Something that is a modern phenomenon that a lot of people are doing now. It (the song) is sort of make fun of yourself. It’s like, oh well, I’m living beyond my means, but I’m not going to think about that and just enjoy it. It’s pretty bad (laughs).
BeBe: And another song that I really, really dig on the album "Penguin Prison" because it kind of gets to the point on why someone may be attracted to another person is "Fair Warning." The songs comes right out and says... "Hey, babe, the only reason I’m talking to you is because I want to get it on." It is right to the point.
Penguin Prison: (Laughing loudly) It’s saying I gave you your fair warning that this (sex) is coming.
BeBe: I like that because it is sexually liberating. This song tells me a lot about you (laughs).
Penguin Prison: Yeah (both laugh).
BeBe: Now I know that you did your final production of the album over in the U.K. Is performing overseas apart of your touring plans?
Penguin Prison: Yes, we are touring hopefully everywhere, but a lot in the U.S. this year. And then, in the summer of the 2012 we hope to be in the U.K. I definitely want to travel everywhere I can. I want to use my music as a reason for me to go all over the world.
BeBe: Your music lends itself to be accepting by folks all over the world. That 80s music feel is like that. It is amazing to me how so many different generations can come together in the same dance venue with this type of music.
Penguin Prison: I definitely hope so. That is the main reason I got into music was to meet as many people as I can, and travel as many places as I can. I grew up as sort of a shy person, and I am becoming less shy as I venture out and meet more people. Music has allowed me to develop as a person.
BeBe: One final thing, the name Penguin Prison......?
Penguin Prison: I call it Penguin Prison because of President George W. Bush. I was making a rap song with a friend and he started free-styling about him and he came up with the line that he (Bush) went to the penguin prison in the penguin position. We started laughing about that, and when I as thinking of a name for my band, I thought of Penguin Prison.
Not too many people are willing to admit that George W. Bush was an inspiration for anything associated with themselves, nonetheless their professional name. But let me tell you, Chris Glover could call himself the Yellow Pages and his music would still be something that the globe’s populous should want to hear.
The "Penguin Prison" CD is available now at all retail outlets including iTunes and Amazon.com.
You can catch Chris Glover’s Penguin Prison performance at Sweet Spot with DJ Kevin Graves at Industry Bar in New York City, NY on Tuesday, February 28. www.industry-bar.com.
Follow Penguin Prisons tour dates at www.penguinprison.com.
3/15 - Dickles & Filter Magazine Showcase at Lustre Pearl, Austin, TX
4/10 - The Paramount Theater w/ Miike Snow, Seattle WA
4/11 - The Roseland Theater w/ Miike Snow, Portland, OR
4/12 - Fox Theater w/ Miike Snow, Oakland, CA
4/21 - Noise Music Festival, Monterrey, Mexico
4/24-25 - Terminal 5 w/ Miike Snow, New York, NY
4/27- The Electric Factory w/ Miike Snow, Philadelphia, PA
4/28 - Club w/ Miike Snow, Washington, DC
4/29 - House of Blues w/Miike Snow, Boston, MA
5/1 - Sound Academy w/ Miike Snow, Toronto, Canada
5/2 - Metropolis w/ Miike Snow, Montreal, Canada
Watch the video to "Fair Warning":
As an actress, BeBe was introduced to film with a lead role in the independent film "Under One Sun" with her character dealing with religious, racial and gender issues. Additionally, she appeared in the campy musical "Devious, Inc" (Australian Film Festival, San Francisco Short Film Fest) also adding additional vocals to the musical soundtrack. Both of these performances led to her selection for a lead role in Aisha Media’s next short film series, "Con-tin.u.um" to be released in 2012.