Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
One-man dance party Penguin Prison is a colorful, ecstatic burst of manic electro that references New York’s post-DFA boogieverse but has a joyful pop streak that extends further back, to rapturous soul and giddy new wave. It helps that the band’s monstrously talented pilot, Chris Glover, has a set of unbelievable pipes — he can push pomo beatwork like a post-punk purist but still wail like an American Idol. Naturally, dude is blowing up in England right now. Penguin Prison is actually a second act for Glover, who spent a chunk of the ’00s signed to Interscope as a hip-hop-centric troubadour somewhere between Beck and Justin Timberlake (recall the one-off single “Stand On Your Seat”?). After his record never came out (as records in the ’00s were wont to do), Glover spent a few years kicking around NYC until collaborating with his friend Alex Frankel from local dance crew Holy Ghost! and quickly fell down a dancier path. One of the two A-sides from his debut single (out now via New York 7″ label Neon Gold), “A Funny Thing,” is a relationship jam built on electrofunk bloops, retrofuture jangle, and Glover’s formidable voice, beaming transmissions from the mid-point between New Order and Tears For Fears.
Q&A: Penguin Prison’s Chris Glover:
What is “A Funny Thing” about?
“A Funny Thing” is about a relationship between a man and a woman in which they did not think they would be together for that long. But then time went on and they were together for quite a while. That song was very free-flowing. I wrote it with my friend Ben Fries, who is also a music video director. We made the initial demo very quickly. It was inspired by just not thinking too much and not blocking ideas out by saying no.
Tell me the best and worst thing about your mid-’00s Interscope deal falling through…
The best thing is that the music I am making now is much, much better. There is no worst part. It is only good. I am happy that everything happened the way it did. It worked perfectly.
Where do you like to dance?
I like to dance anywhere there is loud music that I think is good. I can’t dance to music I don’t like. I dance when I play music. I dance in my house. The most important parts of dancing are your feet and your shoulders.
How long was the period when you stopped performing as “Chris Glover” and started as “Penguin Prison”?
There were about two years when I stopped being “Chris Glover” and was just no one. And then after two years I became Penguin Prison. During that time I made all kinds of different music. Some of it was good but a lot of it wasn’t. During that time I also thought a lot about everything. I listened to what people had to say and I changed a lot of things about myself and the music I make. I believe that listening to criticism made me a better person and made my music much better.
What’s the most memorable show you’ve played in New York, in any of your guises or for any band?
The best show is always the last show I have played. Every time we play more people dance and go crazy. So hopefully at the next show even more people will be dancing. There is no reason not to. You only live once.
What’s your favorite place to eat in New York?
My favorite place to eat is a hard thing to say. I can tell you a few places I like. Favorite pizza, Sal & Carmine’s; favorite Mexican, Taqueria y Fonda la Mexicana; favorite fancy restaurant in Tribeca, The Harrison; favorite bagels, Absolute Bagels on Broadway between 107th and 108th.
Penguin Prison plays tonight, June 9, at Santos Party House and June 14 at Music Hall Of Williamsburg.