Joey Ramone’s favorite underdog band gets another day in the sun
by Amanda Sheppard
Last week, Girlsville Records released The Prissteens: Demos & Rarities Volume 2. Produced by Please Kill Me’s James “The Hound” Marshall, Demos & Rarities features previously unreleased material for what would have been the follow-up to The Prissteens’ debut LP Scandal, Controversy & Romance. In honor of this release, here’s a look back at the history of The Prissteens with former members Lori Lindsay, “Mighty” Joe Vincent, and the band’s former manager James Marshall.
Lori Lindsay: I first met Leslie when she played in a different band called The Junior High. She was the coolest chick I’d ever met. When we talked after the show, she was like “Can you play an instrument?” and I was like “yeah.” Thus we decided to start a band. I think Leslie knew Tina from around the East Village where she tended bar, and I had been dating Joe, who was in the Devil Dogs. And then we four just started playing together. That was around 1996…
We all wanted to play and aside from Joe didn’t know what we were doing, so started messing around and formed the band.
The Prissteens, by all accounts, was the right band in the right place at the right time. In the mid-1990s, alternative music became mainstream and a variety of female-fronted alternative acts such as Hole, The Breeders, and Garbage, had dominated the charts. Veterans of the original New York punk scene were also enjoying crossover success (due in no small part to Please Kill Me). Patti Smith was collaborating with R.E.M., Blondie was reuniting, and The Ramones were reaching younger audiences with new albums, videos on MTV, and tours with the very bands their own music had influenced. Joey Ramone was especially supportive, playing new music from bands like D-Generation and the Independents on his Internet radio show “Joey Ramone’s Radio Coupe.” The Prissteens, with their girl-group harmonies and garage punk rhythms, was a band practically willed into existence by Joey Ramone. It was only a matter of time before he met one of his “favorite New York City bands” and The Prissteens would have their shot at commercial success.
Jim Marshall: I got drunk, woke up manager. What was I thinking?
Joey met them through me. I knew Leslie through her ex-boyfriend Adam Roth (RIP). She was a fan of my radio show and her first band, Junior High, played at the last live broadcast we did at WFMU – the midnight “Hangover Hop.” I started hanging out with Leslie and her friends around ’95 I guess, she started getting tight with Lori and Tina and they formed a band.
After they played a few times, a lot of sort of bottom feeder types started circling like sharks so I offered to manage them until they got a real big-time manager. I eventually figured out what a manager is supposed to do and got them a record deal and a publishing deal, and as many gigs and tours as we could get. I guess I was manager from around the time of the first demo (blizzard of ’96, February maybe?), until their very last gig (Don Hills, command audience for Alan McGhee who we were hoping would pick them up after Almo dropped them). That would have been right after the Almost 24 demo, I guess spring of ’99? I’m bad with years, all very blurry…
Lori Lindsay: I have memories of Joey calling me on the phone first thing in the morning almost every day for a period of time, and I would talk to him while I got ready for work (at the time I worked at a small designer clothing store called Daryl K on E. 6th Street in the East Village). I would tell him that I had to get off the phone so I could get to work, and I would hear the phone ringing as soon as I would walk into the store – and it would be Joey calling me at the store to resume our morning conversation. Honestly, at the time I didn’t really get how cool that was…but anyway, yeah, he was so supportive. He included us in everything he was doing at the time.
Joe Vincent: When I was a kid, the first Ramones album came out and completely blew my mind. There was nothing else like it at the time, it sounded like it came from outer space! I listened to it a billion times until it became imprinted in my DNA.
During the months leading up to recording our album, I rediscovered the Ramones and once again was completely amazed by the sheer stupid genius of it. The poetry, the purity of it–this was a music like no other! Nothing could be more rock ‘n’ roll than this! This is what we had to aim for when writing songs. That and The Jackson 5.
After the album came out, Joey was on MTV and said we were his favorite new band! Unbelievable! Joey booked us on all kinds of shows. Once, while we were doing a radio interview on WHTG 106.3 Asbury Park, Joey remarked how much he liked our songs. I turned to him, my idol, and said “I was just trying to be you!”
The Prissteens – Joey Ramone’s Birthday Bash – May 18th 1998 – Coney Island High (Sandy Lieb)
Lori Lindsay: We played and sang with him and Ronnie Spector (who was one of my singing idols), and he asked us to play specific songs for his birthday bashes. One of those songs was “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles. It was really fun to do that in his honor, but I’m not sure we did such a great job. But we had a great time arranging it and performing it for him nonetheless.
…As for rumors that Joey and Dee Dee helped get us signed, I really don’t know anything about that. I knew that we all hung around together with our manager Jim Marshall and our future A&R guy Howard Thompson, so yeah maybe Joey and Dee Dee being supportive validated what we were doing in the eyes of the label.”
In 1997, The Prissteens signed a deal with Herb Alpert’s boutique label Almo Sounds, home to Garbage and The Sugarcubes. In December of that year, the band recorded their debut LP Scandal, Controversy & Romance with producers Richard Gottehrer (The Strangeloves) and Jeffrey Lesser.
Despite tours and showcases and songs prominently featured on “90210” and on the Jawbreaker motion picture soundtrack, Almo dropped The Prissteens in early 1998. It didn’t help that the music industry was changing rapidly and public tastes were shifting to the safer, homogenized radio sounds of bands like Matchbox 20 as well as that unholy marriage of metal and rap known as Nu Metal, with Korn and Limp Bizkit ushering in the dawn of the Clear Channel radio apocalypse. Not even more established acts like Garbage were safe from Alternative Rock’s inevitable demise in the years to follow. Perhaps the abrupt decision to drop The Prissteens was a foregone conclusion?
Regardless, The Prissteens’ brief time in the spotlight left a striking impression on young music fans in the late 1990s, notably future Girlsville Records owner, Courtney DelMar.
Courtney DelMar: They were like this beacon of light to me. I read in Rolling Stone that Joey loved them and they were playing shows with Ronnie Spector and I was like “oh my god, they are so glamorous!” It was my exact wheelhouse! I think it’s a pretty romantic story. My brother bought me their CD at Borders (laughs) and then I met them at the tail end of it. And that’s how I got hold of it all. Plus I did the Purple Wizard singles. A true cult band!
Amanda Sheppard: How’s the response been to Demos & Rarities Volume 1 since its release?
Courtney DelMar: it’s been beyond my expectations. I always loved this kind of underdog of a band and….the response was very affirming and encouraging. Some of the reviews really nailed it too. I literally was like maybe four people will care and that’s good enough for me, but it’s done way better than that. I should be selling out of Demos 1 pretty soon.
Releasing The Prissteens’ Demos & Rarities and now Volume 2 has been a labor of love for Girlsville and has renewed interest in the band’s music.
The Prissteens: Demos & Rarities Volume 2 is available for pre-order and is available to ship October 14th from Girlsville Records on Bandcamp. Girlsville is putting together a benefit compilation with full proceeds going to benefit legal aid for protesters, BLM activists, and journalists in St. Louis who have been violently suppressed by their militarized police force. Buying Demos & Rarities or Girlsville’s digital discography (a steal at $30) will go to offsetting the cost of making the comp in order to donate the proceeds in full.
Photos For The Post (Courtesy of Sandy Lieb and Courtney DelMar)
Amanda Sheppard is a musician and music blogger based in Portland, OR. In addition to Please Kill Me, she is also a contributing blogger at 50thirdand3rd.com. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.