Model Prisoner began at the dawning of the COVID-19 epidimic. Having previously collaborated in the Philadelphia hardcore scene for over a decade with bands like Alarmcaster and Swarm of Arrows, songwriters Keats Rickard (guitars, bass, electronics) and Jay Mallory (vocals, drums) hoped to build off of the sounds they previously created together.
Taking their time over the course of 2020 to refine what would become their debut offering, Piss Universe, the duo knew what they were going for right away, layering eerie electronic soundscapes over crushing and intelligent heavy hardcore. Recorded at The Knife Layer in Philadelphia by Wyatt Oberholzer (Chemical Fix, Fixation, Year of the Knife) and released on cassette through Wide Eyed Noise, the visceral sounding project gained some steam, inspiring the pair to turn the project into a full fledged band.
With Keats solidifying his role as the guitarist and Jay taking a step back from vocals and filling the post as the drummer, the vocalist torch was passed to Brendan Mcandrew—previously of Philadelphia heavy hardcore unit The Minor Times. Timothy Leo (also of TMT) joined bolstering guitar/writing duties, and Josh “Mahesh” Kost of Philadelphia grindcore band Selfish Lover completed the band on bass.
Recorded once again by Wyatt Oberholzer, the band recently released Compulsion Analysis, a stunning display of brutality, complete with fast beats, breakdowns, the HM-2 guitar tone, and electronic segues. Their self-released lathe cut records are now sold out before the band even played their first show.
Keats, you previously sang for Nowhere Roads, who were (in my opinion) one of the most innovative hardcore bands in recent memory. I don’t think you got enough credit for the music you were creating. What led to Nowhere Roads dissolving?
Keats: Thanks Thomas, I really appreciate that. Nowhere Roads was fun. I think it was just a quick burn; the band ran its course, and then it ended. We were able to do some cool stuff in that short time, which I'm thankful for. Then of course COVID hit…
The challenge of the pandemic has made it difficult for certain bands to continue, whereas with Model Prisoner, it seemed like an opportunity to enter into a creative space. What changed in the songwriting process from shifting from a duo to a full band?
Keats: The pandemic allowed us to conceptualize what we were trying to do, and sort've stumble through the making of Piss Universe. After that, we had time to find more people that were like minded to build on the foundation we created. When we started adding people, the process all just became so much better. And we got really lucky finding Tim, as he was really the catalyst to getting Josh and Brendan.
So now there was more of a place to bounce riffs and ideas off of, and vice versa. And of course Brendan brought a whole new vocal dynamic which was so great. Like I said, we were fortunate to find these guys; they are all such talented players, and just cool people. It completely enhanced everything about making Model Prisoner a "band."
Where does the name Model Prisoner come from?
Keats: Originally as just a fun project, Jay had wanted to call it Depression Chamber. Then he came up with the title Model Prisoner to use for one of the songs or the first record. It really hit, and we just felt it was such a stronger name to use for the project, so we went with it. We tossed around changing it when we became a full band, but we all liked Model Prisoner so much—we just kept it.
I'm paraphrasing Jay's intentions here…but it's kind of a take on being a Model Citizen. But the citizens' (im)possible chance of success in life depends on working and staying inline within society—essentially prisoners.
Were lyric duties shared between Jay and Brendan for Compulsion Analysis?
Keats: Jay wrote the lyrics for the Piss Universe EP. All the lyrics for Compulsion Analysis were written by Brendan. They each have their own unique style and voice. So in order to do the vocals, they each had to sort've do their own thing with writing—if that makes sense.
I'll note, both Jay and Brendan were completely open about taking any input from other band members—even though, in both cases, that was pretty much unnecessary.
You recently released a video for the first song off of Compulsion Analysis called “Dirt Merchant." What is this song about?
Brendan: "Dirt Merchant" addresses media outlets that target people prone to blindly subscribe to fanatical right wing beliefs and theories.
Tim, how has the co-writing process with Keats been?
Tim: It's been amazing all around. I joined up with Keats and Jay about a year into the pandemic. I was a fan of the Piss Universe demo and at that time, Keats had part of a new song written and some riffs and sketches for some others. We just clicked and immediately dove into writing Compulsion Analysis.
In the other bands I’ve done, writing new material has always been squarely placed on my shoulders so it’s been unique to this project to have a creative partner.
You recently played your first live show. How was it and do you have plans to play out more in the future?
Keats: I think we played well and people seemed to be into it. So I would say good in that respect. It was a decent first show. Definitely looking forward to playing more.
Tim: It was a show. First one is never great, glad it’s over. Looking forward to the future.
Who are some bands from the Philly scene that you’re currently stoked on?
Keats: Philly has so many great bands…Chemical Fix/Fixation who share members are great. Gridiron is killing it right now. Simulakra! Jesus Piece and Year of the Knife (DE) still crushing. Witching is pretty awesome. Backslider, World Below, Dumal, Gloves Off—too many to name. Non-Philly shout outs to Advent, Apes (Canada), and Rat Poison (SC).
Tim: Not a Philly band, but we collectively beat the shit out of that last Advent record, Pain and Suffering, throughout the writing of Compulsion Analysis.
Compulsion Analysis is available now across all streaming outlets. Pick up a copy of the Piss Universe EP on cassette via Wide Eyed Noise.
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