For The Prickly Pair, a pandemic-induced film immersion provided an instant gateway to 1950s-era New Orleans.
The Nashville, Tennessee alt-country duo of Mason Summit (vocals, guitars, keys) and Irene Greene (vocals) landed in the throes of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and penned their latest Southern Gothic single, “The Long Parade,” as an ode to Tennessee Williams.
“We actually wrote that song for a Tennessee Williams tribute my mom was putting on as part of her literary series, Library Girl,” said Summit about the 1951 film based on Williams’ 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
“We often get inspired by dialogue or visuals in movies, and we were taking notes while watching the film adaptation of ‘Streetcar.’”
Throughout “The Long Parade,” The Prickly Pair become entangled in the heartbreak and betrayal of Blanche, Stanley, Stella and Mitch. Twangy lap steel, nonchalant acoustic guitar, strolling bass, somber keys, steady drums and glistening cymbals plead for serenity and closure.
Summit and Greene sing, “Pearls before swine/Pull the wool over my eyes/‘Cause I can’t tell the truth/From my own lies.”
“It’s more of an attempt to capture the overall vibe, but I think people see themselves in these characters,” Summit said. “I hope people can relate to the song in a similar way. I personally find the chorus very cathartic to play.”
The Prickly Pair also finds catharsis in “The Long Parade’s” rich harmonies, timeless roots-rock instrumentation and outlaw country sensibilities. To bring their track to life, Summit and Greene sought sonic inspiration from The Byrds’ 1968 album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
“We both love that album, and it was my introduction to Gram Parsons,” Summit said. “On ‘The Long Parade,’ I asked Jim (Doyle) to come up with a drum part inspired by the drum pattern on the first track of Sweetheart, ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.’”
Along with Jim Doyle (drums, percussion, engineering), The Prickly Pair also invited John McDuffie (lap steel, engineering) and Oliver Roman (vocal engineering) to collaborate on their latest single.
“Jim Doyle’s drumming really set the vibe and dynamics for the whole song, and John McDuffie’s lap steel is the cherry on top. I’ve worked with John on and off for the past 10 years, and he’s definitely been a guitar/recording mentor to me,” Summit said.
“We recorded the vocals at Oliver’s place … both singing into one mic. His mix made the track sound live and natural, and he knew just what microphone to put us on to capture the warm sound we were going for.”
Before joining “The Long Parade,” The Prickly Pair explores the depths and intricacies of isolation on their haunting debut single, “Rosemary.” Despondent bass, pensive acoustic guitar, weary electric guitar, breezy keys, soft drums and flashing cymbals long for trust and connection with another.
Greene sings, “Oh, cut it out/Straight through my eyes, split it out/I’ll be your Rosemary/Send me to live in the country/Where no one will bother me/It’ll give you peace of mind/Not to witness my decline/To be realistic, you were never mine.”
“I think that it’s easy for us as humans to misunderstand and mistreat our loved ones. For some, this emotional neglect passes a certain point of no return, and that’s what this song is about for me,” said Greene, who formed The Prickly Pair with Summit in 2021.
“That point when you realize your close relationship is toxic and this person you love will never be able to understand and accept who you really are.”
Co-writing “Rosemary” with Summit also allowed Greene to tackle her own emotions, especially as they mounted during the pandemic.
“My depression, loneliness and grief were extremely difficult to handle at times,” she said. “Through therapy and songwriting, I have learned to somewhat overcome this fear of feeling my feelings.”
To capture those intense feelings sonically, The Prickly Pair worked with Doyle (drums, drum and acoustic guitar engineering) and Evan Myaskovsky (bass, bass engineering) on “Rosemary.”
“‘Rosemary’ was recorded in a piecemeal fashion. We recorded acoustic guitar and drums at Jim Doyle’s studio back in 2019. Then, I put some Mellotron on it, but we didn’t complete the recording until we formed the duo and decided it would be a good first single,” Summit said.
“We go back a few years with Jim (Doyle), and he’s so easy to work with … a fantastic drummer and efficient engineer. Last year, we recorded the vocals and other instrumentation. I had recorded bass for it, but decided to send it to Evan (Myaskovsky), my bandmate in Jaw Talk. He put down a tasteful bass part with impeccable tone.”
The Prickly Pair brought their impeccable Americana sound to Nashville last year. Summit and Greene previously resided in Los Angeles and wanted to relocate after forming their latest project.
“We were living together in our one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown, and decided since we were together so much, we might as well try to do some writing,” Greene said.
“The name is something Mason came up with, and I like it because of the pun. Being in Nashville feels like a breath of fresh air. I needed to be out of LA for a while, and I’m loving Nashville.”
Since moving to Nashville, The Prickly Pair have shared their tunes with live audiences, including every Saturday evening at Drifters with guitarist Conor McCarthy (Greene’s brother) and drummer Brendan Bird. They’re also continuing to write and record new material.
“We have our next single mixed and a few others in the mixing process. The next one, ‘Mary’s Tears,’ will hopefully come out late summer/early fall,” Greene said. “We’d like to release a few more singles before releasing an EP next year.”