David Frederickson remembers most of what happened, but please understand that things are a bit hazy right now. When we speak to the Prids singer/guitarist he is fresh out of his second hospital stint, holed up with his bandmates in a cheap room at America's Best Value Inn in Fresno, California.
"We were driving and a tire blew. I struggled to correct it and the van started fishtailing. I just couldn't get it."
It's at this point that the upbeat Frederickson gets quiet, and the regret in his voice is heartbreaking. "I couldn't regain control and we hit the median. That's probably the last thing I remember. I woke up outside the van."
The accident on July 20, which sent the entire six-person touring party (the quartet of the Prids and two significant others) to the hospital, occurred during daylight hours as the band was leaving San Francisco and heading south to Los Angeles. Eerily enough, it also occurred five years to the very day of the Exploding Hearts van crash, which claimed the lives of three members of the Portland band.
"Pretty much the next thing I know I hear a chopper coming. My head had an eight-centimeter gash in it and blood was everywhere. I'm not sure what kind of shape I thought I was in, but when they told me I was going in a helicopter, I was thinking, 'What do they think is wrong with me? What do they see that I can't feel?'"
In all, Frederickson broke his collarbone, four ribs, and received six staples in his head. But the injuries don't end there: Keyboardist Maile Tarries broke her vertebra, toe, and suffered a gash on her leg; Chris Koza damaged his spine and broke an arm; bassist/vocalist Mistina Keith suffered a concussion—the list goes on. Plus, of course, there is destruction not limited to the flesh—the band's touring vehicle and equipment were all casualties of the crash.
The accident derailed the longtime dark-pop band's upward trajectory. After a few years caught in the limbs of do-nothing record labels, the Prids spent the past few years touring (2006 featured three straight months on the road, much of which was with Built to Spill); they were in the process of recording a new album, and seemed to be finally hitting their natural stride. Frederickson and Keith—who have somehow managed to be married, divorced, and still remain both housemates and bandmates—have been doing this for over a decade, and it's something Frederickson acknowledges isn't always easy: "Even when things aren't going so well, you have to keep morale high. You have to really believe in it, otherwise you're fucked."
If anything can be taken away from this brush with tragedy it's an understanding of the sacrifices that touring musicians make. Not just with their bank accounts (gas prices alone can smother the artistic dreams of even the most ambitious small- to mid-level touring bands), relationships, and lack of steady work, but in the lives of the musicians themselves. The fact that the Prids walked away from an overturned van may be surprising, but the fact that this will not stop the band should not be.
Frederickson knows their flirtation with mortality has affected the band. "We talk about it. We're able to laugh a little bit, to bring a little humor into it, and we marvel at what we've been through."
To donate to the band's vast medical expenses, please visit theprids.com.