THE PRIDS are still standing.
Well, they're actually sitting right now. Founding members Mistina La Fave (bass) and David Frederickson (guitar) are seated at a table inside the Sandy Hut—a Portland institution, sort of like the Prids themselves. La Fave sips a beer and Frederickson sticks with soda, as the two trade stories from 20 eventful years as a working band.
"Eventful" might be an understatement when it comes to the Prids. The post-punk four-piece's existence has been marked with divorces, wrecked tour vans, and health issues—and they've lived to tell the tale. In fact, the Prids may be the luckiest unlucky band in Portland.
And while they are indeed a band—maybe the longest running active band in Portland, at that—the Prids feel more familial than anything. The Prids are a lifestyle. And the sass and savvy of Frederickson and La Fave have helped carry the band through a changing industry, changing trends, and a changing Portland.
Their longevity is no surprise when you consider how they started. Frederickson moved to the small town of St. Joseph, Missouri, from Los Angeles in 1994, and was soon playing a house show with his band. La Fave—17 at the time, and born and raised in St. Joseph—was there, too, and approached him after the performance. Her introduction was simple: "Your band sucks. You should quit and come play with me."
And he did, despite the fact that La Fave didn't know how to play an instrument. With pawnshop guitars procured, the Prids (named after Frederickson's nickname for La Fave, "Pretty"), along with their relationship, began. After playing around St. Joseph, and a stint in Lincoln, Nebraska, the two moved to Portland in December 1999 after reading a Team Dresch interview.
The Prids quickly hit their stride in their new home. After playing "New Band Night" at Satyricon, the band released a long trail of 7-inches along with three excellent full-lengths; they went on to play shows with the Faint and TV on the Radio, and tour with their heroes Built to Spill.
"We were losers. We were high school dropouts that ended up playing with people we admire," Frederickson says. "We were always asking each other, 'Do you think it's as good as the things we listen to?' And it was always no. Finally we were able to answer yes."
With the good times have come challenges. Frederickson and La Fave divorced in 2001, not long after they'd married. In 2008 the band was involved in a serious van accident that left Frederickson with a broken collarbone and ribs, and La Fave with a concussion and bruises. And in March of this year—the night before the band was set to go into the studio—La Fave felt extreme pressure in her head. It turned out to be a brain hemorrhage, which she's still recovering from. She's lucky to be alive, let alone picking up an instrument again.
"I remember saying, 'All of our work!' and crying," La Fave says with a smile, adding that after a brain hemorrhage some people have to learn to walk again; others don't even make it to the ER. "I'm okay," she says, although she still fights through pain, and even had to replace her signature Thunderbird with a lighter bass guitar. "I could be learning to talk again."
Never mind the fact that, with the exception of Frederickson and La Fave, the Prids have gone through 11 members (one of whom was held at gunpoint during an armed robbery while on tour, and another who survived testicular cancer), leading up to current drummer Gordon Nickel and keyboardist/bassist Tim Yates.
Through it all, neither La Fave nor Frederickson has ever considered dissolving the Prids. "It'd be so melodramatic to say we're done—instead, let's just put out a record when we want to," says Frederickson. "It's part of our friendship. It's our lives. It's something that won't break up, can't break up."
And they will complete that new Prids record at the end of the year. But right now they're focused on their 20th anniversary show, which celebrates the band, but also celebrates life—although when it comes to the Prids, those two things aren't mutually exclusive. "We've been married; we've been divorced," La Fave says. "It's stubbornness—too stubborn to break up and too stubborn to care what's in style."