Usually it’s a bit boring to ask bands about their influences, but Londoner Hari Ashurst has a nice way with words so this week’s Dollars To Pounds contains Obvious Questions, but also Good Answers. Hari’s evolving music project has existed under various guises for the last year or so, but seems to have settled on Prizes. You might know their wistful, phosphorescent “Canada” (VHS wiz Jamie Harley made a video for it out of pieces of Tommy Lee & Pammy’s sex tape). Hari made us a beguiling mixtape (which includes a rad, unheard remix of “Canada” by Mane Mane) and told me about his piano skills and cool sister.
Disco Inferno, “Summer’s Last Sound”
Pulp, “Death II”
Prefuse 73, “90% Of My Mind Is With You”
Jai Paul, “BTSTU”
Prizes, “Canada (Mane Mane Remix)”
Destroyer, “No Cease Fires (Crimes Against The State of Our Love)”
Download: Prizes, “FADER Mix”
You changed your name from Treasure to Treasures then to Prizes. You are becoming less generous. Why the change?
We changed it because another band were called Treasure and there wasn’t room for both of us. We had a high noon shootout and they won. That’s funny, I guess a prize is usually a little less generous than a treasure anyway, but we are less generous at the moment. It’s easy once you reach a certain point to give away an MP3 every week and have people talk about you all the time, but we wanted people to almost forget about us and then surprise them with songs we really worked on.
Tell us about a couple of records that helped mould the Prizes sound.
Lately for me stuff like “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” by Wilco and William Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops” have been big influences in the way that both of them take something as a starting point – the pop song for Wilco, and a simple loop for Basinski – and destroy it, but in both cases what you have at the end is still a great Wilco pop song, or a beautiful Basinski loop. Records that more directly moulded our sound are King Sunny Ade’s “Juju Music” in terms of guitars and rhythms, and “Different Class” by Pulp, which is an amazing British pop record.
The best prize I ever won was first prize in a school fancy dress competition when I was about six years old (I was a knight). What is the best prize you’ve won?
I actually have a pretty illustrious history of not winning things. I get that invincible feeling every time I enter though – even the lottery, feeling like I will win. My sister is a novelist and I once won a promo copy of one of her books, it’s one of the only things I ever won, and even now I feel bad for having won it.
Are there three of you in Prizes now? I’ve heard about an album or an EP coming soon. Tell us a bit about it.
There’s four of us actually – we have a live drummer too now, so it’s a slightly different sound live. We’ve recorded a lot of tracks over the past 6 months – enough for two EPs even – though not all finished. The sound is definitely darker – at the start they are all pop songs, but we’ve been finding interesting ways with layers or noises to destroy them and see what’s left at the end. There’s also a couple of straight up pop songs – I approached them with the trepidation of creating Frankenstein’s monster.
Besides your own music, what is your favourite thing to play on the piano?
I recently figured out “Blue Moon” – the amazing Kendal Johansson version from last year— so I’ve been playing that. I only really know how to play my own songs though, and little figures that I’ve been playing for years. I’d like to record a solo piano and voice album one day.
Tell us about the mix you’ve made for us.
I’m no DJ— as you can tell from this mix, but I made it one continuous thing because mixes work better that way. I have the January blues so there’s a couple of downhearted numbers, plus Disco Inferno who were an amazing forgotten band of the 90s, my favorite Destroyer song, and a Prizes remix that nobody has heard yet.