The Prize: “Power pop always has great energy.”

Original photo by Izzie Austin. Handmade collage by B.

Naarm/Melbourne-based band The Prize give us everything good about power pop and rock n roll on their debut EP Wrong Side Of Town. Full of harmonies, hooks and energy, with melody to burn, the infectious 4-track release on Anti Fade will be running through your head all day. We’ve listened to it on repeat, over and over and over. Along with their dynamic live show—The Prize are ones to watch! 

Gimmie caught up with dummer-vocalist Nadine Muller and guitarist-vocalist Carey Paterson to find out all about The Prize.

What was your introduction to music? Nadine, your dad is a member of Cosmic Psychos; did he introduce you to lots of stuff?

NADINE: I was pretty fortunate growing up with my parents’ record collection! Dad has always played in bands and mum used to tour-manage, so they have collectively introduced me to a lot of great stuff!

CAREY: I got into it through the radio and Rage, and then just through my mates. My folks have great taste, but didn’t try and push any music on me, so I discovered it in my own way and at my own pace. Went through a couple of phases but it all clicked into gear at like fifteen when me and my friends got really into CBGBs bands and started trying to cover their songs.

When did you first start playing your instrument? Who or what influenced you?

NADINE: I first started playing around thirteen/fourteen. My dad is a drummer too. I was pretty lucky to always have access to a kit, but I think it really kicked-off when I saw the movie Josie and the Pussycats (which was based on a comic book from the 60s). I really loved the soundtrack to that movie and I brought it on CD and would play along to it in my bedroom. So I guess you could say I was influenced by a fictional drummer, in a cat costume.

CAREY: I wanted to play drums when I was about twelve, but my parents managed to talk me into playing guitar instead. It was a pretty reluctant switch at first but it eventually became the instrument that I got obsessed with. I had all the staple kid heroes like Hendrix, Angus Young and Jimmy Page.

What’s an album that has really helped shape you? What about it was so influential?

NADINE: I watched the Ramones movie Rock’n’roll High School very early on and fell in-love with the Ramones. The soundtrack to that movie really embedded itself in my psyche with artists like;

Alice Cooper, Todd Rundgren, Devo.. And the movie itself really shaped me and set me up for a future, 70s aesthetic. 

CAREY: An album that really shaped my tastes is probably Vampire on Titus by Guided by Voices. This album sounds like it was recorded on an answering machine but the songs are so good. I really like how this band would just hang out and get drunk and wind up recording such interesting music. Their albums are usually pretty inconsistent but you get moments of absolute magic like ‘Unstable Journey’ off this one.

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

Can you tell us a little about your musical journey? Nadine you were in Killerbirds and Wolfy and the Bat Cubs, (and both you and Carey were in) Mr Teenage. Carey I know you’re originally from Canberra and played in some bands there too, like The Fighting League and PTSD.

NADINE: I started Killerbirds while I was still in school and we got to play with some great bands like the Celibate Riffles and Bored! After that band wound-up, I started another band with some friends from Bendigo, called Wolfy and the Bat Cubs, which I played bass in. 

Joe and Carey had played together a handful of times before I’d actually met Carey and then we all ended up in Mr Teenage together, which was unfortunately short-lived but we decided to get something else going after that, which has resulted in The Prize!

CAREY: Fighting League felt like the first proper band I was a part of. I started on drums and got booted on to guitar. After that all started working and became a really fun band to be in. I also played in the live bands for TV Colours and Danger Beach for many years. Got to play some amazing shows and tour Europe. PTSD was something that got started when I was living in NYC in 2016 at the same time as Lachlan Thomas, who releases music as Danger Beach, and James Stuart who was drumming in an incredible punk band called Haram. There’s another tape’s worth of music in the pipeline for that band as soon as I sit down and finish the vocals.

When starting The Prize; what was on playlists of your musical influences?

NADINE: I had just been introduced to The Toms and I think we were all playing that first album on repeat for a few months! Also a power-pop band from the UK called ‘The Incredible Kidda Band’ we discovered in a deep YouTube hole and loved them so much that we covered their track ‘Fighting My Way Back’ which is on our debut release.

CAREY: Bands like the Toms, the Shivvers, Incredible Kidda Band and the Nerves. Also a lot of Badfinger, Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy. I think the sound was born out of combining the poppier and rockier ends of that spectrum of bands.

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

Why the name The Prize?

NADINE: I wish there was a better answer for this question! We had booked in our first show, which was with Civic at the Croxton and they were holding off making the poster until we’d settled on a name. So there was a bit of pressure to come up with something asap… 

We just wanted it to be something straight up and simple. ‘Blondie’ was obviously already taken and Brownie just doesn’t quite have same ring to it.. Anything with a Z is a bonus for logos and designs… We were all sitting in my dad’s shed one night, which is full of vintage bits and bobs and ‘THE PRIZE’ was written on an old sign hanging up on the wall and we went, “that’ll do”.

The Prize came together in 2021, during the pandemic; how did you jam and write songs during this period?

NADINE: I was living with our bass player, Jack at the time and we had a jam room and some recording gear so we would muck around with riffs here and there and send them back and forth. 

Between lockdowns we would all get together, to try and work on songs but it felt like a pretty 

difficult and slow process during that time. Once restrictions were eased, we stared rehearsing pretty intensely as we had a bunch of half-cooked songs and a first gig already booked in.

What’s one of the biggest things you’ve learnt about songwriting or your process while writing your debut 4-song EP Wrong Side of Town?

NADINE: Probably to not overthink it. It’s important to get the structure right and spend time on each song but also knowing when to leave it be, is something that took me some time.

Artwork by Sammy Clark.

What attracts you to the power pop sound?

NADINE: I love a good hook and melody!!! Power pop always has great energy and its something that’s fun to dance and sing-along to. Its a real, feel-good genre!

What’s title track ‘Wrong Side Of Town’ about?

NADINE: Joe had written the guitar lead-line a few years ago and it’s such a great riff! When we were trying to craft the song around that I  really wanted to do it justice with the melody and the lyrics.

The lyrics were written during one of our later lockdowns and it was definitely getting to breaking point for a lot of people.. Myself included.

A lot of people were packing up and moving home or back to the country and it’s about wanting to get away and start again but really just ending up, right back where you started.

How did ‘Easy Way Out’ come together?

NADINE: Easy Way Out was actually the first song that we wrote and was also one of the first songs I had really ever written lyrics for. It’s about feeling burnt or letdown by someone.

What did you have on your mind when you wrote ‘Don’t Know You’?

NADINE: Joe and I really pulled that one out of nowhere! I’d been humming a melody for a few weeks and when he and I caught up one day, he showed me a new riff he’d written and the melody worked perfectly over the top. I think we had that song written and demoed in about two hours!

It’s about being close to someone and sharing experiences together and then, for whatever reason they are no longer a part of your life. You still see their face around but you feel like they’re a familiar stranger. 

On your 7” you do a cover of ‘Fighting My Way Back’ by The Incredible Kidda Band; what inspired you to pick this track? 

NADINE: Its such a great song! We actually found it while trawling the Internet for power-pop bands and when that song came on we were all like how have we never heard this band before?? 

It was unanimous to add that to our set. We reached out to TIKB ahead of our release and sent them a copy of the track and luckily, they seemed to really like it! 

Photo by Jhonny Russell.

What was the most fun part of recording?

NADINE: Collaborating and working with your friends to make something is always fun, although at times, kind of stressful! but listening to the finished product is alway the most fun part for me.

CAREY: I find recording stressful so probably realising we’d finished it

Nadine, as well as playing drums and singing in The Prize, you’re also a makeup artist and hairstylist working with Ed Sheeran, Charli XCX, Amy Shark, Meg Mac, Thelma Plum, Nick Cave, Amy Taylor and Harry Styles band; how did you get into that line of work? Who has been one of the biggest surprises to work with?

NADINE: I started out doing a hairdressing apprenticeship while I was still at VCE and living in Bendigo and then when I moved to Melbourne, I would help out friends bands for music videos and photoshoots and it just really snowballed from there! 

I did a short course in makeup and then started getting booked for some really fun jobs! 

The biggest surprise was working with Ringo Starr’s all Star band. I got to meet a Beatle! Which was very special and pretty surreal!

What’s been your favourite show The Prize has played yet? What made it so?

NADINE: Our first show was in November last year with CIVIC at the Croxton and I think that’s still my favourite to date. I had never done lead vocals before and to get to the stage where I was able to play drums and singing at the same time, took a bit of work for me- I nearly threw in the towel a few times! 

To finally get to the point where we could pull it all off live and play our first show, felt like a triumph in-itself and the added fact that it was the first show in 18 months of lockdowns (that any of us had played, let alone been to..!) The energy in the room was something I wont forget.

CAREY: I’ve really enjoyed playing at the Curtin this year but I reckon the arvo show at the Tramway in May this year was the funnest. Something about a good Sunday arvo show that hits different.

Who are some of your favourite performers to watch?

NADINE: There are so many good ones! But just to name a few; Grace Cummings, CIVIC, The Murlocs, RMFC, ROT TV and of course, Amyl and the Sniffers always put on a great show.

CAREY: As far as local bands go, I’ll go and see Civic and EXEK any time I can. Faceless Burial always blow my mind. I saw the Blinds play recently after a long hiatus and that was one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages.

Your debut is coming out on Anti Fade Records; what’s one of your favourite AF releases? Why should we check it out?

NADINE: I think I listened to CIVIC’s record New Vietnam an absurd amount of times when that was released on Anti Fade in 2018—every song is a banger! More recently, RMFC and Modal Melodies is great!

CAREY: I would probably have to split the honours between the Reader 7″ by RMFC and Civic’s New Vietnam. Buzz from RMFC is one of the best young talents making music in Australia today. New Vietnam is one of the best debut releases in recent memory.

What’s the rest of the year look like for The Prize?

NADINE: We have our first 7” coming out in September and the first single will be available this week (today I believe, when this interview comes out)!

We have a tour with The Chats and Mean Jeans starting in September, plus our launch show on October 1st (which I’m not sure if I’m supposed to announce yet butttt we have a very exciting lineup for that)!

The Prize Wrong Side of Town EP available via pre-order at Anti Fade Records. Out September 2.

Check out: facebook.com/theprizemelbourne + @theprize___ + @antifaderecords