Michael C. Hall, Peter Yanowitz and Matt Katz-Bohen talk about the ‘organic’ way they formed Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum and more in an interview with HollywoodLife!
You know those three guys from your high school who formed a band, just because they could? Michael C. Hall, Peter Yanowitz and Matt Katz-Bohen, who collectively form Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum, is that band — except instead of hailing from the same educational institution, they met on the Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in 2014. Sure, each member hails from an impressive musical background: Michael, most known for his leading role in Dexter, tackled the role of rock iconoclast David Bowie in the musical Lazarus; Peter co-founded the indie band Morningwood, which included members like legend Yoko Ono; and Matt has played keyboard for Blondie for the past decade (Debbie Harry has only missed one of the new band’s shows). But the trio doesn’t have a “mission statement,” as Michael EXCLUSIVELY told HollywoodLife, ahead of the release of his indie group’s debut EP and after the drop of its latest track, “Come Talk To Me,” on Feb. 7. The three friends-turned-bandmates are just here to have a good time.
“Matt and I went on the road with the [Hedwig and the Angry Inch] tour and we were just hanging out so much that we were like, ‘Why don’t we hang out more at home?’” That led them to pick up the instruments “laying around” their homes, and eventually, Michael came on-board for vocals. “I think it was more of a desire to just kind of be around two of my favorite people,” Peter admitted, which drew an “aww” from Matt. “There was an immediate, easy intuition we had about musical ideas,” Michael explained.
The “organic” nature of the band’s origin story, a word that Peter repeatedly used throughout the interview, is reflected in the six-track EP that HollywoodLife listened to. You can’t slap one definitive label on this band, since each track doesn’t tie into a cohesive sound — a good thing, if you’re tired of streamlined albums with a clear branding strategy. One of the singles, “Love American Style,” features psychedelic desert rock, while “Sweet and Low” mellows out into a song that could be sung around a campfire, as Peter put it.
“We love to rock and we also love a really sad ballad. And Matt brings this incredible keyboard, electronic-y [sound]…like a house sort of energy,” Peter explained of the EP’s wide range of genres. It’s an eclectic mix, something you could listen to while daydreaming (or grooving) under a field of stars. Noting the EP’s ethereal essence, Matt did suggest one possible genre: “danceable apocalypse.” Riffing off this end of the world notion that the band has been toying with lately, Michael posed an excellent question: “Yeah, who says dystopia can’t be fun?”
“It seems like humanity’s taken a weird turn and sort of heading off the cliff. So we want to be like Thelma & Louise style, we want to be the big shift band playing on the radio in the convertible,” Peter explained. You can certainly feel like a beautiful outlaw on the run while listening to the band’s debut single, “Ketamine,” released in Dec. 2019. Michael’s dreamlike vocals, combined with the almost foreboding undertone of electronic sounds, provides for an interesting listening experience best for when you have a lot of time to think on the open road.
The song’s accompanying music video takes this distinctive tone and spins it into eerie visuals: like an omnipotent narrator, Michael sings in a gothic mansion as the video focuses on a young girl who seems to be trapped inside, but finds hope on the outside. “The [kid] on the outside helps to liberate the kid on the inside and show that kid a broader world,” Michael said, explaining the plot of the music video directed by David MacNutt. “It felt like we were shooting a little horror movie the day that we did it. It was kind of fun to show up and be relatively like supporting characters in this drama about these two kids with a sort of twisted but ultimately kind of sweet relationship in the midst of all this sinister stuff.”
Horror-like visuals, psychedelic desert rock, campfire music — there’s a lot going on in the projects that Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum is putting out, so it helps to take the band’s name literally. “When we work on a song and get deep into it, we always ask ourselves, ‘Does this feel like it could go into the Museum?’ As if the Museum is this house of aesthetic,” Peter explained. “We just imagine what this place sounds like and it seems like that’s the only criteria that it has to sort of fit into the Museum, and there’s lots of wings in this museum.”
This allusion to “wings” ties nicely into the “butterfly” metaphor in the band’s name, and surprisingly, the mastermind behind the moniker was Matt’s seven-year-old daughter. “My daughter said that one day she would love to have a band called Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum and I said, ‘Wow, that’s so cool. Can I use that?’ And she gave me her blessing,” Matt revealed. “She thinks it’s great and it’s really cool that we were able to use the name that she came up with. She loves butterflies and princesses too. So it all kind of worked out.”