Triangle interviews synth pop artist Penguin Prison | The Triangle
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Triangle interviews synth pop artist Penguin Prison

The Triangle chats with Penguin Prison, a multifaceted New York musician who is on the heels of releasing his sophomore album spring of 2015. For those who are unaware of Penguin Prison, if we were to make mainstream comparisons, Chromeo would be the perfect counterpart. Take a listen to “Multi-Millionaire” or “Don’t F–k With My Money” off of his first self-titled album and you’ll hear the trendy similarities.

Chris Glover, his real name, has successfully remixed and popularized classic songs like Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and Sade’s “Hang On To Your Love” as a disc jockey, adding up-tempo synth-pop vibes and a dash of disco. Not only does he DJ, but he’s also a singer, rapper, guitarist, songwriter and producer. If you ask me, he does everything but personally hand delivers his album to your front door.

Get to know Penguin Prison’s brainchild in the interview, as he gets ready to release his new album and preps to support it by accompanying Remix Artist Collective on the “Something Classic” tour, performing at the Theatre of Living Arts Oct. 25.

Triangle Talks: So you DJ and you play live with a band — which comes first for you?

Penguin Prison: Well they’re completely different. But, I’ve been DJing for the past couple of years, exclusively. And now, I have a new album that’s coming out, so I’m putting my band back together to play shows with them.

TT: Tell me about your name Penguin Prison. What does that mean?

PP: Well, when I make music, I like to make it funny and serious at the same time. And, I think Penguin Prison is like that. It’s also alliterative — both words start with a P and end with an N. It just kinds of rolls off the tongue. It just sounded cool.

TT: Did you brainstorm this name or were you called a Penguin when you were younger? What’s the deal?

PP: No, it just came out. I was making a joke with my friend and he started saying it. I was like, “That’s funny.”

TT: Let’s talk about your recent covers. You’ve recently released two: Sade’s “Hang On To Your Love” and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.” Why those two?

PP: I just wanted to make covers for when I DJ. Also, [I] just want to give people content so they can download. And, because I felt like it. So, I did it.

TT: I guess that’s all the motivation you need. Do you have any other covers in the works?

PP: Now, I’m going to focus on my own music. I’m almost done with my new album, so I’m going to release a new single sometime in October. It’s called “Calling Out.” I made it with these guys named Oliver, a production duo from Los Angeles. They did a bunch of the songs from the new Chromeo album “White Women.”

So, I’m putting my band together and am going to play shows with RAC and the band until next year.

Photo Courtesy: Downtown Records
Photo Courtesy: Downtown Records

TT: I saw some of your artwork for the covers. Did you draw them yourself?

PP: Yeah, I drew those. It’s a funny, child-like type of thing. I used to be into wrestling, like WWE, when I was little and would just draw wrestlers all day. I don’t know what that has to do with anything. But, I drew it with color pencils. It looks like a five-year-old did it.

TT: Switching gears here, tell me about your song “Multi-Millionaire.” What inspired it?

PP: That’s about credit card debt. It’s about people living like millionaires, even though they have no money — which is something you can do. Like, if you didn’t care about the consequences or the future or whatever happens tomorrow, you could go and get 10 credit cards and just buy a bunch of sh-t and act like a millionaire for a few days or whatever and not care about it.

When [the credit card companies] start asking for you to pay the bill, what would actually happen? Would you go to jail? I don’t know, maybe. I feel like a lot of people in today’s society kind of do stuff like that and get in trouble with credit card debt.

TT: For your other song “Don’t F–k With My Money,” you actually shot your music video walking through [New York City’s] financial district during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

PP: Yeah, that song obviously wasn’t about [Occupy Wall Street,] but it has the same sentiment and I feel like a lot of people criticized the movement because they said a lot of people didn’t really know what they were protesting against. A lot of people had different agendas.

But, I look at the spirit of it as being something that people hadn’t seen in a while. Whether it was perfect or not, it doesn’t matter. It was still a good thing that happened because people were binding together and attempting to do something about the situation. It got people thinking about it.

TT: Did you find yourself in the same predicament, where you were living above your means?

PP: As a musician in today’s world, you have to spend money to make money. Sometimes you have to spend money that you don’t have because you’re trying to go after your passion. I mean, a lot of people do that — people in all fields. For example, I heard someone say a photographer came to talk to their class and said he maxed out several credit cards trying to pursue his dreams. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and sometimes it does. But, you have to take risks if you want to be successful.

TT: Who effed with your money, causing you to write the song “Don’t F–k With My Money?”

PP: I don’t know. [The song] just kind of happened. When I initially came up with it, I didn’t like it. I was asking all of my friends, “Is this crazy?” They all agreed yeah and told me not to release it. So then I was trying to think of other lyrics to replace it with because I liked the melody so much. A lot of times I have a melody, which is like putting together a puzzle or playing hangman, fitting lyrics and a melody properly together. But, I couldn’t think of any other words, so I just went with it.

TT: You’ve toured with Girl Talk and Two Door Cinema Club. Now, you’re heading on the road with RAC. Tell me what can we expect?

PP: I’ve played with RAC a bunch of times plus I did a record with RAC called “Hollywood.”  That was his first original song that came out. We made that through the internet. That’s the thing about music today — you can create a song with someone and not be in the same room as them, which didn’t use to be the case a few years ago.

You just send files back and forth. Sometimes it’s even better to do it that way than to be in the same room as them. You can take your time [and] analyze stuff, whereas if you’re in the same room you may feel pressured or rushed.

I actually made two songs with RAC recently at his house and [we] created them in the same room. That was good because we literally came up with two complete songs in two days. So, in that case, it was really productive.

TT: How do you link up with artists like RAC and Girl Talk? Is it sometimes a forced relationship through the label?

PP: I knew Girl Talk before he was famous. One of his albums that he came out with before he got really big, I rapped on. He came to [Bard] College; it’s upstate New York near Woodstock. He came there and played a show and I met him and we became friends. I guess when you make music, you just meet other like-minded people. It just kind of happens.

TT: If you were not making music, what do you think you would be doing career-wise?

PP: I think I would’ve tried to do something outdoors or with animals or helping people somehow. I’m not really sure. I’ve never really had to think about it.