‘There’s something about the music that’s wide open’

Posted 2nd December 2021

Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum has been called a supergroup, and many would agree. The line-up is frontman Michael C. Hall (star of Dexter and Six Feet Under), multi-instrumentalist Matt Katz-Bowen (Blondie) and drummer Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers). And even if they mightn’t like the word supergroup, they’ve definitely honed a super group. They spoke with Pulse’s Sammy Jones about their multifaceted music.

It just so happens that we are speaking with the band on the day that Showtime favourite Dexter returns to the small screen after eight years away. Critics and fans are buzzing. The man behind our favourite serial killer (is that a thing?!) is suitably cool about it: “I try not to spend too much time if any looking at the critical response,” Michael says, “The feedback I get from individual people, people who are fans of the show, is they seem to like it.”

Dexter: New Blood Road Kill
Dexter: New Blood Road Kill

Another thing people like is the musical meeting of minds that resulted in Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum.

It feels like a new thing, but the guys have been throwing material around for a few years now.

Michael’s voice is as staggeringly good as his execution of small screen roles, and baddies, is; he was handpicked by Bowie to star in Lazarus, which was phenomenal. But that didn’t mean success was assured this time. It takes more than ‘just’ talent to deliver this sort of unbridled cool. It’s about chemistry and feeling. And all three members share equal billing. 

Perhaps predictably, there has been mention of the theatrical side of the band. 

“It’s not something we ever talked about,” Michael says, “We didn’t use that as an adjective that we aspired to, but I suppose there is something about the music that’s pretty wide open, expansive and maybe inherently theatrical. Some of the videos have been more narrative than others and more performative than others, but we’re just following it where it goes.”

The three made a connection while working on the Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Inch. They quickly realised they were onto something that needed further exploration.

“Matt and I had been writing instrumentals just because we enjoy hanging out and making music,” Peter recalled, “Mike heard a few of those at my studio. He rode the subway downtown a couple of days later and wrote some lyrics on the spot. I edited together what we did that day and sent it to Mike and Matt and said, ‘I don’t know what this is, but let’s just keep doing it,’ and we have for a while now. Hopefully that won’t stop.

“I remember the first time I sat down at the drums as a little kid, and I could immediately start to find my way around them. There was a little bit of that, because what if the first song had sucked?” he smiled, “We’ve been blessed, because what we make seems to resonate with how we feel inside.”

Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum followed last year’s debut EP with the release of their first album, Thanks For Coming, earlier in 2021. It’s stripped back disco meets electronic, with occasional bursts of rock and those vocals. It’s heavy on power and presence. It’s exciting.

Matt, Michael and Peter
Matt, Michael and Peter. Photo credit: Paul Storey

A fair portion of the release was written during lockdown. Did the absence of other distractions make it easier to focus?

“Absolutely, that’s a good word – focus,” Peter agrees, “Everything during that lockdown period just got so focused. I for one just felt so blessed to have Mike and Matt to exchange ideas with, and to be creative was real life-saving stuff for me.

Thanks for Coming album cover
Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum – Thanks for Coming

“Sometimes I feel that the best things that I’ve been a part of just come out of nowhere and aren’t premeditated, and nobody could have planned what was going to happen the last couple of years.”

And there’s more to come: “We have a full length album that’s done – it’s already been recorded, mixed and mastered, a whole slew of new songs that will be released in 2022,” Matt shares, “We are super excited and just want to keep on playing, and we have a lot of plans to do that.”

Despite the buzz around the band, and the huge success achieved by its individual players, Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum seems to be very organic, and cool.

“It’s us three deciding what we want to do – it’s very liberating, very creative,” Matt said.

Matt’s daughter played her part in the creativity too; she is responsible for giving the band its moniker.

“We felt that it fitted better than any other names that we had – names we weren’t 100% able to get behind, and the fact that my daughter made it was just something extra special.”

As you read this, the band will be beginning its debut European tour with an 11-date run at UK venues.

Ticket holders will be treated to an up-close-and-personal performance with the shows taking place in some of our more intimate gig haunts. What are you most looking forward to – the sticky floors or the possibility of bad beer?

Peter: “The crisps and the chocolate are far superior over there. There is also an amazing appreciation of music that we are thrilled to get in the room with, and exchange energy with. 

“But definitely the crisps!”

Matt: “I think the people most of all, because like Peter said, you guys are just such great fans and appreciators of music, and we’re definitely looking forward to feeling that energy and experiencing that.”

This is more than a project. Those creating the music are heavily invested in the vibe, and fans of each other.

“I’ve been in a lot of bands and we’ve all been in a lot of creative projects, and this one miraculously feels like this weird meeting,” Peter explained, “I think it’s the first time when I’ve been in a band where I’m feeling, ‘these two guys keep me on my toes.’ It’s really collaborative in the true sense of that word, where I feel I’m with people that are putting in as much energy as I am and are as excited about it.”

Matt agrees: “There is a lot of respect and freedom. Not being too precious about anything in particular means we can flow off each other. That’s what you wanna have when you are working with a group of people…”

“I love that Matt and Pete are just good people, sane people,” Michael says with a laugh, “and they are generous collaborators. This really feels like it’s our band, it doesn’t feel like two of us are showing up for the other person. We all have a collective sense of ownership and input and creative freedom and I think we all appreciate that it’s a somewhat miraculous thing that we can come together and create something that none of us individually could have come up with on our own.

“If there is anything we are serving or bowing to, it’s that, and that’s nice…”