Prince Daddy & The Hyena
Cosmic Thrill Seekers, the new record from Albany punk rock band Prince Daddy & the Hyena, is manythings. It is an odyssey of epic, The Monitor-esque proportions, a great, galloping sonic roadtrip acrossspace and time and Albany, boomeranging around ahorn of punk, pop, indie, garage rock, andorchestral, Queen-style arrangements and theatrics; it is an exploration of the fall-out after an acid trip,manic self-destruction, bottoming-out and recovering, and then slipping again; it is a candid, acutedocumentation of frontperson Kory Gregory’s cyclical mental health states as told through three actsand 14 songs/chapters; it is an existential presentation of eternal return theory, a victory via surrenderto impermanence; and perhaps most of all, it is about Dorothy Gale and The Wizard Of Oz.
“Dorothy was the OG cosmic thrill seeker,” Gregory says. “Dorothy kind of encompasses everything Iwas trying to get at.”
There are three acts in Cosmic Thrill Seekers. Gregory explains, “Act One is The Heart, whichis the TinMan. Act Two is The Brain, which is the Scarecrow, and Act Three is The Roar, which is the Lion.” Eachact explores a stage in Gregory’s mental health. “I remember watching the Wizard of Oz one time, andnoticing some weird kind of parallels between the cyclical nature of my mental health and that movie,”he says. “My mental health rotates and jumps from one stage to the next, and then repeats itself.” Theclosing moments of Cosmic Thrill Seekers reflect this, as the outro to the last track, “TheWackyMisadventures of the Passenger,” morphs into the first muted notes of opener “I Lost My Life.”
Gregory’s assessment of his mental health is a process that’s coded into CTS’ DNA. “Observing mymental health for four years kind of gave me enough to work with to write this album,” Gregory continues. He wrote the entire record—music and lyrics—in solitude over a four year period in a closetin his bedroom. No one heard any of it until it was finished and ready to record—not even bandmatesCam, Zak, andDaniel. “When you have OCD like me, you want it to be perfect,” Gregory says of theprocess. During recording at PonderRosa Studios in Lafayette, New Jersey with producer Nick Dardaris(AKA beloved pal and Albany scene comrade Scoops), Gregory would ask his bandmates to leave beforehis vocal takes. Even pre-studio practices were held without a PA system, meaning no one else knew anyof the words or melodies
The process and finished product are tributes to the sort of friendship and community supports thatdefine Prince Daddy. Gregory’s bandmates are his best friends, and they encouraged him to pursue therecord he needed to make. “It’s very, very, very much a selfish record,” he says. “It wasn’t just therecord I wanted to write, but this is for me, thisis to help me, and hopefully to look back on when I’m inthe more destructive phases of the cycle and realize that it’s not permanent, and that I’ve confronted itbefore. I’ve put some math to it.”
But the calculus of reckoning with mental illness isn’t linear, and neither is Cosmic Thrill Seekers. “I LostMy Life” opens the record with muted acoustic guitar and plinking keys as Gregory wrestles with thecatalyzing acid trip. “I hit it one too many times and I lost my life,” he sings before a crescendo thatcrashes into “Lauren,” a triumphant pop punk gem with scorching leads. “I’m trying to move past thisbut no such luck/But you drag me the furthest from giving up!” Gregory shouts. “Fuckin’ A” follows suit,a similarly bright, guitar-forward headbanger that sees him in a state of recovery. There are many dialogues and characters on the record; each represent a different piece of Gregory’s mentalcomposition.
But none of this first suite of songs is linear; each deviates from its own schematic, swerving gleefullybetween style and sound as the song sprints onward. “Cosmic Thrill Seeking Forever” is a falsetto-drivenBlue Album-waltz that climaxes in duelling Thin Lizzy harmonies underscored with thrilling Brian May-style lines. It’s a bit of Worry., and a bit of escapism (“Dear heart, my vehicle, I will teach you how to fly,and if not, I’ll sit by while you rot”). “Slip” is all Nirvana guitar tones and grunge riffing while “Breather”borrows from the brisk mid-2000s guitar and hyper high hats of Franz Ferdinand and Interpol. Thejourney ends with “The Wacky Misadventures of the Passenger,” a brilliant, 5-minute+ punk rock balladthat switches time signatures midway through before ending, alongside a brass section, where itbegan—with Gregory at his lowest point. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again/I’m bored and needsupport,” he roars.
Cosmic Thrill Seekers is a constant replaying of this cycle, equal parts joyous and challenging; it’s a punkrock, mental health-oriented declaration of, ‘time is a flat circle.’ “The record title is very ambitious andbig and grand, but as the first and last song kind of display, the message of the story is almost like,‘There’s no place like home,’ even though Cosmic Thrill Seekers is the direct opposite of that,” Gregorysays. “But it takes a journey to realize that, as it did for me, and as it did for Dorothy.”
To summarize in Gregory’s words: “This has the potential to get semi-dark, if you’re down with that.”
Kickstand Productions Presents
with Charmer, Saturdays At Your Place
The Castle Theatre
November 11, 2023