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Uncle Dad's Art Collective: Purple Rain Tribute Show

Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: February 2015

Photos by Vince Latham

Chances are you’ve heard of Uncle Dad’s Art Collective. With a hand in groups like Bogg, Pageant Dads, Aubrey Debauchery and the Broken Bones, Everybody In Outer Space Dance Troupe and more, they’ve become an undeniable creative force here in Chico. Last September they orchestrated a Led Zeppelin cover night, where local musicians were employed to cover songs from the popular Zeppelin album IV. The turnout was impressive, with over 500 audience members on hand to marvel at the sonic oddities and engaging dancers, led by Eva Rachelle Blanshei. The Zeppelin show blew through the BMU, leaving many of us reinvigorated and remembering the good ol’ days when AS (Associated Students) bothered to book worthwhile shows in their on-campus venue. If you missed the Zeppelin cover night, don’t fret, because Uncle Dad’s is back at it, this time with a Prince-themed night featuring Purple Rain. I recently met up with Uncle Dad’s representatives Josh Hegg, Gavin Fitzgerald, and Eva Rachelle Blanshei, and a few of the musicians from the upcoming show, Nikki Sierra (Sisterhoods), Stephen Galloway, and Sean Galloway (both of The Shimmies).

Can you talk a little bit about why you decided to do a Purple Rain cover night?

Josh: The goal of this full album tribute is always to take an album that is a considered a masterpiece, something that changed music culture, and have local musicians create it in a brand new way. It ISN’T a cover show, rather a re-imagining. All of our past albums have kind of lived in ‘70s rock-land and we thought it was about time to change it up. Give the bands new material to arrange that had a different aesthetic to begin with. Plus Prince, who is known for his theatrics on stage, allows us to also be somewhat over the top with the production side, sets, multimedia, etc.

How did you decide which bands would be best to play this show?

Josh: All the bands were chosen by the collective because of their current contribution to local music. We weren’t necessarily trying to pick bands that were indicative of our local music scene (though I think we did a pretty good job of sampling tons of genres), but rather we picked bands that are working their asses off and changing the scope of what our music scene looks like as a whole. New bands like Wanderers and Wolves and Solar Estates who are constantly promoting and showcasing their sounds, as well as older bands like Aubrey Debauchery and The Shimmies that are still performing and writing whether it be in those groups or in new incarnations—those were the groups we wanted to highlight. Granted we didn’t book every band that works hard in Chico, but I think we did a decent job of giving a snapshot in time as to what the best parts of our music scene currently looks like.

I’d like you to each talk a little about the song you’re performing, and how you’ve made it yours.

Nikki: “When Doves Cry.” I could show you guys a recording of our first rehearsal, but somehow it sounds like a fucking Tool song. I’m not sure how that happened. There’s this weird finger picking thing that’s happening, and it came out sounding exactly like a Tool song. We decided to do it half-tempo, and we wanted to make it super dubbed out, future-base sounding, and it sounded like a metal song. (laughs). On the recording, you can hear all three of us say “is this Tool?”

Sean: We are doing a song by… Prince. “Beautiful Ones.”

Stephen: It’s off his semen-al [sic] album… [laughs].

Sean: Purp Rain. We initially tried to just follow along with it, and then eventually realized that we couldn’t, because we are not Prince, and we are not made of mystical dust, or whatever he’s made of. So we just changed it completely. He used some of the wrong chords, so we fixed it for him.

That was nice of you, to fix it for him. We’ll have to send him the corrected sheet music.

Sean: Sure, he can put it in his vault with the 800 music videos he’s never released.

Gavin: We have rehearsal tonight, we’re performing “Purple Rain,” and honestly I have no idea what we’re going to do. We’re probably just going to add a bunch of horns.

And you’re performing with Bogg and Aubrey (Debauchery)?

Gavin: Yeah, Bogg, Aubrey, and with Western Divide. And Hannah Kyle.

And what songs?

Gavin: With Hannah Kyle we’re definitely throwing it towards Hannah’s style of singing. So lots of finger picks, beautiful country bumpkin sort of… just fell off the turnip truck… style. [laughs].

Sounds like Prince!

Gavin: Yes. We are definitely staying as close to Prince as possible. It’s nice with that one, we’ve just done one rehearsal so far, but we just let her shine. I mean it’s not all about Hannah Kyle, so don’t be expecting to hear only her. Michael [Bone] will be playing drums for that… it’s going to be good.

So Eva, for the Led Zeppelin show, you danced during Aubrey’s performance, what’s the plan for Purple Rain?

Eva: We have seven of the songs choreographed, and when we get [to] tech day, we’ll see which ones still match. We’re up in the set, we’re going to be up above everyone, we’re going to be up on a big twelve foot rafter… there’s a scaffolding thing above the stage where [the dancers] will be.

That sounds super dangerous.

Eva: Yeah, it definitely is.

Gavin: Suuuuper dangerous.

Eva: You won’t notice us at all. Or see us. We’re going to be up in the set, so we won’t affect any of the musicianship at all. But if someone wants to do a bluegrass version of… [to Gavin] what’s that song I always use for this example?

Gavin: Uh… I don’t know.

Eva: “I Would Die 4 U.” If someone does a bluegrass version of “I Would Die 4 U,” [laughing] we’re definitely not going to dance to that.

Gavin: [laughing] It would just be a lot of stomping.

Eva: They’re all choreographed, so if someone does a true cover, we’ll be able to perform with them.

OK, now I’d like to go around the room and I’d like you to say who is the Prince in your band. And for the bands who aren’t here, we’ll just speculate. Wildly.

Gavin: This is fun! Like who’s most like Prince, or who will be singing the song?

However you want to interpret the question is up to you.

Gavin: Oh man…

Who is the Prince of Bogg?

Gavin: The Prince of Bogg? Matt Weiner. [Everyone laughs, and heartily agrees.] It’s those ringlets. And he also wears pajama pants all day around the house, so he’s just very focused on luxury.

Eva: And under those pajama pants are leather pants.

Sean: And the pajama pants are breakaway.

Nikki: [For Sisterhoods] I would have to say it would be Cobby. Because I think that he is a lot of the driving force behind our ideology. [laughs] He also has a deep voice… Man, now I’m thinking it might be Greg.

Who’s the Prince of The Shimmies?

[Long pause]

Sean: [To Stephen] You are. I want you to be. I’ll be The Revolution. [laughs] Or whatever the band was that Prince was in. I don’t really know anything about Prince.

Eva: [To Sean] Did you watch the movie?

Sean: What movie?

Eva: Purple Rain.

Sean: No [laughs], I’ve never seen it. I’m telling you, I don’t know shit about Prince.

Eva: Ok, that’ll be your assignment. You need to watch Purple Rain.

What about Western Divide?

Eva: Oh, Sean Harrasser, definitely.

Gavin: Can we nominate a Morris Day also? Like Morris Day and The Times, which was just the antithesis of Prince? Because that would be Matt Weiner again. He’s such an elusive character.

Ok, how about Aubrey Debauchery & The Broken Bones?

Eva: Matt Weiner.

Gavin: He reigns, wherever he is.

Sean: He Purple Reigns. [laughs]

Gavin: He Purple Reigns supreme.

What do you like least about Prince?

Stephen: I feel like you’re setting us up for failure here. I mean, Is Prince going to step out from behind the corner?

Eva: I like least his lack of albums. I think he needs more.

Good answer. That was a trick question because he is flawless. What is Prince’s anti-aging secret?

Sean: I did hear recently that if you get blood transfusions from infants or small children that it will keep you young.

Didn’t they do something like that with rats?

Sean: Rats? No, that won’t help. [laughs] Just human children.

Eva: Wait are you saying that Prince eats rats?

Sean: No, he gets blood transfusions from children.

Gavin: I bet he has a lot of milk baths. I can imagine that being a daily thing for him.

Eva: I bet he has someone talk and express things for him so he never has to make facial expressions. He probably has one of those things that he can type a sentence into, then his manager or someone relays it with the proper emotion.

Gavin: He’s a ventriloquist.

Eva: Oh yeah! Like in the movie. [To Sean and Stephen] You have to see this movie!

Sean: Nah, I like to come at things with a complete ignorance. I’ve approached the rest of my life that way, and I’ll thank you to let me do the same with this show.

Who would win in a fight between Prince and Michael Jackson?

Sean: Anyone but Prince.

Eva: Well, Michael Jackson is a lover, not a fighter.

Gavin: That’s like two storms hitting each other.

Stephen: The collateral damage would be tremendous.

Like that X-Files episode with Kathy Griffin, where she plays twins that when they get close to each other, disaster strikes.

Sean: It’s like that Jet Li movie The One. It’s like Highlander. It’s like a lot of things. I mean, I guess, not to be cruel, but Prince… already… won. Because Michael Jackson is dead. He’s moonwalking in heaven.

Who would win in a fight between Prince and a Velociraptor from JP?

Gavin: Yowza.

Sean: Come on.

Hey, these are my serious and important questions.

Eva: I think the Velociraptor would win.

Sean: Actually, it would be the two raptors that he didn’t know were there.

Clever girl.

Sean: Could he use his Prince-symbol guitar?

Eva: Oh yeah, if he starts playing that, that raptor is going to be asleep. Or super horny.

What is Prince’s best song?

Gavin: I love “When Doves Cry.” I adore that song. But I also love “Darling Nikki.” They’re both great. “Darling Nikki” has this double bass-drum finale that’s just great. I love it.

Eva: I love “The Beautiful Ones.” 

How tall is Prince?

Sean: He’s… the guy that played the Ewoks, who was that?

The guy who got arrested for rubbing up on girls on the subway?

Sean: That guy got arrested?

He was exposing himself, or rubbing up on strangers, or something…

Sean: Gary Coleman? [laughs]

Exactly. No, it was Warwick.

Stephen: Dionne?

Sean: Yeah, Dionne Warwick.

Warwick Davis.

Eva: I bet Prince is as tall as I was when I was thirteen.

He’s 5’2”.

Sean: He’s a giant among men.

Stephen: He’s the same size as my mother.

He’s one inch taller than me.

Eva: You guys could kiss and it wouldn’t be awkward.

I’m fairly certain it would still be awkward. So, any surprises in store for this show?

Josh: As compared to our Led Zeppelin IV tribute in Sept, this show will have quite a bit more mixed media; Videos, dances, etc. We also are building a set. We’re trying to make it feel more like a show start to finish. The music will be great, but we also want people to forget that they are in the BMU Auditorium in Chico and suck them into our Prince infested imaginations. That’s the entertainment aspect, and a show should always strive to be entertaining, in my opinion. I think people can come expecting lots of great music paired with bizarre and radical video projections, dances, costumes and the like. Also, Prince will be there, definitely, without a doubt. No chance he won’t make it.

Nikki: Well, the Tool thing would have been a surprise I guess, if I hadn’t just ruined it. I was very surprised about that. As far as surprises go… Um… no. But I think now I’ll go to our next practice and tell the guys, “we need a surprise.”

Gavin: The band might have a better spread of meat and cheese stuff. So that’ll be a nice surprise.

Let’s say I’m an average citizen of Chico. Convince me to go to this show.

Eva: Have you ever heard of Prince?


Eva: [Whispering to Gavin] She shouldn’t go.

Stephen: For the Led Zeppelin show, people did more direct translations of the songs, because Led Zeppelin is made up of human people who play music. But Prince, nobody can sing like that, nobody can do those things that way. The situation we found ourselves in, was that if we tried to do it directly, it’s just going to sound like a shitty version of that song. So I think people are really going to have to do a lot more to make it their own.

Nikki: That’s totally what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to just bring out certain sonic elements. There’s this one really, really synth sound at the beginning of “When Doves Cry” that’s just like weeeeoh weeeoh weeeoh, and it’s just really weird and so Greg spent like thirty minutes the other day trying to dial in that sound. There’s all kind of weird differences on the album version, so we’re just trying to take those sonic pieces and put them together in some other sort of arrangement. But definitely there’s a lot on there that you just think, this is not human.

Gavin: That would be interesting element, as an audience member, just trying to anticipate how the bands are going to pull this off.

Josh: If you are an average citizen in Chico, then become above average. Not only can you be entertained by all that local artists have to give to you, but on top of that you can support a performance art scene that wants desperately to thrive. Go, see this show, be entertained, fall in love with the bands like I did and start going to their shows. Coachella is just going to keep getting shittier so start investing in what’s on your doorstep.

There you have it! Come see for yourself how these talented musicians interpret the songs of Purple Rain! Saturday, February 21st, BMU auditorium, 7pm. Get your tickets now!

Arielle Mullen