Natalie Prass On The Tumultuous Political Climate That Inspired Her New Album, ‘The Future And The Past’

Tonje Thilesen

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Natalie Prass has a voice like a cupcake, a creamsicle, a rainbow. She has a way of infusing the simplest turn of phrase with unspeakable wonder, injecting a line with a trill or a breath, wielding pause and emphasis with expert, joyous control. On her 2015 self-titled debut, Natalie Prass, she became the poster child for Spacebomb Records, a regal, independent label and studio based in Richmond, Virginia masterminded by one Matthew E. White, whose own 2015 record further helped cement the collective’s orchestral flex was the rule, not an exception.

In the ensuing three years, Prass became a beloved indie breakout artist, a critical darling with enough clout to make it onto late night TV, and a festival staple praised for her stunning live show. She quickly began work on an album to follow up her debut, whose songs were, at the time of their release, already quite old to their creator.

But as the album neared completion, another big shift in the world occurred — Donald Trump was elected president. No longer satisfied with the songs she’d nearly recorded, Prass went back to the drawing board, intent on creating a record that reflected the shared political turmoil of those who did not align themselves with Trump’s policies. The resulting album, titled The Future And The Past is the product of Prass’ own effort to educate herself and offer support and resilience to those most impacted by the Trump presidency.

Tracks like “Hot For The Mountain” and “Sisters” in particular imbue Prass’ humid, urgent brass-pop with revolutionary and feminist themes. Her voice floats, airy, above Spacebomb’s elegant, high-intensity band, who mix funk grooves, soulful jazz, and jittery pop with eclectic aplomb. The Future And The Past is, like its name suggests, a record that seeks to find a place between the resistances of the past, and the battles to be fought in the near future.

Over the phone a couple weeks ago, Prass and I spoke in depth about the shift she felt as a creator in the era of Trump, the impact of Spacebomb on her songwriting process, and how her community in Virginia influences her work.