Late last fall for Indigenous People’s Day — the holiday formerly known as Christopher Columbus Day — Leafar Seyer (aka Rafael Reyes) and Dave Parley of Prayers had a story to tell. Their incisive “Mexica” video told the story of their Mexican heritage, displaying cultural pride even while the political rhetoric about their people turned poisonous from the presidential stage. “Mexica” was partially inspired by Trump’s derogatory comments about the Mexican people, yes, but Seyer and Parley have been creating music together long before his political ascent.
Though they grew up in San Diego, both Seyer and Parley were born in Mexico, in Cotija, Michochan and Tijuana respectively, and were steeped in MTV, punk and goth as much as they were in more traditional Chicano culture — that juxtaposition is the foundation of Prayers. Their particular strain of electronic dark electronic rock has quickly gained a massive following, so much so that BMG just signed them for a major label deal, and will release their new full-length album later this year.
Operating under the moniker “cholo goth” to indicate the centering of their culture along with darker, punk aspects of their sound and aesthetic, Seyer and Parley have been a bit out of the spotlight over the past year, but steadily working on new projects in the wings. If you need more context for their sound, consider that they will be opening up on November 5th for the likes of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie at Knotfest — yes, that’s Slipknot’s own festival. So position Prayers in that context, darker, heavier music that flirts with the edge of rebellion, but consistently and directly spotlights the artist’s identities as Mexican-Americans. If you haven’t experienced it, the results are pretty incredible.
Another massive influence on the band’s sound is the early ’80s deathrock band, Christian Death. Seyer in particularly was deeply impacted by the band when he was younger, and through a series of fateful coincidences, ended up meeting the band and they expressed interest in working together. Over the course of working alongside members of the original lineup, Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone, an extremely fruitful creative spirit was at play — two songs for an exclusive EP, a documentary, and a photo book all emerged from the collab.
The Cursed Be Thy Blessings collaborative EP between Prayers and the original members of Christian Death, which you can see the artwork created by Mexico City artist Golgo, above, drops in mid-October, 10/13 (Friday the 13th), alongside the photobook, which features photos by the esteemed urban and lowrider culture photographer Estevan Oriol, who also shot the documentary, Beyond & Back, alongside Ramez Silyan, a director who has made videos for acts like Lil Peep and Atlanta rapper Father.
With all that on the horizon, in advance of the release of this multi-part , and right on the heels of their major label signing, I spoke with Seyer about how the Christian Death collaboration came together, his excitement over their major label signing, and why he feels the work of Prayers is more important than ever.
We last spoke around the time the “Mexica” video was coming out, and now you have this massive new collaborative project with Christian Death. Why don’t you update me on what’s on the horizon for Prayers?
We’ve been incubating in this cocoon, working extremely hard on these next few projects, including the collaboration with the original members of Christian Death — Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone. It’s been a dream of mine, to work with Christian Death because they’re such influences on me, and to do this EP with them is amazing. It includes an original song, “Cursed Be Thy Blessings,” and then a cover of their first song, “Dogs,” done by all of us as “Perros.”
The whole thing is so unreal to me and to David [Parley]. I’m so excited for the project, particularly because it’s coming out with this documentary, it’s coming out with a book, and it’s coming out with the record, on vinyl. There’s so many levels to this thing that’s happening with Christian Death. I like stuff that’s tangible, that you can touch because I feel like everything’s on the internet, but I’m still a fan of books. I’m still a fan of CDs. I’m still a fan of records and I still collect records. I wanted it to exist in other ways, not to just exist in a digital form on the internet.
Let’s get more into the connection with Christian Death, since they are such a big part of this. Why don’t you tell about your first time experiencing that band and how they became such an influence on you?
It was in the ‘90s when I was in high school. All of us kids were listening to Poison and hair metal bands, and then I discovered Christian Death and it was a whole different world. It opened up a whole different world that actually, I didn’t know really existed. Once I went through that corridor, I almost physically started changing the way that I thought about music because, at that time, hair metal was … I loved it. I still love it. I love Def Leppard and stuff like that.
But Christian Death… the fucking first line on “Romeo’s Distress” is like: “Burning crosses on a n—–’s lawn.” I was like, what the fuck? It scared me. It fucking scared me. It was when I was scared by fucking music. I was scared and intrigued and it did something to me. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should be listening to this. This is fucking taboo. So scary.’ Things that scare you, they also stimulate you in this weird adrenaline way.
With those lyrics, I was just like, ‘What’s going on here? This music is dangerous.’ I think that’s what influenced my songwriting. I don’t want to promote it or brag about it, but I’ve lived a dangerous life, and before I heard NWA or anything like gangster rap, all the bands that were out during that time were great musically, but I didn’t feel like they were dangerous. I think Christian Death for me, was the first band I discovered that was dangerous and made me scared and it scared me.
How did it come about that you ended up connected with them?
I was hanging out with the guy who is now my manager, Kenny Ochoa and this other guy named Bryan Ray who does this thing called Beta Petrol. He’s published a lot of books on punk and he’s a local LA collector, this really cool guy who archives and collects just history of music and things that are just amazing. He’s just this really cool guy and put out a book called The Art Of Punk. They asked me my major influence and I told them my number one influence is Christian Death.” Then, Kenny said ‘No way man. I actually know those guys. I can introduce you to them.’ I was like, ‘Fuck. I would love that.’
I actually met them before Kenny even introduced me to them through another friend, Danny Lethal from Lethal Amount at a party, but that same week, Kenny introduced me to them at another party. So initially, I met them through Danny and then Kenny told me he’d been talking to them and they really liked my vibe, and wanted to collaborate on some music.” I was like, “Fuck. Are you serious? That would be a dream.”
Seriously, that feels really fated. So what was the vibe once you guys actually got into the studio together to do “Cursed Be They Blessings” and “Perros”?
My manager Kenny called up Studio 606 and asked if it would be possible for us to all get together there and work on this project, and they agreed to host it and give us studio time. We went in there and it all just happened so organically — I think it’s because I’m so familiar with the music, I grew up with the music. So when I started the writing process or working with them, it wasn’t like two strangers meeting.
It was such an instant connection. It was like I picked up where we left off even though we never had a past. It was just like, the minute we got into the studio, the minute they started play was the minute I started writing and the song was done in one day, which was the first song called “Cursed.” For lack of better words, it was magical.
I really wanted to do something from that era, and I really wanted to sound like Rozz Williams. His style of writing and giving yourself, really surrendering to the whole process of creation and being as transparent and as vulnerable as possible. So I was trying to channel Rozz. It was so easy to do because I was actually with the people that he grew up with and made all this music with and I got to hear some amazing stories about Rozz through them.
Let’s talk a little bit about Estevan Oriol, the photographer and videographer who worked on the other aspects of the project. How did you get involved with him?
Estevan, first of all, me and him, our connection is fucking crazy real because we have the same birthday, we’re both born August 2nd. The connection was instant. He was like my brother when I first met him and he heard about us just like everyone else did, just kind of through the grapevine. We brought him in for the Christian Death project because at that time, he was already shooting us anyways. He was already taking photos of us so we just brought him in. I mean, he’s brilliant. You know, he’s a genius.
This is one of the first big projects you’ve done since signing with BMG, how has that relationship been so far?
They have been so diligent and strong and helpful and supportive of everything that we’ve been doing. More importantly, they haven’t tried to change a damn thing as far as who we are and what we’re doing. We kept full creative control of everything from the four music videos, that I’m working on as we speak. I’m literally directing and filming four fucking music videos for the new album that I have to turn in these damn videos and November. The work that’s being put into it, I don’t even know how I’m doing it. I have like, no life right now besides. In reality, I think that’s all I’ve really had, even when I started doing Prayers, I really didn’t have anything outside of that. I’m just busier with the things that I love doing.
Prayers is obviously really important to you as an artist and an individual, but it also feels like you guys represent something really important for Mexican-Americans. What’s your perspective on offering that kind of representation in your work?
I didn’t know really it was so important until we became popular. Then, people started to, ‘Man, you guys are so important. What you guys are doing is important. Thank you for being a voice for us. Thank you for being Latinos and being successful.’ I was like, ‘wow man, they’re happy we’re being successful.’ I think it’s because there is a gap right? I’m starting to see a lot of more Mexican artists rising and I love it, but it’s not totally about being Mexican as much as being aware of your fucking environment. I’m just aware of my environment and what I see when I’m performing and when I’m just out in LA that this city is huge when it comes to the Mexican community… but there’s barely any artists that are really thriving here.
I think part of why we’re so important is because we both came from Mexico, we were born in Mexico, we both came here and we’re living the American dream in a sense — we’re able to make a living off of our music. That gives hope to other Chicanos, to there Mexicans or other Latinos or Hispanics, whatever term people want to identify themselves as. Especially at times when it matters, when you got to step up and wave the flag. I think that’s what the message behind Prayers, which is obvious when you see our videos, that I’m directing, where we come from and the influence of Chicano culture.
I’m from these streets. I’m from this and it comes through with the people that I work with, which is the people that I grew up with in my community. I still bring my community into what we’re doing because it’s a big part of it and it has influenced me and it’s definitely the reason why I’m able to make the music that I make and create the art that I do. It’s because of my upbringing and my culture and who I am.
Look for the Cursed Be Thy Blessings Christian Death collaborative EP, documentary and photobook dropping 10/13, and more info on Prayers’ new full-length album coming soon.