Prinzhorn Dance School are often compared to Post-Punk groups… but I find them far more Postmodern than that.  It’s minimalistic, dark even in its most optimistic moments, and existentially cold.  It’s the kind of thing that soundtracks your imagination when you’re walking through back alleys on a rainy night.  Their upcoming release includes songs with titles like “Happy in Bits” and “Your Fire Has Gone Out.”  They, themselves (i.e. Tobin Prinz and Suzi Horn) however, claim to be fairly out of touch with the music of others… but that doesn’t hurt their sound.  Their sophomore effort, Clay Class, drops Tuesday, January 31st, on DFA.  And of all the things hipsters could be hyping in 2012, this is the most worthy.  I recently chatted with the Brighton/Portsmouth duo.  Like many of the world’s most intriguing artists, they remained admirably ambiguous throughout.  They seem to enjoy discussing their work, but refrain from defining too much about its significance.  They do seem to have come a long way since their debut, three years ago. They do like their home at DFA.  And they do like the idea of coming stateside, if the Yanks show enough of an interest…

Izzy Cihak: After you released your debut on EMI in the UK The Guardian referred to you as “The least commercially viable group ever signed to a major label.”  What was your take on that?  If I ever received such a compliment, I think I might have it etched on my tombstone.

Tobin Prinz: We signed to DFA.  They had a distribution deal with EMI, so we were part of that and we wanted to support that, but it was weird, turning up to the EMI office and sitting ’round a massive boardroom table. We got our packed lunches and our hip flasks out. Everyone else seemed miles away up that big table. We looked like we’d taken a wrong turn on the way to the unemployment benefit office…

Suzi Horn: They did half collapse soon after our record was out, so The Guardian was kind of right. Although it could’ve as easily read ”the bravest signing to a major label.” Don’t you think? Well done, DFA, and Matt Dixon for having the balls to stand by good new music, whether it’s worth a fortune or not.

IC: Do you have any general thoughts on DFA or your label peers?

TP: I have a lot of respect for DFA. It’s funny, that little lightening flash has been our passport to making noise all over the world. Before we signed that deal I’d never even been on an aeroplane. That’s a testament to the vision and energy of Jonathan Galkin, who runs the label. They are always encouraging, never interfering, very patient, and they champion the commercially unviable, the outsider. They listen to demos! A proper record label…

SH: I love the DFA. We have a great relationship with them. They know we miss deadlines and hate having our pictures taken, but they also know we will always get them great music and images eventually. And they are gracious and give you space to breath and grow. I’m not saying I love everything they release, but I respect it. The fact they embrace new things, have an excellent helmsmen, in Jonathan Galkin, and are bringing in new people like Kris, keeps the office fresh and buzzing. But we’re here in England and they are way over there, which I hate. I wish we could just pop in sometimes for a brew and a natter. It was great doing some shows for the 10th birthday. We got to hang out with Marcus Shit Robot and the Juan Maclean again. We’re like the weird cousins who only get rolled out at the very special events cuz we live so far away. But it’s also an amazing honor to wave the British side of the DFA flag.

IC: You have a penchant for penning particularly politically-and-socially- minded tunes that aren’t necessarily immediately apparent as such.  What particular ideas do you find are most responsible for your current creative drive?  After all, your moniker does seem indebted to a psychiatrist.

SH: With Clay Class the words “cyclical” and “tenderness” spring straight to mind. We spent half a year talking about themes so we could get to the same mind space and make songs that were relevant and meaningful to us both. Tobin is the wordsmith, but he is very inclusive.

TP: Political? I don’t see it that way. I write about the things I feel and see – there isn’t any rhetoric. There is social observation, because I can only write about my own environment. But this record was more personal, about confronting loss, embracing transience – accepting that nothing lasts forever. I wanted to be as honest as I could lyrically. I didn’t want to hide behind metaphors. Urban and rural landscapes, car parks and lakes, flora, fauna, the seasons – that imagery is about taking comfort in special places…

IC: Your work always draws comparison to Post-Punk artists.  Is there anything to that, or is it purely coincidental?

SH: I’d never heard of most of the bands that we were touted as sounding like or influenced by, but since then I have looked them up and I dig some and bought some. It’s actually really nice being compared to stuff you’ve never heard of as you can find new things. Even though they are old things.

TP: The instrumentation maybe? A shared minimalist aesthetic? A passion for what we do over anything else? Maybe yeah… but we don’t ever set out to copy a song or a style. Being compared to other bands is a kind of failure to us. We want to be us! We want to make music we’ve never heard before! Because otherwise we may as well just play records that have already been made…

IC: Are there any other contemporary artists that you would consider to be peers in their sound or their message?

SH: I don’t know anything about anyone. I listen to speaking radio and I generally, when making music, totally cut myself off from other people’s music. I don’t want them sinking in to me just as I want to try to get me out. I’m just starting to let music drip back into my life. Dub mainly but nothing contemporary…

TP: Most of the people who get called our peers I’ve never heard of. Sometimes I check them out and they’re nearly always really good. I’ve found some great records that way! But the Horn is about me and Sooz in a 3 metre square box, making the noise that we hear in our heads, with a bottle of vodka. That’s it…

IC: What did you find to be the biggest difference in your approach to writing and recording your sophomore effort, as compared to your debut?

SH: Well, we only recorded and helped mix our first album. Clay Class we did the whole thing. We had to learn how to do everything. Mixing was a big and rewarding challenge for me. I found the process very enjoyable, putting all the pieces together like a big 3D jigsaw in your ears, balancing it and making a space to be inside it. Yeah, I enjoy recording a lot but the mixing got me most excited.

TP: We made this record in our own studio, which we built ourselves. It’s small, bespoke, very basic, but it gave us the freedom to work without time constraints, record late at night, which we like to do. We wrote, recorded, mixed and produced this record. We needed a lot of new skills and knowledge to do that. And I’m proud that we did everything without surrendering our creativity to technology, to science, to computers…

IC: What are your plans for 2012?  Any chance that you might make your way to the US?

TP: Horn in the USA? Depends how the album goes down over there, I suppose. But if America is up for it, we’ll get our useless, sorry arses on the plane, no problem…

SH: We really really want to come to the states. It was so disappointing when we didn’t get our visa’s last time, especially as we only found out a couple of days before we were due to fly over. We get so many amazing messages from all over the USA. We even got invited to play one of our youngest fans’ 2nd birthday party in Texas. So fingers crossed people will dig the LP and create a storm!