Chaz Prymek, who records under the name Lake Mary, has a new record coming out 06.29 called River Ceremony on Keeled Scales. For River Ceremony, Chaz was joined by The Ranch Family Band. In this very personal interview, Chaz talks about where he is at currently in a life full of flux, his soulmate named Favorite, music’s inherent political nature and what makes this album a family affair. You can pre-order the album here.
Tome: Chaz, I came to the realization that I’ve been listening to these songs, in various deconstructions and versions for almost 10 years. You would send me snippets and unfinished versions of what would eventually become “River Ceremony” as part of a failed attempt (on my end) to create a visual album as a collaboration between us. Can you tell me a bit about where you were 10 years ago and what was going on in your life when some of bedrock of these songs were being formed?
Chaz: It’s true, we never finished that record, maybe one day. I started this piece a long time ago, maybe more than a decade ago. If I remember correctly, I was living in an Anarcho Collective (editors note: R.I.P Boing! Collective), spending a lot of time hitchhiking to and from Salt Lake to San Diego. Skating. Trying to fit in with everyone from the music scene at that time. The music scene in SLC was golden then.
Looking back, I can see me doing a lot of searching for meaning, for experience, trying to form myself, but lacking much guidance. This song started as most my songs still do, trying to process things, some relatively heavy shit had gone down in my young life and so I spent a lot of time playing music, trying to make sense of it. I could feel the world was both full of joy and grief coexisting, but I didn’t really understand why, or what that meant.
Tome: As long as I’ve known you, you’ve lived a nomadic existence. Falling deeply in love with places and people. So deeply, where it seems like the only way to extricate yourself is to physically move to another place where you repeat the same pattern. With all of that traveling, deep loves and losses. What have been constants for you?
Chaz: In reflection, I have lived a fairly nomadic life. I don’t feel like a nomad, just seems to be the way it’s going. I moved around a lot as a kid, we didn’t have much – if any – money so we were always moving, or being watched by a different aunt or uncle for a few weeks here and there, mostly living with my grandparents when there wasn’t anywhere else for us to be. My grandparents are incredible people. I think about them everyday. That lifestyle of staying in motion seems to have stuck, but has shared with me some incredible experiences. But what stays with me most are the connections I’ve made. I’ve met my best friends this way, met my sweetheart this way, go to know myself this way.
Tome: Heraclitus famously said, “you can’t step in the same river twice”. Has the concept of the river’s “flow” – to paraphrase Heraclitus again, “everything flows, nothing abides” – been meaningful to you both in the context of your life pattern and the way in which River Ceremony picks up bits and pieces of musical phrases that have been circling in your mind?
Chaz: I don’t know who Hercalitus is, but the sentiment is true, we are forever changed by every circumstance. As far as that pertains to music, I haven’t thought of anyone’s philosophy on it. But the flow and rivers are huge sources of inspiration for me. When I sit down to play live, rarely does a song come out the way I intended it to, it is guided by the vibes in the room, or where I am at emotionally that moment. Rarely, at least in solo sets, have I played a song the same way twice There have been times while playing shows, that I am not in the room anymore. I’ve gone back to the rivers edge that I know well and run that river alongside the music.
Tome: Zeroing in on one phase in your life, this record was written and recorded with the Ranch Family Band. Who is the Ranch Family Band and how did they contribute to this record?
Chaz: The Ranch Family Band is made up of some of my closest friends, and by chance, some of the best musicians and minds I’ve ever met. I will never be able to speak well enough about the love I have for them. They are the most special batch of folks.
Jordan Knecht is first and foremost, one of thee most incredible person in all of the cosmos, an great cook, and real good at finding swimming holes. An interdisciplinary conceptual artist in the US, one of the most amazing songwriters, He is a huge inspiration to me to strive to be the best version of myself I can be. I look up to him a lot. His art and music mean so much to me. Check out his band Muscle Brain.
Paul DeHaven is another one of the most special people I hope you all get to meet. Comfortable in his own skin, grounded and wild, also another great swimmer. Makes beautiful art, and is one of the most incredible musicians I’ve ever met. He plays in bands Paul DeHaven, Eye & The Arrow, Saskatoon, Heavy Diamond Ring, as well as sits in or sessions with so many more.
Jess DeHaven is one the most sincere, big hearted, and creative people I know, she is a well of plant knowledge and ideas on bringing artists together, and creating more interactive and adventurous worlds. Always seeking creative ways to exist and to be fully alive, a wonderful mom and friend. Her observations of the world are unique and thoughtful. She is also a killer swimmer. She plays in the band Saskatoon.
Taylor Ross is one of the best minds of our time. She runs her own path, and we are all bettered by that. I admire Taylor a lot, in her skillsets, her ideology, her musicality, most of her being. She is also ridiculous and so much fun. She is only made whole by her dog friend Bean Dog. She also is an incredible artist, a spinner, a story teller, a maker (but in the sense of someone who makes, not for capitol) and putting out some of my favorite albums under the moniker GEODES.
Nathan Wheeler is above all things, an incredible friend. What a special dude. Creative genius musically, artistically, in his body and in his mind. An inspiration to always be challenging our comfort levels. His resume is wild, infact we have a game called NateFacts, much like two lies and a truth, but about Nate, they are mostly wild truths. He composes gorgeous works for dance and computer among many many many other things he does. He may just be a lemurian.
Paul – electric guitars Jordan – pump organ / acoustic guitarists Jess – cello Nate – Harmonium Taylor – Banjo
Tome: What were the political contexts in which River Ceremony was written?
Chaz: Grief and hope.
Tome: In what way is creating art is inherently political, even when it doesn’t wear its agenda on its sleeve?
Chaz: Art is political, what you say and don’t say, how you approach making art, where you play or hang or screen your art. All of it is a statement of how you approach life, and in turn politics.
Tome: You are now living in Columbia, MO. Can you tell me a bit about your life there? What brought you there? What is your present occupation and living arrangement?
Chaz: I do live in Columbia, MO for now, I live out here with my pup and partner, working on a goat farm, a produce farm, a restorative land project and at a cafe in town. I like it here. The time to change things up had come. I was at a Jennifer Simone & Laraaji show in town and was pummeled by whatever spirits were conjured up that night that I needed to be in this place for now, it was so intense I couldn’t not question everything. And they lead me to where I am now.
Tome: Tell me a bit about Columbia’s musical/creative community. Why should people stop and play there on their way out West/East?
Chaz: The scene is really cool here, everyone supports each other. You’ll see the droners and punks out at hip hop shows, and vice versa, most the artists out here, that I know at least, take care to lift each other up and make room for each other to be heard, and hold each other accountable. Also, we have an amazing music festival in town now called The Columbia Experimental Music Festival, formerly the Dismal Niche Fest. It has brought so many life changing artists to town, Laraaji, Mary Lattimore, Jennifer Simone, Bob Bucko Jr.
Tome: Can I assume that you are somewhat settled in Columbia, MO? How does this concept of “flow” that I’ve always come to associate with you, manifest itself in a non-nomadic / partially domesticated life?
Chaz: Good question, I think I am as settled here as I have been anywhere. The ideas of homesteading and the ideas of living on the road are both always at the front of my mind. Is that duality? My rising Gemini? My upbringing? Values? I am not sure yet, maybe it’s all of those things. But I think of it lately, as pooling myself to swim around in me and in these places for a time being until the ground begins to give and a new river starts to flow.
Tome: Your releases as of late have veered into more ambient/drone landscapes, where “River Ceremony” distinctly situates some of your musical modes that include things like harmonics and nimble fingerwork on the acoustic guitar. What influenced the decision to tap into some of your earlier musical touchstones – Basho, Tompkins Square artists – for the creation of this record?
Chaz: In my world, my more ambient records and my more folk leaning records are all of the same waters. Some stories we have are held in vibes, and others in melody. Some we can only share in words, weavings, painting, but they are of the same waters. My last record on Eilean Rec was all acoustic as well, still a drone record in my eyes, but just on acoustic guitar. For this record, this was a song I needed to complete, and it only felt complete with the band altogether in this way. The second piece “Deluge”, is a reflection of this time, the nostalgia and gratitude for where I’ve been and where I am now.
Tome: Tell me about your dog Favorite – who has graced so many of your record covers. Has Favorite been a constant in your changing life?
Chaz: Favorite is my shepherd. She came into my life over a decade ago now, and has been my best friend through everything. I can’t imagine life without her. She carries my heart in her. Our story is a long and winding river, she is the love of my life, and the best friend to share a taco with. “what a long strange trip it’s been…”