Ann Pragg Is a Swamp Creature Whose Album Was Ten Years in the Making
Ann Pragg is a denizen of the night—a roughly humanoid creature who lurks in the swamps and wetlands, eating frogs and rats and caking itself in mud as it waits for the prime opportunity to limp into town and feast on the flesh of young virgins while whistling confounding but sweet melodies that paralyze anyone within earshot, allowing him to finish his feast in quiet. Ann Pragg is also the cryptic alter ego of one Matt Radick, a soft-spoken, hardworking, and, some might say, slightly reclusive man who lives and works in Gainesville, Florida, a place just laidback enough for him to craft impressionistic and vaguely countryish songs, but, really, that description doesn’t do his work justice; he’s got his own thing going on. He also plays in fellow Gainesville-based band Holopaw.
Bitter Fruit, out May 7 in digital form and June 9 on vinyl from Wonderland Archives, is something like eight years in the making. Not one to fuss about his music or draw attention to himself, it took labelmate Boyd Shropshire (who is also the label’s founder) and Chase King months if not years to convince Matt to get into the studio to record a batch of songs that had been passed around on demo tapes and CD-Rs among a small circle of Floridians and New Yorkers for the better part of the decade. The result is one of my favorite releases of the year so far, and I encourage everyone to just submit and allow Ann Pragg to drag you into the bog. For now you can watch the video premiere for “Demolition Dust,” the first track off the album. Watch for what may or may not be an appearance from the aforementioned creature, and afterward, you can read my weird little interview with Matt below.
"Demolition Dust" from Bitter Fruit, recorded by Boyd Shropshire and Gabriel Galvin. Directed by Kelie Bowman and Jessie Rose Vala of Light Hits.
VICE: First question, how come this took so fucking long?
Ann Pragg: Well the short answer to that is… I didn’t really give a shit.
The longer answer is that a lot of good friends did and kind of cajoled me into doing it properly, you know? I always recorded stuff for my own little documents, just to pass around among friends. I wasn’t incredibly ambitious about it, but Boyd was really wonderful in helping it come into fruition.
And you’re playing all of the instruments on the record?
It’s mostly me. I do most of the guitars. Of course, I do the singing. Boyd does a little bit of vocals, a little bit of guitar. He does some percussion. Cassandra Ferland, who helps Boyd run the label, does some vocals, and Chase King has some percussion on there.
Ann Pragg is a strange but memorable name. Where’d it come from?
Ann Pragg is an abbreviation of a term, but I feel like Ann Pragg is a lot of different things. I like to think of it as this humanoid creature that skulks around on the outskirts of town and forages for trash to kind of sustain itself. It might have supernatural powers, I don’t know. It probably doesn’t have opposable thumbs…
Have you ever drawn it?
Nah, I’ve never drawn an Ann Prag. Maybe I should. Maybe I should do a little doodle and submit it to you all.
Maybe. I would like it, but it’s also pretty strong, if you just have it in your mind.
Yeah, I feel like Ann Pragg is kind of like a sorceress or a sorcerer. Ann Pragg is androgynous. I think there might be a little bit of Ann Pragg in all of us.
What do you mean by it being an abbreviation? What are you abbreviating?
Well, I couldn’t tell you that.
Oh. Why is that?
I don’t know… I’m a really big crossword dork. So I never really fully fleshed it out. Occasionally in my mind, I’ll… well, you know in crosswords you’ll have like the theme of the crossword? Well, I don’t know if you’re into crosswords.
Like, with the longer starred answers, the italicized clues are kind of little puns or plays on words. They usually rhyme with the original axiom or whatever. Ann Pragg is kind of like that, but I just boiled it down and made it a little more manageable to come out of your mouth.
I like that answer, even though I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Basically it’s a fly-by-night term that I used to itemize my shitty demos in iTunes when I was importing them—something from years ago that just stuck. I’m kind of like a curmudgeonly, anonymous guy. And I’d rather not have my name attached to anything.
I take it you’re not someone who is really into social networking, which is a refreshing rarity these days—especially when it comes to musicians.
No, but just in order to get some kind of awareness out about the record I think it’s a necessity to have it. That Facebook page [for Ann Pragg] has been set up, and I’m not reluctant to encourage people from visiting that and giving it the thumbs-up or whatever they do [laughs]. But, yeah, I’m pretty adamantly opposed to Facebook. I don’t deny that to anybody else. We could talk for hours about my philosophical quandaries on Facebook and social networking. I will say that the hashtag is my number-one millennial pet peeve. A part of my personality wants to limit the content filtering into my brain, just for my own sanity. So if I have interactions, I prefer them to me more three-dimensional and substantive.
Mystery is powerful… would it be fair to say that your personality is like one of those Russian dolls where each compartment you open just reveals more layers until you get to a final one deep inside?
No, man, I’m more like a Shawn Kemp on the old Seattle Supersonics poster on your bedroom door, fucking slam-dunking over Scottie Pippen.
[laughs] Have you ever checked into a hotel or anything under the name Ann Pragg?
No, but I think that’s a good idea, and I think I’m going to try and do that. My exploits in that realm are… I’m probably pissed at myself for not doing more shit like that in my life.
Do you have plans to tour?
Yeah, the record comes out in May, and we’re going to do a little tour in the first week of June with this band Sanibel, which is Sander, Whit, and Dave from the Mercury Program. So I’m going to go alone with them for a few dates for maybe a week in the Northeast. And Boyd, Chase, Sander, and probably Whit are going to back me up. So I’ll go up there, and we’re going to do a frantic and rushed period of rehearsing and try to make the songs work live. Then we’ll play them out, which I’m really excited about. I think it’ll be really fun. I’ve never done it before. I’ve played living room house shows at my friends’ requests and stuff, but I’ve never really gone for it like this before.
Most, if not all, of the music on Wonderland Archives has this collective feel, and I believe all of the artists are Floridians who live or have lived in Gainesville. There’s also this overarching psych-country-folkish thing going on with everyone. Would it be fair to say you guys are exemplary of a certain type of music that is identified with Florida, and maybe more specifically Gainesville?
Florida really is a country unto itself. Where I live is the heart of Gainesville. With the university, it’s a more progressive-minded town, but if you go out on the outskirts, you are in the fucking country. But then you head south to the coasts, and you have the stereotypical, desperate tiki bar and beach culture—people who migrate down here out of exhaustion and desperation and just want to drink Coronas in close proximity to the beach all day long. It’s a huge mix, and I really love it. As I get older, I appreciate it more, just the variety of cultures and geography in Florida. Also, it’s easy to hide out down here. You have to go up into the belly of the beast to get some shit done. Like, I could easily just hide out in the swamps and play some guitar. I’d be fine with that.
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