Singer-songwriter-guitarist Watson Meyer chose his band’s name, Pry, carefully. “The whole project and the idea of this was within the name itself, to pry open issues, and pry open problems, and pry open your own faults and desires and things you don’t want to talk about,” he said.
The band recently released “Trust Yourself,” the first single from its forthcoming album, Attribution Reluctance. For the song and in the accompanying video, Meyer hams and mugs like a young David Byrne, biting his words and jerking his body around like a malfunctioning automaton. The lyrics, Meyer says, are about how trusting yourself and following a gut feeling “can be very wrong.” The song’s syncopated, danceable post-punk rhythm complements Meyer’s stage persona, which he likens to the desperate, hallucinatory, manic energy of a man trapped on a deserted island.
He’s not a songwriter who shies away from serious, personal topics. “Shadow of an Uncle,” another single, is about an abusive family member.
The music video will feature a dance choreographed and performed by Meyer’s mother, Jeanette Osman-Bravard, one of the family members who suffered at the hands of the song’s title character. Meyer wrote the song with his mother’s blessing, and she approached him with the idea of choreographing a dance for it.
“The song is for her, and the lyrics are about her taking control,” Meyer said. “It’s a song for my mom.”
Pry started as a duo featuring Meyer and Victoria Almanzan of local group Stirr Lightly. For live performances, they deployed a rotating cast of bass players and drummers. “Every single time we played it was with a different lineup of musicians, so the music changed over and over,” Meyer said. “It felt like we were going from ground zero and building up every time, but it was interesting to see all the variations.”
Almanzan left to focus on Stirr Lightly and other projects, and Pry coalesced around a core of Meyer, drummer Nick Meza and bassist Cameron Beck. For the group’s recent 17-day tour, they were joined by guitar and synth player Conor Knowles.
Pry’s music has a driving, punk energy, but the predominance of the rhythm section points toward classic post-punk bands like Joy Division, Gang of Four, or Wire. Meyer cites current-day post-punk revivalists Protomartyr as a primary inspiration.
Meza, who used to play with the band Skinwalkers, plays a simple, stripped-down kit, but gets a lot of sound out of it. And Beck’s bass lines often drive the songs.
Attribution Reluctance, the album title, is corporatespeak for, according to Meyer, when “you see an issue, you see a problem, but you’re hesitant to touch it.”
“Sometimes the songs are about my inability to approach problems or my lack of character in certain issues,” he said, citing the example of seeing a homeless man beaten by a local business owner. “I show my regret with that because I should have done something. I should have said something. I should have called 911. … But I made no action. I just left.”
But, of course, writing a song is itself an action of sorts. And Meyer writes from a very personal place.
“I feel like I can’t write any other way,” he said. “I’ve tried writing a song about some mystical person or some other person in a story, but I feel like I can’t relate to that person or express like that person. It’s hard for me to write about other people’s lives, because it’s so intangible to me. It’s just like I’m making stuff up. It feels disingenuous.”