Who knows whether music from Southern-California band Prima Donna will persevere throughout the years, but you can add this opening lyric from their song “I don’t want you to love me” to a list of great lines:
“I don’t want you to love me,” sings lead vocalist Kevin Preston, “I don’t want you to care. I just want you to like it when I lick you there.”
Preston will be wagging his tongue as Prima Donna’s frontman on Monday at The Knitting Factory in Reno as part of Mess Fest, a show featuring four rock bands: Prima Donna, Adam Bones — both of which are managed by the Knit — Acidic and Warner Drive.
In a phone interview last week, Preston said Prima Donna’s latest album, “Bless This Mess,” which came out on Valentine’s Day this year, was a collaboration among the group’s five members: Preston, Aaron Minton (keyboards, sax, backing voice, percussion), David S. Field (drums, percussion) Erik Arcane (guitar, backing voice) and Lights Out Levine (bass, harmony voice).
“I will corrupt you!” the group proclaims in the chorus of “Feral Children,” the lead single from “Bless this Mess.” The best collaborative example from the album, Preston said, is “She Says,” which he described as a “Stones, Stooges rocker” (referring to the Rolling Stones and Iggy Pop’s band) that was dissected by each of Prima Donna’s members. Songwriting by the group is a combination of reflective and humorous, but it is up to the listeners to decide the nature of each song.
“The whole thing is we don’t like you to know which is which,” Preston said. “You might think serious tune is serious but it’s just farce, for fun.”
All of Prima Donna’s music is “fun,” in the sense that it is no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll that thumps, drives and jumps. Each track off “Bless This Mess” has its own unique way of jumpkicking off the record. Astute listeners might hear the band’s close relationship with punk veterans Green Day in Prima Donna’s music. Preston said members of the two groups started rubbing shoulders at shows a couple of years ago and when Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wanted to do a side project called the Foxboro Hot Tubs, Preston got a call to play guitar. He got to travel with Green Day for about 10 weeks through the United States and Asia and learned enough from the band to fill a book.
“The thing about Green Day, which is so rare, is that they all still really enjoy being a band,” Preston said. “Like I was saying before we are all fortunate to like each other, being in a room with each other. That is definitely something Green Day helped us remember. They all share the same dressing room. In a lot of bands, every member is in their own separate dressing room.”
In addition to being friends internally, the members of Prima Donna are pretty tight with members of Adam Bones, the other band headlining on Monday at The Knit in Reno. Adam Bones’ namesake lead singer said the two bands played together in London and he is looking forward to another tour together.
“We’re all good friends also, which is pretty rad,” Bones said. “We’re always hanging out and playing.”
A lifelong musician, Bones’ rock compositions are hyped by Knitting Factory Management as being focused on catchy guitar and vocal riffs — as illustrated by such tunes as “I Had You,” “Shouldn’t Love” and “How Hard I Needed You.”
“Whether it’s a guitar riff or vocal melody, I like to make sure there is something that will grab the attention of the listener,” Bones said. “If I am writing something and nobody will sing along to anything, something needs to change. I will start with a guitar riff and build something around it or a nice melodic vocal chorus, something memorable. Songs that people will not just listen to but sing along with are pretty much what I like to focus on.”
Growing up in the 1990s when grunge music was popular, Bones said his days playing music started in middle school on drums, followed by picking up a bass guitar that he would play upside down and backwards because he was left-handed (“I would play Ramones so it didn’t matter,” he said). As he taught himself to play his musical tastes expanded backwards towards 1950s rock and eventually his songwriting would come to be influenced by a mixture of Buddy Holly, Tom Petty, AC/DC, T-Rex and more.
Bones’ song “McCartney Eyes” smacks of Petty’s influence, and is inspired by seeing McCartney perform at a record store in Los Angeles.
“Looking at pictures of him with those sad, droopy eyes I don’t know why that hit me but he has those kind of eyes, so that’s why I wrote a song about losing a girl to guy with McCartney eyes,” Bones said.
Mess Fest also will feature Acidic, a young rock band also from Southern California that opened for Alien Ant Farm last year and also released the album “Chronic Satisfaction.” Acidic also did two nationwide tours in 2011 with the fourth Mess Fest band, Warner Drive.
Tickets to Mess Fest cost $12. Doors open at 6 p.m. Monday and the show starts at 7 p.m. For more information, visit re.knittingfactory.com.