Class of 2020: Prancer Offer Up "Queer Feminist Black Keys"

Class of 2020: Prancer Offer Up "Queer Feminist Black Keys"
Photo: Calm Elliott-Armstrong
You don't have to talk to Prancer's lead vocalist Thalia Coryn for too long to realize they're taking the next step in a lifelong mission: To create connections and community through music.
 
Buoyed by a live show experience that will make you dance, sing and feel accepted, the band have created quite the buzz in Toronto's music scene — despite never releasing a song.
 
"I really like to interact a lot with the audience — I like to look them dead in the eye, just so they know that I'm talking to them," Coryn tells Exclaim! "The name Prancer itself, there's gonna be some prancing around of course; there's a lot of movement on my end."
 
Along the way, Prancer's earworms have bored into some famous heads inside the industry: queer rock icon Ezra Furman hand-picked Prancer to open for him last September, while Hollerado's Nixon Boyd has taken them under his wing (after hearing the band rehearse at the Royal Mountain Records' space, he offered to be their producer on the spot).
 
Naming influences like the Beaches, Mother Mother and Whitehorse (whose guitarist, Luke Doucet, appears on Prancer's debut album, due in 2020), Coryn defines Prancer as "queer feminist Black Keys."
 
The importance is as much in the message, they continue: "It's very bluesy, like the Black Keys, but obviously it's voiced by someone who is non-binary and queer, so the message is going to be a little different — it's going to tell a different story."
 
Don't discount Prancer's pop element though — something that working with Hollerado's Boyd has only encouraged. "The structures of our songs are primarily pop, but I think that makes them easily accessible to people. More people are going to listen to it and understand it, because it's said in a way that feels better than if someone is screaming it at you."
 
Coryn always used music to create the connections they struggled to find in their hometown — a cathartic release during an isolating childhood. "I grew up in Southern Ontario and I came out as queer very young, so I was completely alienated, I was bullied and I felt alone. I was listening to these songs on the radio and not feeling like I really connected to anyone." During these early internet days, Tegan and Sara songs were a lifeline for Coryn.
 
Prancer began as a folk duo before gaining members in the form of high school pals and former bandmates from various projects. Today, Prancer are a face-melting six-piece. This musical evolution coincided with Coryn's open-vein approach to songwriting, which combines heart-on-sleeve lyrics and raw delivery to cover topics that many deal with, but few discuss.
 
"These songs are deeply personal stories about my ongoing struggles with mental health issues, with depression and anxiety, with my substance abuse and alcoholism and drug addiction [and] love in so many ways — the boundlessness of queer love, of platonic love, of unrequited love. Unrequited love comes up a lot, I'm not gonna lie. The struggle and ongoing fight against the patriarchy and feelings of isolation and alienation and the need to be seen."
 
Heady stuff, but their writing process has been years in the making.
 
"So first step: Denial. You don't have these problems, you stuff them down, sit on them for years. Then, you start to dig them back up, go to therapy." Coryn collects their thoughts for a moment before adding: "I've found that when I feel safe within myself, when I feel mentally clear, that's when I can start to talk about the pain and struggle that I've been through."
 
With these themes on the forefront of their music — and the unwavering belief that "music is the purest form of connection we have" — Coryn dreams of creating the community their 12-year-old queer self desperately needed.
 
"I can't wait to get my music out there, because I know there are people that feel so lost and alone and isolated and although there's no one that truly understands them, hopefully I can reassure them that they're not alone."
 
They pause deliberately before adding: "There are people out there that are experiencing the same things — and maybe it'll just make people feel seen and heard."
 
Prancer play Exclaim!'s Class of 2020 concert series, co-presented by Collective Arts, on Saturday, January 11 at the Horseshoe in Toronto with Glass Cactus, BLANKS, For Keeps and Acapulco Gold.