Prison gave me a bunch of acid and I ate some of it in my Subaru on a Saturday morning outside of Matt Lilly’s house in Rockaway Beach. I told them I was going to “save it for the right time.” I guess what I meant was “as soon as no one’s looking.”

Matt’s the drummer in Prison, a heady, shreddy mix of weird blues, krautrock, and psych punk stuck in a locked circular groove. Think of it as a drone-y, hypnotizing version of the Stooges or MC5, or Can’s heavier moments, or even a slowed-down Hawkwind in an extended Grateful Dead jam session. It’s a band stuck in time—and probably should have existed 50 years ago at an acid freakout, since their music is best consumed while dosed. Prison’s new LP Upstate is a loose and spacey 91 minutes of hard groove to infinity, and in an era of verses synced for optimal TikTok posting, it’s a long, deep breath of DMT smoke. With five tracks that are more than 11 minutes long and three of them clocking in at over 20 minutes, that’s a lot of inhaling.

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The band came together when Matt started rando-jamming with Sarim Al-Rawi peak-COVID/pre-vaccine, and shortly thereafter Paul Majors was incorporated by virtue of friendship, respect, general awe, and a shared practice space in Williamsburg. Other folks pop in and out of the lineup, including members of Silver Jews, Sic Alps, Weak Signal, Foster Care, Love as Laughter (R.I.P.), and that guy Smoota, to name a few.

I first came across Matt in the 2000s when he lived in a house with a bunch of other skateboarders in Bed-Stuy called (you guessed it!) Shred-Stuy in a building that was (you guessed it!) dilapidated. He’d have parties where bands would play on a roof adjacent to a backyard half-pipe, and I can say from experience that dudes flying up in the air next to you while you’re playing is somewhat distracting. Sarim played that same Shred-Stuy show with his band Liquor Store, but I had met him when the Black Lips played at my loft in Bushwick a few years earlier—he MySpace-messaged me when he was 15 to ask if it was okay to come to the show.

Anyway, to bring it back to the present, Matt had just returned home from being on the road with Dead & Co., where he sold bootleg T-shirts to people that I would never, ever hang out with. His room was taken up by a subletter, but he typically shares a place with just Paul Major, who is a total legend. His hair is great, super long with very strong bangs—way better than mine. Decades ago, the man basically invented the concept of collecting small-press vinyl, and he’s made a living doing exactly that ever since. I met him through buddies of mine who play(ed) with him in the renowned/not-nearly-renowned-enough Lower Manhattan hard-chooglers Endless Boogie.

Prison’s new LP Upstate is a loose and spacey 91 minutes of hard groove to infinity, and in an era of verses synced for optimal TikTok posting, it’s a long, deep breath of DMT smoke

After I ate the acid, smoked a little weed, and pretended like I didn’t throw up, I drove Paul and Matt up to Super Burrito to meet one of their ancillary yet integral bandmates, bassist-for-the-night Mike Donovan (of Sic Alps, and he’s produced records for Ty Segall). Mike is now an elementary school teacher in the Hudson Valley because tech bros ruined the Bay Area for everybody. At Super Burrito, Paul and I drank beer while everybody else ate food like normal people. After a few drinks, I drove us back to Prison’s house to load gear in for their show at the boardwalk hamburgers-and-booze mainstay Rippers—a place we had already passed twice going to Super Burrito and back. The acid was just starting to work.

By the time we loaded their gear into Rippers, I was tripping balls. Due to some bizarre form of muscle memory, I was able to help out with the equipment, but I had to concentrate a lot. Sarim, who lives in the Bronx, was there waiting for us after taking multiple trains for three hours. Mid-load, master percussionist Ryan Sawyer showed up, big bongo in hand, to fill out their lineup for the night. I was worried that he’d be able to tell that I was tripping super hard, because I’ve known him for years and I still can’t tell if he actually likes me.

Eventually, Prison—with Sawyer and Donovan in tow—played to a smattering of confused locals who remained entranced nonetheless, rapt for a reason they could never understand and that I would never attempt to explain to them. But over burgers, cheese fries, and hot dogs served to the locals, I found myself wondering if this is what it was like to see Can or some weird krautrock band back in the day—in a restaurant to a mixed bag of überfans and a bunch of weird locals who could not care less but were somehow also mesmerized. I can’t even fully grasp it myself, but then again of course...acid.

Prison’s debut album, Upstate, is now available on Drag City.

Thanks for reading CREEM. This article originally appeared in our Fall 2023 issue. Explore the full mag in our archive, buy a copy here, and subscribe for more.




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