Pram (band)

Last updated

Origin Moseley, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Genres Experimental rock
Years active1988–2008; 2016–present
Labels Howl
Too Pure
Associated acts Broadcast
Modified Toy Orchestra
MembersSam Owen
Matt Eaton
Max Simpson
Harry Dawes
Past membersRosie Cuckston
Laurence Hunt
Steve Perkins
Daren Garret
Nick Sales
Alex Clare
Dave Turner
Mark Butterworth
Andy Weir
Hannah Baines
Mr. Verdigris Horn
The Colonel

Pram are a British experimental pop band, formed in the Balsall Heath/Moseley area of Birmingham, England in 1988.

Experimental music is a general label for any music that pushes existing boundaries and genre definitions. Experimental compositional practice is defined broadly by exploratory sensibilites radically opposed to, and questioning of, institutionalized compositional, performing, and aesthetic conventions in music. Elements of experimental music include indeterminate music, in which the composer introduces the elements of chance or unpredictability with regard to either the composition or its performance. Artists may also approach a hybrid of disparate styles or incorporate unorthodox and unique elements.

Birmingham City in the English Midlands, 2nd highest population of UK cities

Birmingham is the second-most populous city in the United Kingdom, after London, and the most populous city in the English Midlands. It is also the most populous metropolitan district in the United Kingdom, with an estimated 1,137,123 inhabitants, and is considered the social, cultural, financial, and commercial centre of the Midlands. It is the main local government of the West Midlands conurbation, which is the third most populated urban area in the United Kingdom, with a population of 2,897,303 in 2017. The wider Birmingham metropolitan area is the second largest in the United Kingdom with a population of over 4.3 million. It is frequently referred to as the United Kingdom's "second city".



Early years

Rosie Cuckston, Matt Eaton and Andy Weir grew up together as schoolmates in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. In the late 1980s Cuckston and Eaton moved to Birmingham, where Cuckston met Shropshire-born Samantha "Sam" Owen by chance (at a local supermarket's Singles Night). Weir had moved to London to study art, but kept in touch: in the meantime, Cuckston and Eaton played together in bands and got as far as recording in commercial studios, but Eaton would later recall that "the process didn’t lend itself to diversity and experimentation." [1] In 1988, Weir reunited with the other three and they began playing music together in Birmingham under the temporary name Hole (at that point, performing solely with vocals and a homemade theremin).

Harrogate Town in North Yorkshire, England

Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, England. Historically in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the town is a tourist destination and its visitor attractions include its spa waters and RHS Harlow Carr gardens. 13 miles (21 km) away from the town centre is the Yorkshire Dales national park and the Nidderdale AONB. Harrogate grew out of two smaller settlements, High Harrogate and Low Harrogate, in the 17th century. Since 2013, polls have consistently voted the town as "the happiest place to live" in Britain.

North Yorkshire County of England

North Yorkshire is a non-metropolitan county and largest ceremonial county in England. It is located primarily in the region of Yorkshire and the Humber but partly in the region of North East England. The estimated population of North Yorkshire was 602,300 in mid-2016.

Shropshire County of England

Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands of England, bordering Wales to the west, Cheshire to the north, Staffordshire to the east, and Worcestershire and Herefordshire to the south. Shropshire Council was created in 2009, a unitary authority taking over from the previous county council and five district councils. The borough of Telford and Wrekin has been a separate unitary authority since 1998 but continues to be included in the ceremonial county.

Some time later Hole changed their name to Pram, with Cuckston singing and playing keyboards, Eaton mostly playing guitar, Weir drumming, and Owen playing bass guitar. A little later the group added a fifth member, Max Simpson, on keyboard and sampler. Over time, the various band members introduced their multi-instrumental skills to the project. Sam Owen and Matt Eaton frequently shared bass guitar and six-string guitar roles (as well as adding to the keyboards), while Owen also performed on various woodwind and reed instruments as well as singing backing vocals. The band were also quick to incorporate unusual instruments, including toys, into their sound - their performance and recording armoury included the theremin, a zither, a toy piano, a glass hammer, a glockenspiel, and a Hawaiian bubble machine.

Sampler (musical instrument) musical instrument

A sampler is an electronic or digital musical instrument which uses sound recordings of real instrument sounds, excerpts from recorded songs or found sounds. The samples are loaded or recorded by the user or by a manufacturer. These sounds are then played back by means of the sampler program itself, a MIDI keyboard, sequencer or another triggering device to perform or compose music. Because these samples are usually stored in digital memory, the information can be quickly accessed. A single sample may often be pitch-shifted to different pitches to produce musical scales and chords.

Theremin electronic music instrument

The theremin is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist (performer). It is named after its inventor, Léon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928.

Zither class of musical stringed instruments

Zither is a class of stringed instruments.

Pram's name emphasised their unearthly, childlike tone and presentation, with Rosie Cuckston's eerie vocals and lyrics dealing with depression, loneliness and the dark side of childhood. The band's early recordings had a Krautrock-influenced blend of rhythmic guitar, keyboards and percussion which would eventually see them associated with the emerging post-rock genre, as would other elements of their work (although the band have rejected the label). [2] The band was also inspired by multimedia and by memories of broadcast material: Sam Owen has commented that "in some ways film, animation, children's TV, Play For Today and public information broadcasts all lodged their spirit into our songs as much as the music we listened to.". [1]

Krautrock is a broad genre of experimental rock that developed in West Germany in the late 1960s and early 1970s among bands who blended psychedelic rock, electronic music, and the avant-garde, with influences including funk, musique concrète, jazz, and minimalism. Artists largely distanced themselves from the traditional blues influences and song structure of Anglo-American rock music, instead embracing hypnotic rhythms, tape music techniques, and early synthesizers. Prominent groups associated with the krautrock label included Neu!, Can, Faust, Kraftwerk, Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Harmonia, Popol Vuh, and Amon Düül II.

Post-rock is a form of experimental rock characterized by a focus on exploring textures and timbre over traditional rock song structures, chords, or riffs. Post-rock artists are often instrumental, typically combining rock guitars and drums with electronic instruments. The genre emerged within the indie and underground music scene of the 1980s and early 1990s. However, due to its abandonment of rock conventions, it often bears little resemblance musically to contemporary indie rock, borrowing instead from diverse sources including ambient music, electronica, jazz, dub, and minimalist classical.

In 2011, Matt Eaton recalled "there was never any discussion at that time what the group would sound like. We appropriated some of the working methods of Can and Faust... if a piece had a similarity/reminded someone of another work it was generally rejected. The emphasis was on new. We were inspired a lot by groups like The Slits, and especially The Raincoats. They invented their own ways of playing music - that's a surefire way towards artistic fulfilment." [1] Other cited influences on the nascent Pram included Sonic Youth, The Pixies, My Bloody Valentine, The Fall, Big Black, The Residents and Alice Coltrane as well as various dub and bhangra artists. [1]

Can (band) German experimental rock band

Can was a German experimental rock band formed in Cologne in 1968 by the core quartet of Holger Czukay, Irmin Schmidt (keyboards), Michael Karoli (guitar), and Jaki Liebezeit (drums). The group cycled through several vocalists, most prominently the American-born Malcolm Mooney (1968–70) and the Japanese-born Damo Suzuki (1970–73), as well as various temporary members.

Faust (band) German krautrock band

Faust are a German rock band. Formed in 1971 in Wümme by producer and former music journalist Uwe Nettelbeck, the group was originally composed of Werner "Zappi" Diermaier, Hans Joachim Irmler, Arnulf Meifert, Jean-Hervé Péron, Rudolf Sosna and Gunther Wüsthoff, working with engineer Kurt Graupner. Their work was oriented around dissonance, improvisation, and experimental electronic approaches, and would influence subsequent ambient and industrial music. They are considered a central act of West Germany's 1970s krautrock movement.

The Slits British punk rock band

The Slits were a British post-punk band formed in London in 1976 by members of the groups The Flowers of Romance and The Castrators. The group's early line-up consisted of Ari Up and Palmolive, with Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt replacing founding members Kate Korus and Suzy Gutsy. Their 1979 debut album, Cut, has been called one of the defining releases of the post-punk era.

Too Pure years

Pram's first EP, Gash (engineered by Justin Broadrick) [1] was self-released and sold by mail order and at gigs. While much harsher and more immediate than the band's subsequent recordings, it presented them as an inventive and dedicated experimental band and got them early attention from record labels.

<i>Gash</i> (EP) 1992 EP by Pram

Gash is the debut EP by the neo-psychedelia band Pram. It was released in 1992 on Howl Records.

Justin Broadrick Record producer, musician, singer

Justin Karl Michael Broadrick is a British singer, songwriter, guitarist and drummer. He is best known as a founding member of the band Godflesh, one of the first bands to combine elements of extreme metal and industrial music. He was briefly in the English grindcore band Napalm Death when he was a teenager in the mid-1980s, writing and recording guitar for Side One of Napalm Death's debut album, Scum. Broadrick has also maintained a parallel career as a producer, producing records and remixes for groups such as Pantera, Isis, Mogwai and Hydra Head labelmates Pelican. Since 2012, he has been releasing hard techno music under the solo moniker JK Flesh. Broadrick has set up record labels such as HeadDirt, Avalanche Recordings, Post Mortem Productions, Lo Fibre and Heartache.

Pram's growing reputation soon engaged the interest of Too Pure Records (then home to Stereolab, Mouse on Mars and PJ Harvey). [3] Signing to Too Pure in 1993, Pram embarked on the release of several increasingly sophisticated recordings, the first of which was the Iron Lung EP .

Andy Weir left shortly after the release of the EP and was replaced as drummer by Daren Garratt, who would perform on all subsequent recordings until the dawn of the new millennium. This new line-up gelled instantly and would write, record and mix the band's debut album, 1993's The Stars Are So Big, The Earth Is So Small... Stay as You Are in time to meet their agreed, scheduled September release date. During the recording sessions, a trumpeter (credited only as "The Verdigris Horn") also joined the band and played on several album tracks, including the quarter-hour "In Dreams You Too Can Fly".

In April 1994, Pram released the Meshes EP, which was followed in September by their second album Helium. This record featured increasing use of the sampler. Pram's subsequent recordings began to show a marked interest in exotica.

Although their third album, 1995's Sargasso Sea , was awarded a rating of 0/10 when reviewed by the NME (which Pram took as a compliment), the band continued to gain momentum and popularity. Despite this, the band's sales were insufficient to save their business relationship with Too Pure, and the label dropped the band in late 1995. Pram have acknowledged that, despite the end of the business relationship, the label had always respected their artistic integrity and let them be themselves.

Between labels

For a couple of years, Pram performed and recorded without a long-term record deal. Their first release during this period was a 1995 self-released cassette compilation of early demos and live recordings called Perambulations.

The band's next EP, Music for Your Movies , was released on November 1996 through Stereolab's label Duophonic Records. It was followed by the vinyl-only "Omnichord/Sixty Years of Telephony" single on the small independent label Wurlitzer Jukebox Records. Another non-album single, "The Last Astronaut", was released in 1997 on the Kooky label. Also in 1997, the band expanded and reissued their debut EP Gash as a full-length album on the æ label, adding five tracks from Perambulations and doubling the length.

Pram's lineup changed several times during this period. A theremin player known only as "The Colonel" joined the band in 1996, bringing his own home-made theremin with him. By late 1997, Daren Garratt would be replaced on drums by Mark Butterworth [4] , although pre-recorded material with Daren would continue to feature on records for the following two years. Former Long Fin Killie drummer Dave Turner would also have a stint with the band. [4]

Domino years, part 1

By 1998, Pram had found a new home at Domino Records [3] (distributed by Merge Records in the US). Their fourth album, North Pole Radio Station (which had originally been recorded for release on Wurlitzer Jukebox before the label shut down) was released on Domino in March 1998. A related EP called Sleepy Sweet was released the following August.

In 1998, Pram recorded the soundtrack to Martin Davies' 10-minute animated film "Keep in a Dry Place and Away From Children": in 1999, they released it as an EP including a remix by Mouse on Mars. Also in 1999, Domino collected various single and EP tracks from the previous two years and compiled them on the Telemetric Melodies compilation. This were the final recordings to feature Daren Garratt on drums (with the notable exceptions of the "Last Astronaut" 7", the Sleepy Sweet EP and around half of the tracks on the North Pole Radio Station album).

By 2000, three new members had joined Pram - former Broadcast drummer Steve Perkins, multi-instrumentalist Nick Sales (of the long-running Birmingham performance art group Blissbody) and trumpeter Alex Clare. [3] All three performed on the band's fifth album, The Museum of Imaginary Animals which was released in 2000. The album featured the single "The Owl Service", named after the Alan Garner book of the same name.

The Somniloquy EP was released in 2001, featuring both new tracks and remixes of various recent album tracks and singles. Remix contributors were Andy Votel, fellow Brummie experimentalists Plone and Tele:funken (the latter credited as "Terry Funken").

Domino years, part 2

Pram's sixth album - 2003's Dark Island - proved to be more of a breakthrough in terms of the band's profile. One of its songs, "Track of the Cat", was used on a BT Group advert. A remix of "Simon from Sydney/Untitled 2", commissioned by Warp Records, was used on Volkswagen's "30 years in the Making" advertising campaign. By now, the band's lineup had changed again. While Steve Perkins had drummed on three tracks on Dark Island, he was replaced during the sessions by Laurence Hunt. Trumpeter Hannah Baines (of Misty's Big Adventure) was briefly a member of the band for live performances in 2003. [5] In spite of the relatively greater success of Dark Island, Pram did not release another album for another four years.

In 2004, NME finally reversed their previous scathing opinion of Pram by tipping them as the next big band to watch out for.

In 2006, trombonist Harry Dawes (who also played theremin and stylophone) joined the band. By this time, both Sales and Clare had left for other projects.

In September 2007 Pram released their seventh studio album The Moving Frontier . It was named number 7 in Wire Magazine's Top Ten records of the year. A remix EP based on various Moving Frontier tracks, Prisoner of the Seven Pines, followed in 2008 [6] as did a full self-released collection of the band's visual work (short films, music videos and animations), collated on a limited edition 90-minute DVD called Shadow Shows of the Phantascope [7]

Following the release of Prisoner of the Seven Pines and Shadow Shows of the Phantascope, Pram went into a period of dormancy as far as commercial releases were concerned for almost a decade while the various members worked on other projects. The group collaborated with visual artist 'filmficciones" (film maker Scott Johnson) on a large scale multi platform show that used early cinematic techniques, shadowplay, theatre and a live musical performance in silhouette to soundtrack a three screen film produced by Johnson and the band. The piece "Shadow Shows" premiered at Supersonic Festival Birmingham, touring to Germany and then headlining the closing day of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2011. As Pram, the group conducted workshops in sound art and field recording, producing as yet unreleased work that was performed live in 2016. In 2012 the group recorded a series of experimental works at Jochen Hans Irmler's Klangbad Studio, with the intention of releasing a new LP of experimental works. In 2019 the editing and arranging process continued.


Pram reconvened in 2016 as a lineup of Sam Owen, Matt Eaton, Max Simpson and Harry Dawes (minus founder member and singer Rosie Cuckston, who'd left to concentrate on writing and academia). Now working as a predominantly instrumental project with an increased interest in film and site-specific work, the band performed at the Imaginary Musics festival in Switzerland in May 2017 (playing an audio-visual "music for Kopfkino" set) and at a combined sound-art installation and concert ('Under the Blossom That Hangs On The Bough') in Birmingham's Martineau Gardens as part of the for-Wards project and festival for June 2017.

Once again signed to Domino Records, the band released a new album, Across the Meridian, on 20 July 2018 [8] (with Sam Owen now handling vocals). The album was launched at a Club Integrale Midlands concert at the Edge, on 20th July 2018, followed by concerts at The Lexington, London, on 22nd July and the Soup Kitchen, Manchester, on 26th July (with Fliss Kitson of The Nightingales playing drums).

Work as remixers

Pram have remixed LFO and the Aphex Twin for the Warp Records 10th anniversary compilation. They have also remixed a song for the Indian singer Mohammed Rafi. [9]

Outside band activities

Rosie Cuckston recorded songs with Lætitia Sadier as Monade in the late 90s. She appeared on their "M Is The Thirteenth Letter/Monade" and "Split" singles.

Matt Eaton produces his own music under the name 'Micronormous' and has released a number of tracks on compilation albums - in Autumn 2009 he was reporting as working on an album for Warm Circuit records (home of the Modified Toy Orchestra). Eaton also DJs with Mark Cancellara (ex-Plone) at Silver Dollar, a reggae club in Birmingham.

Band members

Current members

Past members



Singles and EPs


Compilation appearances


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "A New Nineties: Part Four: Why Pram Wrote The Best Album Of The Nineties" - article in The Quietus by Neil Kulkarni, 22 December 2011
  2. "Pram - defiantly different" - article by Jason Keller in NOW Magazine vol. 28 no. 8, 21–28 October 2008
  3. 1 2 3 Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN   1-84195-335-0, p. 927-8
  4. 1 2 "Pram interview 1997". Archived from the original on 17 February 2001. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  5. "Pram". Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  6. Hamilton, Billy (5 August 2008). "Album Review: Pram - Prisoner Of The Seven Pines EP / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound". Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  7. "Pram — DVD - "Shadow Shows of the Phantascope"". Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  8. "Pram announce new album 'Across the Meridian'" (Domino Records news page, 13 June 2018
  9. Ankeny, Jason "Pram Biography", Allmusic, retrieved 2010-12-31