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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Baltimore's favorite bad girl mixes profundity with profanity

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Don't let her sweet looks and petite frame deceive you. Mary Prankster, leader of the Baltimore-based trio that also bears her name, lives and breathes rock & roll. Despite her cute, animated expressions which can even conjure images of Betty Boop, this girl is loud and rowdy, and, man, does she have a foul mouth. But in her own defense, the spunky songstress, voted Best Singer/Songwriter by the Baltimore City Paper, says that's how rock & roll should be... damn it! Prankster, who will neither confirm nor deny if the moniker is her actual birth name ­ "It's the name best suited for this line of work," she laughs ­ spent several years earning a reputation for herself in the Mid-Atlantic as a solo artist. Her first album, Blue Skies Over Dundalk, even spawned a couple of local cult favorites, and one of the tracks, "Tits & Whiskey," landed on her hometown's alternative rock station morning show.

"That was the one song that everybody said would never see the light of day," she relates. "I woke up one morning, turned on the radio, and the guy said, 'And here's Mary Prankster once again with' ­ and he couldn't even say the title of the song; he had to call it 'Bleeps & Whiskey.' It was the funniest thing you've ever heard; it was almost nothing but bleeps. It was just riotously funny."

Shortly after the release of the album, Prankster decided she needed a band and recruited drummer Phil Tang and bassist Jon E. Cakes. As she puts it, "Nothing compares to just full on rockin' out, you know." The trio toured together for just over a year, then released another album, 1999's Roulette Girl. "With the first record, we didn't have the band together yet, but with the second record, we'd been playing together for about a year and a half, and you can totally tell." She explains. "It's so solid. It's strong because it's on the foundation of an actual touring band, and it just made all the difference in the world."

The band also formed its own independent label, Palace Coup Records (PCR), and developed its own website (www.maryprankster. com). The label recently reissued Roulette Girl and released its first single, "Love Has A Rumble." Written and produced by Prankster, the single features her along with the Baltimore-based reggae rock band Colouring Lessons, who Prankster persuaded to reunite for the recording just months after they had disbanded.

Despite a heavy touring schedule (the band travels as far north as Montreal and as far south as Jacksonville, FL), Mary Prankster has managed to complete enough material for a third album. "The material for the next album is done; we've just been trying to figure out how we're going to schedule it because we've been touring so much. For a band that's completely independent [aside from a booking agent, the band handles everything else], we've had a marvelous response. We've just been road doggin' it up and down the East Coast, but I think we're going to go in shortly after the first of the year and do the recording and the mixing. It's the best material hands down that we've ever done, and we're just so excited that we want to make sure we take the time to do it properly, not rush something out because we've gotten more attention than usual. There's always the pressure to get something out really quick, but you know, we want to take our time."

Not surprisingly, the trio also shares more than the band name and the label. Prankster explains, "We all live together in an apartment with the drum kit in the living room. It's absolutely a band in every sense. We fulfill our roles and no one questions the value of their role and what they do. We're all full partners in the label, and as far as the band is concerned, we only decided to go with my name because I'd done it solo and in the region I had already established a modest local following.

"We compliment each other's strengths so well that there's never been an issue about who gets more attention because everyone knows how important they are and how integral they are," she continues. "We all get to play music for a living. How many gripes can you have when that's what you do?"

And as for the music this trio plays for a living, with titles like "Mercyfuck," "Piss Off" and "The World Is Full of Bastards," it's no wonder that they've actually been banned from playing clubs in and around their own stomping ground. "It never ceases to amaze me how much of a furor the lyrics can stir up with people in this day and age. You would think that we'd be a little hipper by now. I looked it up and the word 'fuck' has been in the English vocabulary since about 1542 or something like that, so we've had time to acclimate. We've had time to get used to it. I can't figure out why this is still considered so stunning. You hear about the controversies in rock & roll from ages gone past, like Bill Haley's 'Rock Around The Clock' causing teenage riots, and it seems so ridiculous, but this is the same thing.

"I don't know if we just have a different obscenity threshold than other people because if you would take the lyrics out of context and use them in a conversation, a lot of folks wouldn't even blink an eye. Considering that we play in clubs, most of which are 18 and over, the people are pretty hip ­ they're pretty savvy. I honestly don't understand what the big deal is. It's rock & roll! Isn't it supposed to be somewhat rebellious, maybe, I don't know? Do people want their rock & roll safe? Do they want it sanitized? It's supposed to piss your parents off, and rev you up and show you a rip snortin' good time outside the boundaries of a polite society! Who can't handle that?"

Well, plenty of people, actually, but one guess where Mary would tell them to stick that attitude.

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