, June 16, 2024

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Prank Is Back

  •   3 min reads
Prank Is Back
Chum Castro

Prank Sinatra skates along the jagged edges of gonzo rock, punk, and sunshine pop, with sprinklings of psychedelic dust thrown in

By Joey Salgado

It was 2002 and Iman Leonardo had quit Dominion, a goth band where he played bass. Between raising his son and doing odd jobs (he worked briefly for an ad agency where the pay was good but the job unfulfilling), there was no time for music. 

“I thought my music career was over,” Leonardo told Our Brew. 

His redemption, however, came from a psychedelic band from Oklahoma. “When I heard The Flaming Lips' ‘Do You Realize?’ I was suddenly inspired to record my songs,” Leonardo said.

Leonardo’s early songs appeared on “The F Defect,” the first album of Prank Sinatra. “Footlong Players” came a year after, followed by “The Peel Sessions.” 

Why the name? “Prank Sinatra sounds better than Iman Leonardo,” he replied in jest. 

In between writing and recording, Leonardo found a cushy hustle in trading musical instruments. He has also racked up an admirable collection of 500 guitars, 15 drum sets and not a few keyboards. He is also a vinyl junkie. Leonardo prowls online sites and record meets, and inhabits live selling sessions. It’s hard to find a musician or a serious record collector who doesn’t know - or haven’t heard of - Leonardo.

Best Kept Secret

Prank Sinatra could also be called Leonardo and Friends, fellow musicians who apparently share his eclectic influences which reads like sections on Discogs: 60s British Invasion bands, sunshine pop and bubblegum, obscure psychedelic groups, outliers Flaming Lips and Guided by Voices, groundbreaking artists like David Bowie and Neil Young. And of course Frank Zappa and “anything Zappa-ish.” 

On “Get Outta My Way,” the band’s fourth album released in 2015 and now available on limited edition vinyl, Leonardo is joined by Sugar Hiccup’s Czandro Pollack, Dok Sergio of Teeth, and Ahmad Tanji from We Are Imaginary.

The songs straddle the quirky and whimsical, served with hefty doses of psychedelia, dance, and pop, and even a little bit of country.   

A song written for his former band manager (“Count to 10-10”), delivered in the sing-song manner of children’s songs, mines the Devo-Kraftwerk-Gang of Four template. The interlude, according to Leonardo, is a “bastardized” Shakatak song called “Night Bird.” 

“Konan D’ Barbero” uses a visit to the barber as a metaphor for change, with the line “buhok ipagupit…"  translated in 26 languages using Google Translate, says Leonardo.

There’s a repurposed study for a softdrink commercial (“The Do Ron Ron Part IV”), and a nod to the Fab Four’s “You Know My Name, Look Up the Number” (“S'all I Hear”) where they employed a rain-soaked vibraphone. A horn section adds some jazz-rock to “Way o' the Willow,” with Leonardo admitting he was attempting a Ric Ocasek on the bridge part, ala “You Might Think.”

Prank Sinatra skates along the jagged edges of gonzo rock, punk, and sunshine pop, with sprinklings of psychedelic dust thrown in. It’s music unconstricted by pop and current music tastes. It’s frenetic and fun. They could well be the local rock scene’s best kept secret.

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