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No Joke: Lisa Prank Stays True to Emotions Sans Cynicism

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Better known these days under the moniker Lisa Prank, Robin Edwards has longstanding connections to Denver’s art and music communities. Edwards, a former Westword contributor, grew up in Colorado, and while still in high school, she got involved in the local underground scene. Before becoming a musician, she was a writer and an avid show-goer, attending concerts at all-ages DIY spaces and the occasional sixteen-and-over show at other clubs.

After Edwards expressed her desire to start a band, a friend gave her an electric guitar, and in 2008, she started the rock band Lust-Cats of the Gutters with her pal Alex Edgeworth, who is now the drummer for Peach Kelli Pop. Over a handful of years with Lust-Cats, Edwards developed her songwriting and performance skills, played the first Titwrench Festival, in 2009, influenced countless musicians she met on multiple tours, and mentored younger musicians like those in Sauna and Mannequin Pussy. Lust-Cats essentially came to an end in 2013 when Edgeworth left Colorado; Edwards went on to play in various acts, including Robin Edwards and the Too Many Feelings, the Mathildas and, most recently, Lisa Prank.

By the time she started that musical project, Edwards was feeling as though the members of the creative community whose support she’d had in Denver had moved on to other interests or moved out of state. In 2014, she relocated to Seattle, where Tacocat, a band she’d befriended on the road and while playing shows in Denver, welcomed her with open arms.

In 2016, Edwards released the first Lisa Prank album on cassette through Miscreant and on vinyl through Father/Daughter Records, an imprint that’s home to one of her favorite bands, PWR BTTM. The record, titled Adult Teen, reflects Edwards’s reconnection with the emotional flavoring she heard on the pop-punk records she loved as a child and adolescent. Now that she’s at the age that bands like Blink-182 were when they wrote their early albums, she feels that she can more fully relate to the lyrics. In her own songwriting, Edwards eschews some of the tropes of pop punk but stays true to the genre’s essential appeal, especially the ability to articulate intense feelings and provide catchy melodies that allow content to be processed more easily. Even for an adult, pop punk can give voice to angst.
“The way to never let go of something is to repress a feeling,” says Edwards. “The way to move on from something is to be able to delve into the feeling totally. That’s what I was trying to do [while] writing songs on this record — explore the feelings to their fullest extent. In that process, I feel like I exorcised some of them. The worst thing we can do for someone who is crying is tell them, ‘Don’t cry.’ Every time someone is crying around me, I say, ‘Yes, cry!’ Not in a sad way. It’s good for us. Dolly Parton’s character in Steel Magnolias says, ‘I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence.’ There’s this myth that we’re supposed to feel happy and good all the time, and if we’re not, we have to fix it immediately.”

On Adult Teen, Edwards sings frankly about strong emotional experiences and avoids leaning on platitudes. The album unfolds in a kind of informal, non-linear story arc, beginning with the track “Starting Over,” which reflects a psychological low point but still brims with hopefulness. The song seems to honor feelings without being judgmental, a quality that runs throughout the album. And by the end, closer “I Want to Believe” sounds almost like a statement of purpose and self-compassion.

“I wanted that to be the last song on the record,” says Edwards. “I don’t ever want to be jaded or closed off or cynical about romance. I’m a very hopeful person, and I think going through all those emotions, I still believe in love. ‘I Want to Believe’ isn’t about a specific person. One of my old roommates said something to me once that inspired the song. She said that singing a song is like casting a spell, and if you’re constantly singing these songs about heartbreak and being lonely and sad, you’re casting a spell for more of it. So when I wrote that song, I was trying to think about what I actually want. I want to believe in love; I want to believe that it can work out. I want to recognize that it doesn’t work out all the time, but I’m hopeful.”

Lisa Prank performs at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, August 15, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $10, all ages.

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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