Dance

'Dexter' Actor Michael C. Hall on His New Dance Music Trio: 'All Roads Seem Like They Were Leading to This'

Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum
Colin Lane

Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum

Featuring Hall and fellow former Broadway co-stars Peter Yanowitz and Matt Katz-Bohen, Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum release their single 'Come Talk To Me' today.

While pop culture is widely familiar with Michael C. Hall through his role as the titular anti-hero serial killer on Dexter, the actor is also a longstanding Broadway performer, having played lead roles in Chicago, Cabaret and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

It was through this latter role as the victim of a botched sex change operation/aspiring rockstar that Hall met fellow castmates Matt Katz-Bohen, a musician who's played keyboards for New York rock legends Blondie since 2008, and musician and Peter Yanowitz, the drummer for bands including The Wallflowers and Morningwood. Taking inspiration from club music, '80s new wave and their Broadway origins, together the trio are now making dance music under the deeply whimsical moniker Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum -- a name dreamed up by Katz-Bohen's young daughter. 

This past December, the trio released their first single "Ketamine," a methodical slow burn on which Hall's vocals create a haunting mood. Today (Feb. 7) Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum return with "Come Talk To Me," on which Hall layers his falsetto over Moroder-style synths courtesy of Katz-Bohen and Yanowitz. 

Having spent a lot of recent time in the studio writing and recording, the group is promising much more music to come this year. Here, they discuss their Broadway origins, their favorite DJs and their quite unusual and highly original name. 

When was the first moment you guys were like, "Hey, we should start a band!"

Yanowitz: We all have the common DNA of doing Hedwig on Broadway together, and we did some bonding during the show. Matt and I actually went out on the U.S. tour of Hedwig, and we were hanging out a lot on the road, playing every night and becoming fast friends. Before the tour ended, we decided we should hang out and make music when we got back to New York. You kind of say that to a lot people and it doesn't happen, but with Matt, we just kept hanging out and kept making music. 

Then what?

Yanowitz: Very shortly after, Michael came over and heard some of the songs and noticed we didn't have any vocals. The next day, he came over and just wrote a beautiful melody and words to the song “Love American Style” from our first release that's coming out in March. It was like a musical marriage made in heaven. We just kind of went from there. It was just three friends hanging out, having fun, making music.

Is this music in any way an extension of what you were performing in Hedwig

Hall: Well, Hedwig was the first chance I had to front a band, albeit dressed in full drag and platform heels... and it gave me a good taste of what that feels like. But, I was playing a character and singing someone else's songs with a bunch of musicians who were playing someone else's songs, whereas in this case, it really belongs to all of us and emerges from us, so it's a very different thing. But yeah, I think Hedwig was maybe what led me on the road to feeling what it was like to front a band, which led me to, in a way, doing the David Bowie musical, Lazarus. In hindsight, all roads seem like they were leading to this.

Are you guys real life clubbers and dance music fans?

Katz-Bohen: Going back to 70s disco, we love Diana Ross, Giorgio Moroder, all of those early, amazing '70s and '80s disco artists. And Blondie, who I play with. As far as newer stuff and EDM, I love Justice and all of the stuff that's coming out of France. MK is a DJ that we're all in to. Also, our friend Miss Guy is our favorite New York DJ. He's just the best at synthesizing all of our musical influences and making it a really magical night. We always try to get him to DJ whenever we play a show, either before or after we play.

Do you envision your music getting played in clubs?

Katz-Bohen: Of course, we would absolutely love to have our music pumped on a dance floor in some capacity. 

Yanowitz: We’re also really open to DJs and remixers taking our music and making it into something else, just to put it out there. 

Tell us a bit about how "Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum" became your name.

Katz-Bohen: We love the butterfly aspect. It represents transformation. Caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly. Our music kind of tries to embody that in a sort of metaphysical way. As far as "Princess Goes," we're all trying to be more feminine. What can I say? We're not fans of toxic masculinity.

Hall: Also, a butterfly museum is something that’s potentially magical and beautiful, but there's also something maybe somewhat sinister about it. Are these butterflies flying around, or are they pinned to the walls? I'm back and forth in terms of what that museum might look like. And the name itself is sort of open to interpretation. It was gifted to us by Matt's daughter who just somehow, out of nowhere, gave a name to something that we were having a difficult time naming. When Matt came in with it, without being able to quite explain it, it felt right. It felt like something that encapsulated all of the sounds we’re making.

Who does what here in terms of instruments and vocals? 

Yanowitz: I think we all bring different stuff at different times. I play the drums and record a lot of Mike’s vocals. I love producing vocals, and I think it's something I'm good at, but we all wear different hats at different times. I think that's another reason why it's a collaboration that never gets old. We also do a lot of writing together in the room, and we’ll just go straight into playing it and jam and we'll record it and those will become our songs just being in the moment.

Hall: And simply, Peter's behind his drum kit, Matt's behind his keyboards and I'm singing. But, there’s a lot more to it than just that, because both Matt and Peter are sort of well beyond any kind of singular sound. Peter’s drums are plugged into electronic sounds and pads, and Matt is like James T. Kirk, Mission Control. I sometimes sing vocals through an effects box so that I can modify, but it's basically that elemental. It’s three guys in their own worlds intersecting to make a world that none of us could individually. I guess that's what it's like when bands play on stage. [Laughs.]

But as far as the recording process, we have no rules and no formula that we follow to come up with a song. They just emerge from one or two or all of us. 

If this song were to serve as the theme to a TV show, what would that show be about?

Hall: Some sort of like dystopian prison camp, where the prisoners were kept under control by being given psychedelic drugs.

Katz-Bohen: And then they have dance parties... raves all night. Or, occasionally. Occasional raves.