One night during a summer session at NYU, classmates Jesse Aicher and Matt Walsh were drinking at Walsh's apartment and accidentally wrote an early version of what would turn out to be their breakthrough single. The two had never planned on making music together, hailing as they do from entirely different musical backgrounds. Aicher took up guitar in third grade and played in folk and hardcore bands throughout his teen years, while Walsh grew up on hip-hop, spent most of high-school building beats in his basement, and moved to New York as part of a production team called The Insurgency. But that night, the two were "just hanging out and talking all this existential bullshit that you talk about when you're a sophomore in college and a little bit drunk," Aicher recalls. "Matt had his keyboard and I had my guitar and we started messing around on those, and that became the seed of 'Mistakes Like This.'" Naming the project Prelow, Aicher and Walsh kept on writing and self-producing new songs, released "Mistakes Like This" in summer 2014, and instantly earned praise for their hazy groove-heavy hybrid of alt-rock, hip-hop, and electronica.
Co-produced by the band and Grammy Award-winner David Kahne (The Strokes, Paul McCartney, Sublime), Prelow's debut EP blends Aicher's '60s-psych-rock-inspired guitar atmospherics and Walsh's moody, sub-bass-driven beats into a brash but dreamy sound that Noisey has dubbed "indie-tronica on ice." With their tales of teen lust and drunken misadventures, Prelow also borrow from disparate genres to create something fresh and edgy in their lyrics. "Indie-rock acts tend to be pretty guarded about sex, and rappers are usually the opposite of that, so we wanted to find some kind of middle ground," Walsh says. And at the chorus of "Mistakes Like This" -- a track built on shimmering keyboard textures and seductively drowsy guitar riffs -- Prelow's mix of girl-crazy romanticism and laid-back realism reaches its fullest expression: "And my dick takes over/ And I'm thinking about your lips/ But we're too damn sober/ For mistakes like this."
Aicher and Walsh draw much of their lyrical inspiration from their suburban adolescence (Aicher is from Portland, Maine, while Walsh grew up in a New Jersey town 20 minutes outside of Manhattan). "Both of us always wanted to get out of where we came from and get to the city and make music, but at the same time we've got so much love for our friends back home and all the things that happened to us there," says Aicher.
Despite the similarities in their high-school experiences, Prelow were worlds away in terms of their musical upbringing. Partly at the encouragement of his mom (a tap-dancer and banjo-player), Aicher learned to play guitar before turning 10, joined his first hardcore band in middle school, and started writing songs in his early teens (one of his first original numbers: "a really whiny, emo song about being mad at my friend for smoking cigarettes"). Down in Jersey, Walsh began playing piano when he was five and taught himself to make beats on his computer while laid up with a broken leg in high school. With a longtime passion for underground hip-hop, Walsh co-founded The Insurgency at age 16 and the duo eventually saw his beats placed with artists like Lloyd Banks and Kool G Rap.
After transferring into NYU's Recorded Music Program during their sophomore year, Aicher and Walsh met during summer classes, bonded over their love of "The Sopranos" and "Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!," and soon found themselves making music together. "I never saw myself doing something more on the indie-rock side of things, but when we started working on 'Mistakes Like This' it seemed pretty obvious that we should keep going," says Walsh. The duo took the next few years to develop their sound, bringing in such elements as drum-breaks. Once they'd come up with a batch of songs, Aicher and Walsh played their music for David Kahne, who'd visited one of their classes as a guest lecturer. Kahne then invited the duo to record at his own Avatar Studios, where he worked closely with Prelow to co-produce several of the tracks featured on their EP.
Along with poet/songwriter Shel Silverstein and Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock, Aicher names Andre 3000 as one of his favorite lyricists, noting his admiration for "how he's this perfect blend of blunt and philosophical." Walsh, meanwhile, lists early-era Jay-Z albums and The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" among his key inspirations. ("I really like Brian Wilson," he says, "partly because I can never tell if he's being quirky on purpose or if he's actually just very strange.")