Written by Ariana Assaf
“I used to want to be John Mayer,” NYC-based DJ/producer Prince Fox (aka Sam Lassner) says of his high school aspirations. And though Mayer has received criticism for being a bit of an asshole, you can’t argue his musical success. Fortunately for current and future Prince Fox fans (myself included), it’s clear that Lassner is working towards his own special brand of cry-while-you-dance kind of music, minus any Mayer-inspired personality flaws.
You know that song “Smoke Filled Room” by Mako, and how its such a jam but also really freaking sad? The fact that Lassner co-produced it should give you some hints about his style. I got a chance to chat with him at his show last week, and just like his songs, the kid is deep. The positive feedback he’s received online was manifested in the smiles and dance moves of an intimate crowd at Detroit’s Grasshopper Underground. Opening his set with an upbeat mashup of “To Ü” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” foreshadowed the versatility of what was to come—which as it turned out, included a middle school throwback in the form of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. Forget gorgeously emotive songwriting; play anything by the Backstreet Boys and my heart is immediately yours.
But back to my very serious review: Prince Fox is a beast. We were treated to several new (even some unfinished) tracks during the course of the evening, and they really are exquisite. One yet-to-be released musical gem he’s calling “Run Away” has a sentimental message and addictively dance-y quality that will likely have you listening to it as often as I’ve been listening to “I Don’t Wanna Love You” (which is a lot). There’s another titillatingly top-secret feature that hasn’t been officially announced yet, so I can’t say too much about it, but anyone who associates music with feeling can appreciate the song’s balancing of a powerful melody with a delicate message.
So where does all that heartachey material come from? One hell of a breakup and the untimely passing of a beloved family member. At the end of high school, Lassner’s “god-grandmother” got sick with cancer. “Every Sunday after her chemotherapy I would play guitar for her. When she passed early on in my freshman year I played at her funeral, and then I didn’t really play guitar for awhile and I got super in to production.” It wasn’t until about two years ago when he merged the two that Prince Fox was born.
He didn’t offer as much detail about his girl trouble, except to say that as much as it sucked, “it was the best possible source of writing material, and I have a stack of songs that are literally just pouring my heart out.” Clearly the pouring is working, though I can’t in good conscience attribute all of his success to painful life experiences. Not everyone can turn difficult circumstances into works of art; that takes a special kind of talent, and Sam Lassner’s got it.
With a songwriting background and freshly honed production skills, his work stands out in an expansive genre that can create too much of the same. “I’m trying to have a narrative,” he says of the stories behind his songs. “All of it is very content heavy. I never want to write a song that’s just fluff.” Check out his Soundcloud and see for yourself what stories sound like when they’re told from the heart using some truly wonderful sounds.