Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings
While the prank call doesn’t often get its due in a texting/social media world, personalities like the Jerky Boys, John Trubee, Brother Russell, and, more recently, Black Moth Super Rainbow/Tobacco frontman Thomas Fec have made a good case for it as an artform. “There’s a lot of people doing it but not a lot of people paying attention to it,” Fec told Hive over the phone from his Pittsburgh apartment. “Everyone is kind of on their own island.” But Fec began this extracurricular with his friends a couple of years ago, has since put together a double album of his calls (he’s trying to figure out a way to legally release them), and says that the prank calls have actually helped him communicate better with those around him: “It’s made me more personable. Since my music started in 2007, I haven’t really been around people every day. I’ve just been making music and in my own world. So the prank calls brought me back into the world.” To learn the makings of a successful call, check out Fec’s tips below.
1. Convince the person that this is legit
If you’re an asshole right away, most people are just going to hang up — unless you know in advance that you have a ringer, someone who is going to stay on and scream at you regardless. You’re better off getting people to think you’re a real call because they won’t be so quick to hang up if they’ve put in five minutes of conversation with you and are invested in what you’re saying; they’ll actually want to understand what’s happening.
2. Play off the local affectations
I think I’m in the perfect place because I live in Pittsburgh and there’s a really strong accent over here. Those people are called Yinzers, the Pittsburgh version of a redneck. So, a lot of the time, I just channel these people because I grew up around them and know how they react. They have an unexplainable optimism. If you can channel that and it sounds real then all you have to do is start off with a “Hey, how’s it going?” And you can go on forever.
3. Scout out people to call ahead of time
Sometimes one of my friends will be working with someone who would be perfect and they’ll tip me off. Or, there’s a show here on AM radio called Tradio, which is an online flea market where people call up and sell stupid shit and give out their phone numbers, and you can get a really good sense of their personalities. If a guy wastes his time calling up to sell a bucket of nails for $2, that’s a goldmine.
4. Make them the focus of the call, not you
I think a call flows more naturally if you don’t plan a skit. A lot of calls I make that are bad have happened when I planned a skit. Some people can plan skits the right way, like the Jerky Boys, but you need to converse with these people, play off what they say, and listen — instead of talking at them. There’s this guy who sells things that I’ve called three times and I’m always asking questions about the item he sells. He’ll think that he knows who I am, that it’s one of his good friends, so I go along with that for a minute and escalate it then he realizes he’s been pranked again. When he realizes he’s been double-duped, that’s when he starts freaking out — and it’s always the funniest moment for me. I’m trying to capture the best part of the person on the other side. If you can get them to react and say the horrible things so you don’t have to, that’s so much funnier.
5. Go long
All of my good calls are at least 10 minutes and I’ve had one that’s 25. The longer you can go with someone, the more in-depth and better stuff you’ll get. If you hit the 10 minute mark with someone on the phone, their guard is definitely down and they’ll say things that they wouldn’t say in the first few minutes. The best call I’ve done was when I spent 25 minutes as this character named Mr. Strawberry — who’s this piece of shit, disgusting person — and the guy I was talking to jerked off and got off so hard. There’s a climax to the call and it’s awesome. But you need to edit it down for the listener and try to get the bulk of your good stuff in pretty quickly. I put another phone call online because the guy was such a trooper. It’s about eight minutes and I edited it down from 17.
Listen to Black Moth Super Rainbow’s prank call below. The band’s new album Cobra Juicy is out now on Rad Cult.