Hall’s first order of business this year, however, is a more personal affair. For more than three years, the seven-time Emmy nominee has been the lead singer of Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, an experimental rock trio based in New York. The band’s first full-length album, “Thanks for Coming,” was released Friday.
With song titles like “Bombed Out Sites” and “Armageddon Suite,” the 14-track collection appears reflective of the quasi-dystopian realities of life in the COVID-19 era. In reality, however, “Thanks for Coming” is both groovy and compelling, with Hall’s brooding vocals complemented by 1970s and ’80s glam rock flourishes, courtesy of keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen and drummer Peter Yanowitz. Their willingness to experiment extends to the cinematic, if trippy, music videos for “Cruel World” and “Eat an Eraser.”
Like many bands, Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum (whose name was suggested by Katz-Bohen’s young daughter) had planned to spend much of 2020 on the road. They’d also hoped to decamp to the famed Rancho de la Luna recording studio in Joshua Tree, California, to produce what they describe as a “desert rock” album. Once the pandemic took hold, however, they were forced to eschew those plans and record much of “Thanks for Coming” remotely.
“The songs come in from different places, they are about different things, but inevitably the zeitgeist creeps its way in there,” Hall said. “One of us would have a musical idea and send it to the other two, and we’d sort of build a song remotely and then put it together in a studio in New York. So there’s a lot lyrically that reflects the past several months, but also the past few years.”
As beloved as his performances on “Dexter” and HBO’s “Six Feet Under” remain, however, Hall is aware that the notion of him fronting a band could elicit, as he puts it, an “eye-roll” among rock purists. After all, mid-career musical endeavors among established stars have traditionally been rocky ventures.
Few, however, boast Hall’s musical theater pedigree. He met Katz-Bohen, who has played with Cyndi Lauper, and Yanowitz, a founding member of The Wallflowers and Morningwood, as Broadway cast mates in 2014’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” And Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum has already been given a very enthusiastic thumbs-up by Blondie’s Debbie Harry, who joined the band onstage during its performance at New York’s Mercury Lounge in February 2020.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s not what I was expecting at all’ when they see us for the first time,” said Hall, who also worked on the stage musical “Lazarus” with David Bowie shortly before his 2016 death. “I always take that as a compliment. As an audience member, you always want to be surprised musically or thematically or whatever. I’m enjoying that we can sort of do that to people.”
Hall, Katz-Bohen and Yanowitz are eager to return to the stage in support of “Thanks for Coming” as soon as it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, Hall has begun work on the “Dexter” reboot after years of resisting calls for him to return to his best-known role.
Though he’s tight-lipped on specifics, he says the current script places blood splatter analyst turned serial killer Dexter Morgan “in a different context.” The new episodes, he added, will hopefully quell some of the backlash to the original’s less-than-acclaimed finale.
“He’s in another place and another circumstance and surrounded by different people, which is an interesting thing to consider,” Hall explained. “The more time that passed, the more compelling [the idea of] revisiting it became. It’s a show that a lot of people loved, but with an ending that was very confounding, so the chance to answer some questions was appealing.”
As for Princess Goes to the Butterfly Museum, the band hopes to release at least one more video from “Thanks for Coming” and, in the absence of touring plans, has already begun work on new music.
“There’s not a lot for musicians to do right now other than be in the studio,” Yanowitz said. “This album was the one thing that kept us sane ― just staying creative and engaged was one of the silver linings in a weird, fucked-up year.”
Added Hall, “It’s one of the most magical things I’ve experienced in my creative life.”
Catch the music video for “Armageddon Suite” below.