Drawing a wide range of influences that span from 1960s pop country to psychedelic and garage rock, Atlanta’s Nikki & the Phantom Callers issue their debut single “Prodigal Daughter” / “Mamas Should Know” on July 27. The first side, “Prodigal Daughter,” burns with the passion and heartache of an AM radio anthem, replete with hot hooks and a haunting vocal performance that soothes as much as it unsettles.
The track is a feminine exploration of the prodigal son story, the tale of how you can come home again after having lived a wild, wild life. The track features Nikki Speake on lead vocals for verses two and four and Anna Kramer (Anna Kramer & The Lost Cause, the Rock *A*Teens) on one and three. The women, who also spend time in Shantih Shantih offer some deep vocal interplay along the way as well.
Speake recalls the origins of the song, saying, “I’d had the line ‘been around the world shakin’ your tambourine’ in my head for a while and wanted to elaborate. It developed into a call and response song between a mother and a daughter, with the mother full of worry and grief over a rambling daughter. I had a pretty strict Southern Baptist upbringing, going to church three times a week for most of my youth, and I still have all of those biblical stories twisting around in my head. It seems like it naturally took its place as the name of the song for all of those reasons.”
She adds, “The Prodigal Son story has made its way into many modern songs. At the time, I was thinking about my own life and having a bit of a gypsy spirit. I’ve always daydreamed about traveling and having adventures, and usually found a way to make them happen much to my poor grandmother’s dismay. So many times I’d leave with her in tears and have to stuff down my guilt to go experience the world. So, I do think this has a feminist twist, in that traditionally women are the ones expected to stay home to be caregivers and to keep families together seamlessly. It’s typically more acceptable for men to have their rite of passage from rebellion to redemption, while women are more harshly judged. Ultimately, it’s about growing and learning who you are in the world– that it’s okay to rebel, to have a selfish period and to screw up, but have faith that the ones at home worrying about you will welcome you back without judgment. It’s also about the responsibility and heartache of being a parent because you have to know when to let go and believe the ones you love will find their way back home.”