Danni James and Kris Williams grew up in the same Fort Worth neighborhood and never knew it. When the musicians finally met 10 years ago in their 20s, they had a lot of play time to make up for.
Like most meaningful modern relationships whether romantic or professional, the pair found each other online. In their case, it was through mutual Facebook friends. Williams invited James to jam, and they haven’t stopped since.
Williams says she was first hooked on music as a teen after begging her father to teach her to play guitar.
“After high school, I spent a lot of time writing and playing shows and trying to find a way to pursue my passion,” she says, “but after Danni and I met it was so kismet. We have been doing everything musically together for almost a decade now.”
James has a similar story. She started on the guitar at 13, when a friend of her brother’s taught her to play chords.
“When Kris and I met it just flowed so naturally, it was great,” she says. “Kismet, like she said.”
In 2012, they channeled their kismet kinship into a duo, Danni and Kris, where they performed “singer-songwriter type music,” Williams says.
They had their first gig at a coffee shop in Arlington. “Anywhere we could get in,” James says. Now they play original music, and some classic rock covers, nearly every day of the week (at least they did pre-pandemic) at restaurants, bars and “quirky venues.”
After taking a road trip to the Sequoia National Forest in Northern California, they wrote an album’s worth of songs while staying in a cabin, eventually releasing Daydream and Mountain Songs, which ranged from sticky-sweet electropop to wood-scented ballads.
The pair continued a foray into folk rock by forming a Fleetwood Mac tribute band, Little Lies, with which they perform sporadically around Texas. But around the same time they formed the cover band, they debuted a new original project, Prizm.
While they continue playing as Danni and Kris, Prizm runs parallel. Unlike their original band name (“Danni and Kris — we leave the creativity up to the song writing,” Williams says jokingly), “Prizm” is befitting of the duo’s core vibe: reflecting light and color. The pair is known for their vibrant hair colors and neon energy.
The concept for the band came from their producer Geoff Rockwell.
“Geoff is so easy to work with as a third part in making the magic,” James says.
“He wanted to start a retro-wave pop band, and we thought it sounded fun so hopped on immediately,” Williams says.
The word “fun” comes up frequently when chatting with Williams and James.
“We know how to have fun,” James says, making sure to place special emphasis on “fun.” “Which is the best part of playing live music with someone.”
“For Prizm, it’s all about having fun,” Williams adds. “Danni brings that Whitney Houston/Ariana Grande vibe and has a velvety, honey voice.”
On Sep. 4, Prizm dropped its debut album, All Night, an ‘80s throwback of dance anthems laced with synth waves and power vocals, which takes listeners on a DeLorean ride to San Junipero.
“We write a lot in the studio and fuel ourselves with coffee and chocolate when we do,” Williams says. “The reason we love singing on these songs is because it’s more vocally challenging than our other projects. We hit a lot of high notes, ad libs and harmonies. It’s really pushed us as singers.”
“It’s really fun to get to write a different genre of music that pushes us the way Prizm does,” James adds.
In February, the group got a Swarovski-solid endorsement courtesy of professional partier Paris Hilton, who used their song “All Night” in a birthday video recap, “which was so cool and random,” Williams says.
And thanks to an agreement with a Fort Worth licensing company called Music Bed, where worldwide companies can buy their music for commercial use, their songs pop up everywhere from mega churches to marketing videos, and even a Sephora ad.
“Actually landing a good licensing deal is hard and tricky,” Williams says.
Their songs have also appear in video games such as VR dancing game Synth Riders.
“So people are literally dancing in their living rooms to our music daily,” Williams says. “That’s pretty cool.”
“Also a ton of wedding recap videos,” Williams continues. “Makes sense. A lot of our songs are upbeat and about love.”
As Prizm, they’re also signed to a label called FiXT Neon. Despite the shutdowns, the pair have been able to keep music as their only jobs and dedicate most of their time to writing and recording — aside from the scenes of daily life, which for James include running after her 4-year-old and tending to her plants. Williams, on the other hand, says, “Music consumes most of my life.”
She also runs around, but in a long list of fitness classes. Together, they enjoy binging on Taco Bell and episodes of The Office. James suggests that through their decade-long friendship they've amassed enough inside jokes for a comedy special. And of course, there’s endless shopping — mostly for photo shoots.
“Omg,” Williams says. “We also love to shop together.”
Their friendship is a recurring motif in their songs.
“Danni was going through a breakup, and I was comforting her by the pool when she was crying,” Williams remembers. “You can hear that referenced in 'Can’t Go Back' or the song 'Mine' [which] was almost entirely written while I was driving in my car.”
Williams’ favorite song on the album is “We Were Young,” an ambient track evocative of big-hair-and-big-blush 1980s romance woes, emotive saxophone solo and all.
“Danni hits this high note in it that made my jaw drop when we were in the studio,” Williams says.
Just as their voices are complementary while they trade off harmony and lead vocals, their combined individual strengths make the friends a power couple.
“Danni is the extrovert that connects with anyone and everyone,” Williams says. “It’s awesome. She talks to people between songs and gets the party started.”
“Kris is the ‘business’ of show business,” James responds. “She keeps us in line with schedules and books and dealing with people who would otherwise try to walk all over me.”
James says that while they have opposite personalities, they’re each other’s “sounding boards.”
“We’ve had each other’s backs in a lot of situations when it comes to difficult people or not being sure what move we should make,” she says.
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“I’ve had a hard time believing I was good enough to do this full time, and Kris adds so much confidence to my life and helps me believe in myself,” James says of her bandmate. “I’ve had a rough go in the past with personal life shit getting in my way and we’ve had to work through that. She always makes me feel like I am able to do it no matter what.”
"Pursuing the music world as Prizm has really opened us up to a lot of growth," Williams adds. "We love creating music that makes people feel good and want to dance. So we really brought it with our new album."
Listen to All Night below: