Interview: Pretty City Tackle The Monolith
Melbourne fuzz rockers Pretty City have consistently blended a fantastic fusion of shoegaze and pop since their incarnation. Courtney Dabb chats to Johnny, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, ahead of the release of their upcoming LP:
Firstly, congratulations on the new album. Did you tackle the recording process in a different way compared to your previous singles?
Doing an album is just a giant monolith of a project compared to singles. We can usually bash out a single in a day and it’s over. But the album is not just a collection of singles. We wanted there to be more continuity amongst the songs and record the main instrumentation live. This meant we spent a whole day setting up and getting that sound right before we hit record on anything we played. On paper it seems like we can do more in fewer days but we ended up going back to do more recording then again to two separate studios again to record some more songs and track some more bits and bobs. It’s more like trying to record ten songs all at once instead of one at a time. Because of that it’s hard to keep track of where you are. Stressful but rewarding.
Where does your inspiration come from in terms of crafting the subject matter for your songs?
Though Hugh writes all the lyrics, it’s easy to see most of the subject matter is from our everyday lives. Not necessarily crying over the lack of peanut butter in the pantry but from people we see and interact with. ‘Piece Of The Puzzle’ is about a person who is a bit fake but not everyone knows it yet. ‘Flying’ is about that lifted feeling from experiencing things for the first time. So everything is from our lives. We’re not particularly goth, depressing people nor are we sugar pop.
After your three east coast tours last year, did any of the experiences you had on those tours find their way into your debut album?
Certainly did! I think the vastness of Australia is not truly appreciated until you have to drive it. I think the mood of our song ‘Melt’ has captured some of that. Also, playing with so many bands we’ve seen what the competition is so that’s pushed our songwriting, live set and recordings. We want to be at least as good as the bands that are exceptional to us. We see some bands and think wow! So we don’t do things by halves.
Have you found touring to be more of a scheduled and disciplined affair or something of an extended party and jam session?
It’s a bit of both really. The geographic space between shows means we sort of just go out on weekends and come home in between so it’s not that romantic view of jumping in a bus for six weeks on the road. So, in a way it’s disciplined as we plan our road trips for each weekend when we’re “on tour”, but then as it’s the weekend we want to let loose a bit and party at these shows away from home!
Going from punters attending gigs to being on stage performing, what have you taken from this transition that makes its way on stage?
We just make sure we’re presenting ourselves the way we would want to see a band. We always work on set order and make sure there’s a bit of a story going on. That it has a beginning, middle and end. We work on the presentation on stage making sure each show has lights which we bring and we always go mental. We’d feel bad if people paid money or came out to see us and got a poor show. Or at least got a show that we didn’t try our hardest in. We’re very considerate like that 😉
How would you describe your new album to those who are unfamiliar with Pretty City?
We began as more of a shoegaze band and then entered into more psych and straight up rock. So the album has touches of everything we’ve done on it. The great thing is that they all sit well with each other. The album is dynamic and in the same way that we try to have a story in our live set, the album too has a bit of a story.
What have been some of your memorable gigs to date and why?
Playing the Corner Hotel earlier this year was amazing. It’s a stage I’ve seen so many of my favourite bands play at – to then play on the stage was pretty exciting. Even better, the people there seemed to really enjoy our set, which is icing on the cake. We were supporting this band from the UK called Jesus Jones who were big in the early 90s. I think our sounds fit together really well. Their bass player loved us. Took lots of happy snaps and asked to buy our CD after the show.
It’s one thing to play a show at a venue but doing a month long residency as you are about to do takes on a different complexion, how will you be approaching this? Will the shows be uniform for the sake of consistency or deliberately different to try and get the punters back through the door for four weeks straight?
Like every show, we’re going to give it our all. We’re gonna try new things and play different sets at each. But with that we’re going to make it a bit like a party. DJ-ing between bands and after our show. Plus we’re bringing some mates from our fav bands in Melbourne and Geelong to do some DJ sets too. So it’s going to be fun!
Any names that you can drop regarding the DJ sets?
Not yet, we want it to be a surprise!
What does music give you that nothing else does?
It’s really exciting to be able to write a song with some mates that makes us so excited that we’re compelled to show the song to people. To then have your mates in the audience get excited by the same music you wrote that got you so excited is amazing. There’s nothing like it in the world. You feel connected to the people who you created the song with you and then the audience who fall in love with it. It’s like having children that then everyone adopts and has some sort of ownership over.
In forming and sustaining a band there has to be a strong vision for what you want to achieve and how you set about doing it, is there something of a mission statement for Pretty City?
In many ways a band is like a small business. But more than anything we work towards the common goal of creation. Creating songs, creating gigs, creating recordings, creating an image. Every aspect of the band is creation and it’s great being able to not only do that but have it appreciated by our friends and fans.
If you could be on the bill for one international festival, which one would it be and why?
Drew told us once about a festival he went to called Roskilde in Denmark. Sounded pretty wicked. Great bands, amazing sound, amazing scenery. Why not?
Keep up to date with Pretty City on Facebook.
Interview by Courtney Dabb.