Music interview: Pretty City talk SXSW

pretty city

Melbourne’s favourite fuzz rockers Pretty City recently performed at SXSW. We caught up with Drew Schapper from the band to find out all about it: 

Hi and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Something You Said.
My pleasure, thanks for having us.

It’s been a pretty crazy start of the year for Pretty City, a fundraiser event to rustle up the coin for SXSW and playing at the festival itself. Just stepping back for a moment, how was the fundraiser at The Gasometer?
The fundraiser was amazing. We got a really huge turnout and so many people helped out and bought merch, it was really exciting and humbling to see so many people there wanting to help send us overseas.

Was this trip your first time to the States (as Pretty City)?
Yeah, it sure was. Although we’ve toured heaps in Australia, we’ve never toured overseas until now. It was a huge step for us.

The journey there I imagine would be the typical road but one filled with some unusual moments?
The trip over was uneventful enough. Just the standard 24 hours of flying and waiting in airports. The journey home was a different story. Johnny and Hugh headed back straight after the festival, but I stuck around a few extra days. Then on the flight home from Austin, our plane’s left engine blew and we had to make an emergency landing back in Austin. It was very scary, but we had to get on a plane an hour later to make our connection. All our luggage got lost, but we made it, so we’re glad to be home.

It must be something of a vindication of all your hard work be to acknowledged by featuring on the bill for SXSW?
You know what, it really was. We’ve probably been a bit under the radar of late, except we’ve been building a bit of momentum in the States. So it was really exciting that a festival of this size recognised that we’re putting in and creating some music people are digging. Then, when we actually hit the stage, we really just went for it. People responded so well to our music and live show, we actually packed out our official showcase. The venue was at capacity and everyone seemed to be loving it. It was such a cool experience and one that’s given us some confidence going into the year ahead.

Did you approach it the same way you would a Gasometer gig or did you try and pull a lill some’n special outta the bag?
We were really fortunate that we actually got a warm-up gig the day after we arrived. We played a really awesome bar, that was actually outdoors, called Clive’s. That really blew out the cobwebs, so we were really amped to play the following five shows. Our official showcases were both on Wednesday. We played at the convention centre at 7pm, which was genuinely a conference room. It was a pretty sterile environment, and before the gig I wondered what kind of performance we’d dish up. But to the guys’ credit, we went for it so hard. I think we were all pretty hyped up and definitely raised the performance stakes. We then high tailed to our next official showcase around the corner at this cool bar called Tellers. That show reached capacity and they had to turn people away. The adrenaline was pumping and we really threw the kitchen sink at it. Each gig was like that: more energy, more confidence, and just more enjoyment of the fact we were on stage in Austin Texas.

Knowing who else would be on the bill (Australian and international), were there any acts you really wanted to see live and were there any surprise acts that you caught that blew you away?
We played the Aussie Barbecue with Harts, Stonefield, DMAs, Gooch Palms and a stack of others. We were really impressed with the talent on display that day. We especially enjoyed Gooch Palms and Harts. Gooch Palms have such awesome catchy tunes, and they are really talented and super fun. They’re also some of the nicest people going around. We really wanted to see some of the international acts, but we couldn’t get near the big ones. Instead, we just floated around and saw heaps of bands playing in bars and clubs, and were really impressed by some of them. By far the best band we saw all week was an LA band called Nightmare Air. They had a really dark, heavy, expressive sound that was a bit like a Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath, post-Grunge love child. They really impressed us and we totally stalked them. They were such lovely people too.

Any acts that you spent some time with at the bar?
We spent some time at the Aussie BBQ hanging out with Darren and Manny (Harts), which was fun, they’re both lovely dudes. We had a pretty wild night with Dave and Swaan from Nightmare Air too. Dave’s pretty hooked up in the music scene so he took us on an SXSW safari to see all the cool breaking bands. We must have been to at least 10 venues, and saw so many different bands I can’t even remember. It was such a rad night.

Attending SXSW obviously sets you up for some bigger opportunities, is there something in particular you wanted to gleam from this trip abroad?
We met some amazing people and really turned some heads. We’ve definitely proved to ourselves that America would be a great place for us to tour, and met the people that can facilitate that. So we’re definitely keen to get back there and do an extensive tour. We also met some record labels that to follow up on, so hopefully something comes of that. More than anything though, it was just such a fun and amazing experience that we’re all so happy we able to do.

Looking at the overall package of how acts have to present and market themselves these days, are there any techniques; musical, marketing or otherwise that you will try and incorporate into the Pretty City machine?
The conference definitely gave us some great tips on how to market ourselves a bit more effectively. One thing that we’re going to focus on a bit more is the college radio scene in the US. We’ve had a fair bit of play in that system already, but it seems like a great way to get your music heard by a large, music loving audience. That was what I really took from SXSW. I know some people say that it’s overly corporatised, but in our experience, we just met heaps of music lovers who were there to listen to good tunes, drink some beers and meet new people. We absolutely loved it.

What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you guys?
Well, our debut album is coming out at the end of April. We’ve got our album launch at the Workers Club, and then we’ll be hitting the studio to work on album number two, which we’ve got mostly written and ready to go. Then, if all goes to plan, we’ll hit the States later in the year. Should be a busy year!

Thanks for your time!
Thanks so much for having me.

Pretty City play The Worker’s Club on April 30th. To keep up to date with the band, head over to Facebook.



Interview by Courtney Dabb.