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Interview: Johnny from ‘Pretty City’


Melbourne fuzz rockers Pretty City are gearing up for a massive year. The trio will hit the states this March to give it their all at the world famous music and arts showcase South by Southwest. They’ll then return down under to launch their debut EP in mid-April. We had a chat with Johnny about the lead up to the big events on their horizon.

First of all, we’re loving your latest singles, in particular MeltThe style has seemed to shift a little from say  Pieces of the puzzleWas it a conscious decision to create something a little darker or was it a natural progression?

It’s a funny thing, song writing we never really think too much about it and songs just sort of come out of thin air and we grab them as they pass. Hugh had Melt demoed as a MP3 on his phone, and straight away I thought it sounded like it had this early primal scream like Happy Mondays kind of vibe. We’re not particularly picky about what the song sounds like as long as we all like it. So if theres ever a song that pops through that we don’t like the sound we just move onto the next thing. So Melt I think certainly for Hugh, kind of fits in with all the stuff he’s been writing, because when he first start the band with me and Drew, he was really channeling a lot of Shoe gaze bands especially a lot of those British early nights late eighties bands, so Melt really fits in with that, but I guess its quite different from Pieces of the Puzzle. Pieces of the Puzzle really came together in a rehearsal so maybe it’s more of the outlier than Melt. We didn’t have anything in particular to rehearse for because we just finished a tour, so it was a rehearsal for shits and giggles and Pieces of the Puzzle just came out of that rehearsal

Your debut album will be released in April, can we expect more dark fuzzy tracks like ‘Melt’ or will there be some wildcards/surprises?

It opens up with Melt so it’s like this nice easy kind of soundscape way to start the album off and it launches from there. There’s lots of room on the album, theres a couple of instrumentals tracks which we don’t play live that we just wrote in the studio. One of them was, Drew and I went to bed early and Hugh was still wanting the tinker around with the engineering so he did some piano overdubs whilst they were fresh in his mind and out of it came this cool little diddy called Drift which is great so thats on the album. Theres another one there that is just bits of off cuts of something else that they, you know, reversed something here then they added a thing there and then it just turned into this weird kind of again, fits with that Melt primal scream vibe, weird sort of electronic mash up thing. So dark and spooky and kind of just floats in and out of the album

This year is already shaping up to be a big one for you guys, especially as you’re playing South-by-South West! Will the showcase festival be your first visit to the states as a band?

Yes it is! Certainly as a band, as we’ve never gone anywhere further than Brisbane actually! Drew just applied last minute, he just got an email saying don’t forget South-by-South West applications close tonight. He bashed out the application, which was quite a straight forward application, which makes it even more humbling that they that we were good enough be apart of it. They judged you on the quality of the band and the music and just based on that it came through. I think we just got an email from a offical SXSW person saying ‘Congratulations’ and you know was over twenty thousand applications. We’re one of two thousand bands overall playing SXSW but only one of I think thirty or forty bands from Australia.

It was really good timing actually because for songs Melt and Running Around, we worked with a publicist in the UK and said “we just want you to show it to everyone you can around the world and spread the net far to see if anyone bites”. We just wanted to branch out from Australia and see if anyone else in the world was digging what we were doing. Out of that we got a lot of spins in New York radio and some blogs, so that really started to spike in New York. Now we’re working with a publicist in New York for the album release and doing a campaign for Melt and Running Around and then SXSW came literally a week after we locked all that in.

Have you guys had interest from labels over there or is the plan to nail your sets and see what happens?

Labels are a funny thing, I mean its not like in the old days of like big major dropping million dollar record deals on bands and stuff. Theres millions of little indie labels and you almost want them to be pushing you more than like that massive majors. We had a couple of little labels contact us an thats how we knew we were getting lots of airplay in New York. They literally heard us on the radio and looked us up but I really think we’re going to be pushing for a booking agent over there because we want to go back and play shows. We’ve got a world wide distribution from our record label through Spotify and iTunes, so unless we were going to release on Vinyl, having a record label would help with that.

Have you planned something different or special for those attending the fundraising show?

Well we’ve got the cassette tapes but I’m making some T-Shirts, some offical USA tour T-Shirts. I wanted to make them look vintage and cheesy. Maybe like an 80’s olympics T-shirt or something. And then just the bands that we’ve got playing which will be heaps fun. I think its going to be a bit of a party, a big celebration and if I get time, I might sneak in and play the new album start to finish.

 The vinyl craze is in full force, but you guys are revisiting the 90’s and have cassettes for sale at your fundraiser event. I’m lucky enough to have a cassette player in my car still! Do you guys all still own cassette players?

I do, I’m the tragic technology hoarder in the band so I’ve got a bunch of cassette players and Walkmans and cassettes. They’re great, they’re heaps of fun and I think its a cool way to release music that is a little bit more tactile and its also cheaper than vinyl

I‘ve read you guys, like many incredible artists, are influence by the late Bowie. As musicians, how did you take Bowies passing?

I was really in shock actually with Bowie, especially because I share a birthday with him, we were both born on the thirtieth of Jan. It’s funny with people like that, you think that they’re going to be around forever, that they’re immortal. But I guess they are in a way. You know he could have disappeared and not released anything and I would have never have thought to myself ‘hang on a minute, is Bowie still alive?’ ‘cause he’s sort of always alive. The characters that he built and the music that he made will always be there because he’s at a standard and like a superstardom that he then becomes immortal. I guess you sort of reach a point in your life where you realise that your music is your life and your legacy. Your physical body is about to die, yet you live on through your music.

Lastly, what’s the three things any Australian MUST do on ‘straya day?

The hottest 100, I think if you’re a music fan having music on is definitely number 1 or whether you go see a band. There’s a lot of bands playing gigs after the hottest 100 or the night before so I think seeing a live band is paramount.

I think just hanging with people, connecting with your family is quite important. I think everyone is concentrating on Australia, but the people are what make Australia so spending time with your family on Australia Day is definitely important.


Pretty City SXSW Fundraiser


Gasometer, Melbourne

Get Tickets HERE