Interview: Pretty & NiceBy John Wenzel | April 17th, 2009 | 2 comments
There’s something inherently satisfying about stark contrasts. Sweet and salty? Damaged yet gorgeous? Heavy yet smooth? All good — particularly when one highlights the other.
Pretty & Nice knows this. The 5-year-old Boston quartet is a study in contrasts, slapping complex, considered song structures against wild-eyed performances. Dissonant art-rock chords fit perfectly with fussed-over melodies worthy of Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe. Spastic and sane. Cheeky and no-nonsense.
Drawing inspiration from the aforementioned acts plus latter-day punks Brainiac and Enon, Pretty & Nice released last year’s most bracing debut, “Get Young,” on Sub Pop imprint Hardly Art. The album goes for maximum impact, filling every diamond-hard note with gritty melody and texture. The band also wowed audiences at this year’s South by Southwest festival with breathless performances that proved the record was no fluke.
We spoke with P&N’s Holden Lewis and Jeremy Mendicino in advance of the band’s Sunday show at the Hi-Dive.
Q: I can’t say I’ve ever heard a band quite like you guys. Have you run across any?
Lewis: Not really, and we’re often finding ourselves at odds with whoever we play with. It seems like what we’re doing is pretty simple and pretty regular — we play two guitars, bass and drums. But somehow we don’t sound like many other bands.
Mendicino: I think it’s weird that there aren’t a lot of bands that sound anything like us, which may be an egotistical thing to say. I didn’t feel like we were so unique when we started out.
Q: Was there a lot of planning to make “Get Young” sound the way it does, with so much packed into every little corner?
Mendicino: We went into it with the idea that it would be short, sharp and dry — super, super punchy and sort of tight. People don’t often make records that sound like “Get Young” because they’re not interested in sounding different or outside of the set. We live in pod culture and Pro Tools time, and people are really interested in the classically good sounds.
Lewis: We definitely had a specific idea of what we wanted and that’s pretty much what you hear, except there are more guitars than we wanted originally. We just wanted it to be really snappy and mid-fi with keyboards, but we don’t like the proposition of not being able to hop about the stage like monkeys with our electric guitars.
Q: It seems like a lot of pop bands tend to fear dissonance, even in small amounts, but not you guys.
Mendicino: I don’t hear a lot of recordings that seem like they come from an open mind, besides things like Deerhoof, Grizzly Bear and recent Squarepusher albums. Pop bands aren’t making albums full of pop constructions that are treated disrespectfully. They don’t realize there’s every reason to totally dismantle every idea you have of how everything in your life could be done.
Q: Where did the band name come from?
Lewis: Wherever it came from isn’t important, but it’s two words that mean absolutely nothing to most people. You hear a billion bands names and you have an expectation. But ours doesn’t really bring to mind anything, so it just gets associated with us and the way we sound and what we do.
John Wenzel is the co-editor of Reverb and an arts and entertainment writer for The Denver Post. He recently published the book “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” and edits the Get Real Denver blog.