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Pretty Girls Make Graves

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Andrea Zollo und Derek Fudesco, am: 26.08.2003 ]

Ein Album wie "The New Romance" hätte ich von Pretty Girls Make Graves ehrlich gesagt nicht erwartet. Nach ihrem schon sehr respektablen Debütalbum "Good Health" auf Lookout hat die Band in Form von Matador jetzt ein neues Zuhause gefunden und liefert gleich ihr mit Abstand reifstes, vielseitigstes und bestes Album bis dato ab. Man rückt etwas von den engen musikalischen Grenzen der Vergangenheit ab und entdeckt ganz neue künstlerische Mö¶glichkeiten, die sich auf "The New Romance" zu jeder Zeit widerspiegeln. Ich sprach mit Sängerin Andrea und Bassist Derek über Produzenten, Seattle und Frauen in Bands. The New Romance, bitte schön.

 

Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about your relationship with the Blood Brothers. I believe you are not touring with them for the first time.

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: This is actually our second tour with them. They are just really good friends from Seattle and we really like their band. We did a tour in the States and we talked about touring in Europe together and it finally came up. It was the perfect opportunity, we both were planning on going around the same time, so we just made the tour happen.
Andrea: We have know each other for a long time like eight years maybe. But they were really young and they are still very young. But they were very, very young when we met them.

Musicscan: Any good tour stories yet?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: It is probably too early in the tour, it is only the fourth show. I think we will have some good stories, though.

Musicscan: How does the songwriting process in PGMG work? Is there one major songwriter or do all members contribute equally?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: Yes, we all write songs. Basically what happens is, we get into the practice space and play for a couple of hours and we record everything. Some days something good will come out and we will focus on it and turn it into something. And sometimes nothing happens. It rarely happens that someone comes in and says "I have this". It is usually just a mish-mash of everyone. We would just be playing and one thing will work and it will get everyone to do different stuff around it and then it will change it and then finally it becomes something else. After we have finished the song, we give it to Andrea and she completely changes it and adds all the melodies and vocals and makes it her own.
Andrea: It is easier for me to work at home and not at practice, but I will still come to practice and listen and I am there for most of the songwriting. I give input on it.

Musicscan: Isn't there a lot of conflict and fighting involved in such a process?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: There used to be a lot more. Because everybody has such an equal say and in the songwriting there is no strong person. Well it is not like there is not strong person, there is five strong people who all want their ideas to be realized.
Derek: In our old bands, we were all the one person in the band that did most of the writing and that pushed our influences. So it is funny now to have all five of us in one band. Writing the first record we fought all the time and every song came out of a huge fight. With this one we have learned how to work as a band and step back. The focus is on something else, instead of battle with it or play over the top of it, it is now time to step back. This is what this new record is all about. It is about letting it breathe.
Andrea: Writing songs takes a lot longer for us than other bands, because we have to hash it out and rethink it. Everybody has to get their say and be ok with it. Nothing quick ever comes out of the band. I wanted to do a cover song and we have been a band for almost three years and we have never done one because none of us can agree on a single song. Not one.
Derek: We just did a Peel Session and we seriously spent four hours trying to come up with one song we could agree on to do the Peel Session. And then we didn't do any of them. We actually finally agreed on one, but then at the last minute it didn't work.
Andrea: That was me baffling going "ok, I will to do it, because we are never going to cover a song otherwise". And really it wouldn't have been a good cover song and we didn't do it anyway, so we didn't have time.

Musicscan: Were you friends before you were in the band or did you just become friends as a band?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: I was friends with Andrea, Nick and I sort of knew Nathan, but I wasn't friends with him and I didn't know Jay at all. You knew Nick.
Andrea: Yeah, distantly. I knew his older brothers before him. So Nick and Nathan were both just sort of acquaintances and I didn't know Jay at all. I just got to know him by playing together.

Musicscan: Did you all pretty much come from the same musical background?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: We were pretty much, but our bands never really played together. Nick came on tour with my old band and that was when we decided that we were going to start a band. Jay had just moved to down and I knew of him, but I didn't know him.

Musicscan: Andrea, what is it like for you to play in a band with four guys and still play a predominantly male scene?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: It is definitely hard sometimes. It is not so hard to be in a band with four guys, but being in a music scene that is definitely male dominated is hard and I like to play with as many other bands that have women musicians in them as possible. When we come overseas I don't know a lot, I don't know the music scene here. So I try to make that happen as often as possible, but since it is a predominantly male scene I have less choices and less options.

Musicscan: Do you think things have changed for the better in the last couple of years?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: It is hard to say because in any bands that I have ever been in before, previous to this band, there have always been more women around in the other bands that we have played with and I don't know if that is just because of that musical scene maybe was more closed. Maybe because it was more of an underground punk scene maybe it was more liberated because of that. But actually the music scene as a whole isn't like that, just maybe the underground punk scene in Seattle is pretty liberated that way. It sometimes almost feels like it is going backwards, but I don't think it has. It is just that I am involved in a different scene now or I am just experiencing playing in a different, bigger, broader scene. So maybe there wasn't as much progress as I had thought there was in the beginning.
Derek: We are a bit spoiled from the Northwest, being so close to Olympia where there are really a lot of women in bands...
Andrea: And generally involved in music, promoting photography, playing in bands, everything. We are spoiled for sure. This trip is harder for me, because I am overseas and I am the only girl out of 14 guys instead of five guys and since we are in another country, I don't have my friends in every city who I get to see. So it is even a little more isolating than normal.

Musicscan: Has that made you more aware of women's issues, being the only woman around at times?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: I don't think it has made me any more aware of women's issues than I am already. It does surprise me, though, about how often we will play a show somewhere and I will be the only woman on the whole bill. That is so weird to me, that is really strange. That seems to happen a lot even within the last year just by chance. I am always wondering if someone else notices that this is weird. Doesn't this seem a little weird? I don't know. I wonder if other people notice it as much as I do.

Musicscan: You just mentioned Seattle and I was wondering if you think that the Seattle has an impact on you as people and your music? Would you say you'd sound differently if you came from Houston, Texas for instance?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: I am the only one who is really from Seattle. Everyone else just transplanted there not that long ago.
Derek: I think it has an effect on the songs we write depending on the time of the year. There is really no way to not affect you. It is really gray there and you sometimes go for three months without seeing the sun at all. Everyone I know is depressed, most people I know are on anti-depressants. I moved there from somewhere else and it took about a year but then it really changed me.
Andrea: A lot of people move there frequently and then end up getting depressed for the first time their lives and they have never dealt with it and they don't know why. And I am mostly just like "join the crowd, that is just how it is around here". A lot of people suffer from seasonal depression, because it doesn't rain a lot, it just sort of dark and a lack of light through a big junk of the year. A lot of people that have heard our new album that is going to come out next month, mentioned that they think it sounds a little darker than our last album. I think that is because we wrote it all winter long. So I think it was nothing intentional at all, it didn't mean to be that way, but I am sure we it would have been a different album had we been writing it through the summer.

Musicscan: I think the lyrics reflect that, too.

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: Yes, probably so.

Musicscan: Do you think that now you being on Matador that you are able to reach a new crowd, new people that are not necessarily only indie and punk kids, but all kinds of people?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: This is probably going to sound pretty shitty, but I think a lot of people wrote us off in the beginning. One thing I have noticed is, people in Seattle alone that would have never listened to our band or checked out our band but because we are on Matador made them want to hear us or made them not write us off as an emo band on Lookout Records or just another emo hardcore band or something like that. Matador has that ability to transcend genres.
Andrea: No disrespect to Lookout by any means. But if anything, I think being on Lookout almost hurt us in a weird way if someone had never heard us before, because they would just associate it with a very specific sound and we don't really sound like any bands on Lookout. So I think a lot of people never gave us a listen, because they would assume we are just another Lookout type pop punk band or something.

Musicscan: How did you get in touch with them? Did you send them something or did they approach you?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: They contacted us. They e-mailed us, which is just really exciting.

Musicscan: Yes, that is rare.

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: I don't know what it is like here, but in the States right now anybody that is playing anything slightly related to hardcore or emo, major labels are all over it. Bands that have been together for a month are getting major label offers. So we were getting all kinds of e-mails from major labels and we would just delete them. We all know how that goes, it is bullshit. All of a sudden we get that e-mail from Matador and we were all like "oh my God, holy shit".
Andrea: And it is cool, because Chris (one of the owners) just wrote us to tell us that he was a fan of "Good Health" our last album that was on Lookout. That was the first time all of us where really excited and really flattered, because it is a label that we all highly respect.
Derek: They never made us an offer either, he would just e-mail us and when we were in New York he would show up and then him an some other people that work at Matador would drive to DC. It was a period of about six months, where it was just like " oh, it was a great show, I am going to be in L.A. I will see you in L.A.". After we played London, we realized that this was where his partner was and as soon as we got home from London, they made us an offer. They waited until Quinn, the other guy, got to see us.

Musicscan: You worked with Phil Ek again like you did on "Good Health". What impact did he have on the record and what is it like working with him?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: He had never heard of our band before we recorded "Good Health" and we really wanted to work with him, mainly because of Les Savy Fav, all of us really like that band and he had just done "Go Forth". We were introduced to him by a friend and we became really good friends with him and after doing "Good Health" we became better friends with him and he would come to our shows and he knew our band. When it came time to record it was like he knows us, he has grown with us for the last year, so let's work with him again. He is very good with helping to get tones and different ideas. He is awesome to work with, he really is.
Andrea: But I find it funny to have people ask us that, because I always think of him as a friend first before a producer. So it is hard to separate it. We just make jokes all day and laugh.
Derek: We were in a horse barn about 45 minutes out in the country from where we lived and we would just cook breakfast and cook lunch and laugh and play stuff and make dumb jokes.
Andrea. We went to movies and stuff when we were not recording. We would just hang out with Phil.

Musicscan: Can he be a hard ass in the studio, too?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: There were a couple times when we budded heads on some ideas. I mean he helped us finish one or two songs where we couldn't agree on what should be longer and what should be shorter and he was like "this song would be better without that ending, or this song would be better with this". We never had something like this before, but we were all completely open to try it.
Andrea: He is a hard ass about singing, though.
Derek: He is not mean, he just goes "it's flat, it's flat, do it again". And it will go on forever. None of us would hear and it sounded perfect to us, but he would go "no, it's flat, do it again."
Andrea: But it is good, because when we recorded "Good Health" we did the whole thing in nine days and it was just so rushed. I worked full-time when we were recording so I would work all day and then come in for the last five hours of the night. And I had to do all the vocals basically within two nights. That was just it, so a lot is flat and does sound...well, it doesn't sound shitty, but it is just for me. I know that it could sound way better, but there was just no time to make it better. Part of it was that we wanted to spend some more time with Phil and really see what he could do, because he really didn't get a chance to show us what he could do so much when we recorded that. It was just so rushed.

Musicscan: I believe you tour quite a bit in the States. Is it possible to maintain relationships back home when you are on the road for that long?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: It is, but it is really hard. It is difficult, because we tour so much. That is probably the only downside of touring that you are missing people back home, close friends and it really is my close few friends are the people that will still be friends even though we can't spend the time together that we need to, but we still remain friends. It widles away the acquaintances and you have to figure out who your close friends are.
Derek. My closest friends live in other cities so I see them more when I tour. My best friends are in the band or live in other cities so in Seattle I have acquaintances. Every city has a lot of bullshit and drama that you get involved with whether or not you want to be involved with it and when you tour you don't. When you come home, you are like "I don't want to hear it, it doesn't concern me, hi how is it going." That is really nice, because that is a lot of wasted energy.

Musicscan: Would you say that is the only downside to being in a touring band?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: For me that is. Close friends and family. For example my grandparents are really sick and they probably won't be alive for much longer and I have to keep worrying if something is going to happen and if I have to cancel the tour and fly back home or something like that. I just wish I could spend more time with them. That is really the only downside, though, I really love touring, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.

Musicscan: Do you get to see the cities that you play?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: On this tour we get to see a lot more, because of the nightliner. On the last tour we had a Sprinter and we would have to drive all day long and we just got to the club and that was it. But this is awesome. We got here at one and we went swimming and then we went into town. It is getting better.
Andrea: Touring is tough, because you are in a different city every day no matter what. So even though we only got to see the city for a couple of hours, it is much more than we got to see last summer. Last time we could only tell you what the club looks like.

Musicscan: When did you realize that music was the thing that you wanted to pursue in life?

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: When I was 15 or 16 I knew it. I had my first band when I was 13 and I didn't know how to play and all my friends were in bands and they were all really talented. I kept asking them if they needed anything, so one time they said that they needed a bassplayer. I didn't even know what a bass was and I went to the store and found out what a bass was and I couldn't play and they humored my for a couple of weeks and then they kicked me out. That just made me want to play more. After my first serious band I went on tour and then I realized that this is what I love. Making something and being able to hold it in your hands. It will be there after I am gone, that is really exciting.
Andrea: When I was 13 or 14, music became as important as it could be. However, I didn't think about playing it or being actively involved in it until I was 17. From then on out, if I wasn't playing music, I was miserable. There were a couple of years where I wasn't playing music and Derek and me kept trying to start the band. He was still in another band and all these different line-ups and nothing was panning out and everything was so miserable at the time. And I was really happy and relieved when it finally worked out with this line-up. I am very thankful and appreciative of it.

Musicscan: How far do you want to take the band? As far as you said, major labels would not be an option for you.

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Andrea: No. Definitely as far as it can go, because just to see what would happen. But the whole major label thing is not a part of music for us anyway.
Derek: The bands that are exciting to me are bands that have a life. They create music that is constantly good and they can tour and live off of their art. But it is not like they have this one hit single and then there is all this pressure to have another single and if they don't their band is wiped out. Major labels have the ability to destroy bands in this really crazy way. The Flaming Lips are a perfect example of something that I would like to see us go in that kind of way where we are making records for a really long time and all the records sound different and we just have our own thing. I want to be able to play music and not work. We all feel really, really lucky to be on Matador, just because that is a label that has the means and the capability to cater to that without all the bullshit that a major label does. They have real music fans working for the label and it is about that. It is about good music and not just selling.

Musicscan: Did you get a lot of shit for the new record? I think it is absolutely great, but it is a lot moodier, darker and more mellow than the older songs.

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Derek: I read some stuff. I am a nerd and get online and read stuff that I probably shouldn't pay attention to. I definitely think that people who were into our first EP and a little bit into "Good Health" will listen to our record and probably not like it at all. But I don't really care about that, I don't make music for those people, for people that complain that there is hardly any screaming on it. I personally think that the songs on the new record are so much better than the last thing we did. I think it will be a big change of the people who like our band, because for every kid was really into it that is a bit weirded out by it now, there is people in our lives that have never listened to our band before who are e-mailing us that they really like the record.
Andrea: It will be interesting to see if there is a crossover of fans of our band that will continue to be fans even when things are morphing in different directions or if it was just a specific sound that they liked. We'll see.

 
 Links:
  Pretty Girls Make Graves
  Matador Records
 
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