I've got audio for this one, but the band members ask that I only post the transcript.
Nichole Bennett vs. Pretty & Nice
New Brookland Tavern Columbia, SC
May 11, 2009
Nichole Bennett: This is Nichole, and I am here at New Brookland Tavern with a couple members of a band called Pretty & Nice.
Jeremy Mendicino: Hi, I’m Jeremy.
Holden Lewis: I’m Holden, the other one.
NB: Alright, we’ll start off the bat talking about what hit people. I think a lot of people got introduced to you guys on this latest album. You guys fit a lot of sound space? Your secret?
JM: We have a machine that takes large sounds and compacts them.
HL: We call it our Music Crammer.
NB: Music Crammer. I knew it. I knew there was a secret.
HL: Or MC.
JM: A supa-MC.
NB: And at the same time, it’s not too sugary and not too in-your-face antagonistic. And one of the biggest labels from everybody that has written about you has been “pop.” For some bands, this is a bad word. For some bands, they’re okay. Pop has become a sort of vague thing. I didn’t know how you guys felt about being labeled that way.
JM: It’s a word.
HL: We were probably the first ones to use that, to call ourselves that. Unfortunately most people associate “pop” with Brittany and not The Beatles.
JM: And not Justin you mean? We’re more Justin than Brittany, it’s true.
HL: So no, the answer would be that we do not despise that.
JM: We don’t dislike any word really. We’re word acceptors. We’re word crunchers. It’s a by-product of the Music Crammer.
NB: It really encompasses more. It’s almost ironic sometimes to say pop.
JM: Well, we don’t use it ironically. We are a hyper-ironic band.
NB: Post-post ironic. Pretty & Nice.
JM: Yeah, I hadn’t seen the term post-irony written before I said it. Maybe I came up with it, but you just used it so…
NB: It’s a good word.
JM: We’re post-ironic pop…junk. It’s like if you have too much information, and you try to spew out a cohesive sentence, it either rambles or it’s just entirely off topic. That’s our music. It’s either rambling or entirely off topic.
NB: I like that. So, if you were to make your sound into a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would you make?
HL: Oh God.
NB: If you hate sandwiches, you can do a wrap or something.
JM: If our music was a sandwich, what sandwich would it be?
JM: That’s hard. That’s easy, actually. It would be peanut butter and jelly with something inside, like chips…with chips inside of it.
HL: Crunchy peanut butter. And on toast.
JM: Toasted peanut butter and jelly with chips in the middle.
NB: We’re getting specific. What kind of bread?
HL: A simple wheat,
JM: You know how Fry Hoppers makes a country white?
HL: Oh yeah, that’d be good. Canadian white or country white…a thicker white bread.
JM: A thicker white bread so that when you toasted it, it doesn’t get all flimsy. I like to think that our music isn’t flimsy.
NB: I wouldn’t say so. You have an almost-familiar sound, like something that people forgot they liked and it comes up. And I know you guys have always been barraged with “You sound like this person…you sound like this person.” Probably another one of those questions that you guys hate having. I guess as far as your sound, has it been something you’ve planned or has it just happened organically?
JM: It’s pretty organic for the most part. The songs are written independently of the recording style. Often, we will go into making a record with certain concepts in mind, if not actual audio concepts then vague overarching, nonmusical concepts.
HL: Yeah context and feeling.
JM: Oftentimes a song will be written organically. We’ll kind of mash things around and edit things up. Holden will write some weird part that will go in the middle. And then, there’s it’s done…it’s a song. When we get to recording, it takes on a more specific personality.
NB: Do you guys tweak things a lot? I know you spent six months on this last one, was it? Is that true?
HL: Six or seven, yeah.
JM: It depends on what you mean by tweaking. When we have an idea, it is dedicated to tape. We don’t record everything clean and then decide what we want it to sound like later. It’s a very organic process insomuch that we make decisions on the fly, and they are printed to tape. And they are stuck…we’re stuck with it. If something ends up not working a month later, then we just get rid of it. So something that was once a cornerstone goes away, and everything on top of it is sitting on top of nothing.
NB: I think people can hear that when they listen to the album.
JM: There are parts of the record where things will just get yanked out of the mix and everything else just hovers above it. We’re not scared of excess. Not like Broken Social Scene excess. Not like 117 tracks excess. Not like My Bloody Valentine fucking excess. But if we have an idea, we’ll push it and push it and push it until it’s like way the fuck over the line. We like where things sit when they are over the line.
NB: If you could replace your arms with anything, what would it be?
JM: Robotic arms.
HL: Oh, one tentacle with suckers on it.
NB: Left or right?
HL: That would be my left arm, and then the right one…that’s tough.
JM: Soft robotic arms, I’m revising.
NB: Like cushioned? Or people-like?
JM: Like bionic arms. Red-velvet coated bionic arms.
HL: My right one would just have a shoe at the end of it.
JM: A tentacle and an arm with a shoe?
HL: Yeah, it would be a normal arm. I would just wear a shoe on the end of it.
JM: He’d replace his arm with that of another person.
HL: I do it already, and I like it so much. It’s worked so well.
NB: So your recording process, we were talking a little bit about it earlier…I’ve heard, and I want you guys to confirm it was all analog right?
NB: And also I’ve heard you use a lot of interesting equipment…junk.
HL: Yeah, we buy a lot of cheap guitars, cheap amps, and cheap keyboards. You know, kind of junky stuff and then play with it until it sounds nice.
NB: I like the sounds that come out of it.
JM: It’s cheap gear. It’s expensive gear. It’s analog. Certainly there are a lot of sounds that originate from digital sources. It’s a combo of everything.
NB: You guys have this basement lair in Boston.
JM: The last record was definitely recorded in a basement. Maybe for the next record we’ll venture out of the basement into the living room.
NB: You guys have such a more expansive sound. It’s almost like you made this one in a room with windows or something.
JM: Yeah, that’s honestly, literally what might happen. It might actually sound a little larger sometimes. And those moments would have been moments that would have been captured there.
NB: You’ll have all of the reviewers all over that. They’ll love that. So, you guys tour quite a bit.
HL: We try to. We didn’t for a while after the record came out and while we were working on it and that was kind of frustrating, but now we are. We have lots of tours going on.
JM: And no time to record.
NB: So if you could replace your tour van with a dinosaur, which one would you choose? Or you can keep your van as is.
JM: Our van is a cross between a raptor…
HL: I think a stegosaurus.
JM: It’s got a little bit of a raptor feel in the paint job, and it’s sort of a stegosaurus shape. But it also might just be a cockroach. They’re dinosaurs.
NB: Yeah, they’re dinosaurs. I guess. And you said originally it was tough touring all the time?
HL: Oh no, it was tough not touring. We were frustrated that we weren’t out more.
JM: Either we feel landlocked and bored, or we feel over-toured, like we’re getting nothing done but driving from city to city. It’s twelve one, half a dozen the other.
HL: Ebb and flow.
NB: Any fun stuff to keep you occupied while you drive around?
HL: We’ve played Yahtzee a little bit for the past couple of days.
JM: I listen to music. I can’t read because I get carsick, and I don’t like playing Yahtzee.
HL: My mom got me a gameboy.
NB: Oh man.
HL: We were watching The Venture Brothers for a day.
JM: We watched the entire first season in an evening.
NB: My favorite cartoon ever. So, I think Holden called me when you were doing press stuff for radio, and you were walking dogs.
HL: Oh yeah, cool.
NB: So, do you guys still have day jobs?
JM: Not at the moment.
HL: Yes and no. I might start doing that again a little bit in the middle of the summer, but I won’t for the next month and a half because we are touring and taking care of other business and family stuff. I think in the next two months, we’ll each be home for like a week and a half.
NB: I always find it fascinating when people have real lives outside of magical tour lives.
JM: Yeah, we’ll get some home stuff done. The intricacies of our schedules are really boring.
HL: We use the g calendar though.
NB: Yeah, I didn’t have a computer for a day, and I missed everything. So, your website says, that with every purchase, you get free pins and loveletters. Is that true?
HL: Um, it was true.
JM: When did we not?
HL: We haven’t been sending out the love letters as much.
JM: The love letters happen specially when you request them. But there are some people that we just don’t love. And we’re not liars.
NB: Yeah, I wasn’t sure if there were ranges of love.
HL: There are definitely ranges of love. Why shouldn’t there be? Should we love everyone equally? We’re not God.
JM: When Gorbachev ordered that T-shirt, I didn’t send a love letter with that one.
NB: Touching on the day job stuff…since this last album, you guys have been getting a lot more press. Has that changed anything?
HL: Some. Sometimes.
JM: I’ve changed my underwear.
NB: That’s good.
HL: Touring’s a little easier.
NB: Yeah, I imagine that getting booked is a little easier.
HL: Yeah, getting booked is a lot easier.
JM: Yeah, that’s it. It’s getting booked. There’s a notoriety that we’ve gained since the last record. But I wouldn’t say that anything else is going much easier.
HL: We haven’t exploded or anything like that.
JM: I’ve exploded.
HL: We only explode at each other, occasionally. But we’re still just a little hard-working band.
NB: And I’ll leave you with one question. If you could be any animal, what would you be? And possibly why.
HL: I’d be a dolphin. They swim and have fun all the time, and they’re pretty smart.
JM: I don’t know. I’d probably want to be a wolf. Like a timber wolf.
HL: Be a malamute, those things are huge.
JM: No, I just want to be a spry, mean. So I’d want to be a wolf still, though. And I’d have lots of wolf sex in the timbers.
HL: But they wouldn’t be having sex for fun because only dolphins do that.
NB: Bonobos…the chimps do.
HL: I thought that was more of a socialization thing.
JM: Yeah, that’s for fun. Any animal that has hot sex—that’s what I’d be. Because I just love the hot sex.