Track By Track With…Pretty City

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Fresh from a SXSW appearance, psyche rock trio Pretty City are back in Australia to release their long anticipated debut album Colorize.

Ahead of a Melbourne launch this Saturday, Johnny Rock put together a track by track for us!

1. Melt

Melt opens the album. It’s a big expansive and immersive number that we felt really captured everything we do really well. Plus it’s a banger! Driving beat, washy atmospheric guitars and vocals, heavy yet dancey all on one song! It has a bit of a Manchester, hacienda vibe to it. I remember when Hugh brought in a demo of the song to rehearsal one day. I think we’d been writing some pretty heavy rocky guitar numbers around that time so this seemed to come out of left field. Hugh had the verses and what became the pre-chorus written and just repeated it and kept it rolling along like that. It was immediately likeable and had that 90s club feel, but I think after a few passes I demanded another change in there. I came up with the chords for the chorus pretty quickly and the backing vocals are just really a reprise of the guitar riff I play during the verses. I think the fact it fit so seamlessly and we had a song written in less than half an hour is a testament to how effortless and enjoyable the song is for us. We never changed the structure since that afternoon and it’s always a joy to play. It came out sounding great on the record too. We layered a million guitars on it to exaggerate the washy atmospheric nature of the song. It was great fun recording it at Echidna studios which is way out in northern Victoria bushland. The scenery definitely helped us capture what we wanted on the song.

2. Running Around

This song is my favourite on the record although I’ll have to admit until we recorded it, it was my least favourite song. When we played it live it never seemed to hit the mark for me. It was written after we had done the bulk of the recording too so was initially left off the album all together. The only reason it made it on was because we had a problem with the recording of Mary Go Round. We couldn’t finish it at Echidna so booked another day at Soundpark Studios in Northcote to get it done. It was only because we had booked the extra recording time that we ended up giving Running Around a shot. I wasn’t too into though. And in fact didn’t really have my guitar parts properly written. Partly cause it was new and partly because I really hadn’t got my head around it. But something in the studio clicked for me and while we were doing sound checks and playing through the song, I had a lightbulb moment and wrote all my guitar bits in one go. We then did a couple of takes and it was in the bag. From then on I was in love. The mixing of the song was effortless too. We had a couple of notes for our engineer and he sent it back and it was perfect. That normally never happens! We usually argue forever about mixes!

3. Mary Go Round

This song was a huge crowd favourite and we really wanted to release it as a single. We tried recording this first at Echidna Studios thinking we’ll bash it out in a few takes. How wrong we were. For some reason the easiest song live was a nightmare in the studio. Hugh seemed to play behind the beat, I played ahead of the beat and Drew was bang on the beat leaving a mess of song at the end. We also struggled with the intro which seemed to muck us about with the speed as we started slower and then sped up considerably. We attempted it a few times over the week we were at Echidna and abandoned it, booking more studio time in Melbourne to try again. By this time though we were all very anxious about this song. And after a few takes at Soundpark we were having similar problems. The only respite was recording Running Around at the same day which went excellently and put us all in a better mood. Then Beau, our booker, called asking if we wanted to play a show that night with Tequila Mockingbyrd at The Retreat Hotel around the corner. We needed the cash, but it was already late, we didn’t have a good take of Mary Go Round and Drew was suffering from a pretty nasty head cold and was exhausted from a day of recording. So what did we do? We played the gig! We nearly killed Drew but the gig shook out any nerves we had and we went back into the studio at 11pm and finished the song. Then a few weeks later we just did some fancy edits cutting out the intro we normally do live and just replacing it with a chorus. It exploded out of the gates then! And the rest as they say is history!

4. Second Hand Clothes

This song came into existence in the green room at Sydney’s World bar. We were playing a show at Mum club night with a local band called Taking Berlin. We were sitting upstairs in the band room while they were playing and Hugh and I just picked up guitars and started strumming along to Taking Berlins set. Something made Hugh’s ears prick up and we ended up writing the verse and recording it on our phones there and then. Hugh went away and came back with the huge sweeping guitar riffs at the end of the verses and a chorus and it was sounding great. But when I played the little riff in the intro everyone went, “YEP, that’s it!” I thought it sounded like Melbourne 90s band Even, but really it just has a 60s psych rock feel which is how Even always sounded at their best. Heaps fun to play live and recorded great. I think we recorded a bunch of tambourines which got lost somewhere along the way and we never figured out what happened to them. If anyone finds them let us know!

5. Deft

Recording is not a spectator sport. Really the engineer is 100% focused the whole time while musicians come in and out doing annoying things due to boredom that don’t help and occasionally play instruments. However you can get away with a lot early on before exhaustion sets in. After the first day of recording at Echidna Drew and I went to bed early, expecting long days ahead. But Hugh, living on instant coffee and Mars Bars pods had other plans. He’d written this little piano thing and while we weren’t around to tell him to stop wasting studio time, and Nik our engineer wasn’t exhausted enough to stop him, he stayed up and recorded it. The next morning we woke up to this cool little ditty. At first we didn’t know what to do with it, but when it came to sequencing the album it found a perfect home before Part of Your Crowd.

6. Part of Your Crowd

This was the first song Hugh ever sent me and Drew when he was scouting for people to form a new band with. The original demo was so good we ended up releasing it as our first single. But Drew and I never got to play on it. And thus the world never got to hear our contributions to the song we added when we played it live. So it was great to finally bash this out and get the definitive version out there. We used to always have it second in the set and it always got people dancing. It has a Joy Division kinda vibe to it I think, so I always see people dancing to it like it’s early 80s England.

7. Fun Machine

This song it pretty mega. And I’m surprised it lasted so long in the set really. We had been bashing it out for years and had a million different versions of it. Sometimes it would work great live and other times it didn’t. For some reason though, when other songs would have been sent to the scrap heap, this one had enough going on for it that we never abandoned it completely. I like to think it was my killer little solo in the bridge that kept its fire alight. We eventually got the structure down pretty solid, but I remember thinking the end of the song seemed to drag and was a drag to play. I didn’t have the endurance for it. So we ended up dropping out in the second last chorus which gave us and the song a little bit of a breath before we came back in and exploded out into the last chorus. It worked great and felt so much better to play after that. Only problems we had recording it was my little riff in the beginning. It never seemed to be in time and was out for like a millisecond. Most people would never hear it but it became the ONLY thing I could hear. To try and fix it we rerecorded it, nudged it, chopped it up, but nothing worked. In the end I think at the 11th hour I asked Nik our engineer to just fade me in cause I couldn’t face it going out to the world being out of time by a millisecond. You can thank me later.

8. Feel the Colour

This was another old song that was a huge live favourite that we were desperate to release as a single but never got around to it. It had a few false starts as we tried to record it a few times at Hot House but never feeling happy with it. We used to always play it second last in the set and it always got people dancing. There was one time at World bar when we played it and everyone was so sweaty and going so nuts that the walls were literally dripping. I do a killer solo in it too which I love playing. I remember once we were playing our mate, Von Stache’s EP launch in Geelong and played it for sound check. We were playing the Barwon club, which is really just a footy pub. The front bar is full of footy fans who don’t venture too far away from the TV screens. We were in the band room at the back and just bashed out the song for sound check and when we were done there were applause! We turned around and half the front bar had come in to see us, drawn in presumably by how great a song it was. You know you’ve got a banger when you can draw footy fans away from Friday night footy!

9. Leave it Alone

This was a song that Hugh just brought into rehearsal one day out of the blue. It has a great riff and is always fun to play. Stoner and heavy, I think it draws out our inner Black Sabbath.

10. Feeding Frenzy

This is another little creation the Hugh did while high on instant coffee and Mars Bar Pods. It’s Melt played in reverse and cut up and sped up and generally just mucked about with. It sounded great and in true 1970’s “If you play it backwards it sounds like worship Satan,” fashion, it sounds like Hugh is singing “Feeding Frenzy”.

11. Ignoring My Friends

This was the second track that Hugh sent Drew and I after Part of Your Crowd and like Part of Your Crowd, we released the demo as a single and the world never got to hear our parts on it. We recorded this pretty late one night, late in the recording process too and I think everyone was a bit tired and thinking it was a pretty old song and we probably shouldn’t waste our time recording it. But I was pretty insistent that it would work. After a few takes everyone fell in love with it again. It sounded so beautiful and gentle that we had to put it on the album. And it being one of the first singles we released it seemed fitting having it end our debut album. It’s like revisiting the past before heading into the future. And it’s a nice resolve to end on after we hit you over the head for over half an hour with blistering rock 😉

Pretty City launch Colorize at The Workers Club on Saturday April 30th. They’ll be supported by Hedgefund and The Destrends. Tickets Pre – $12 + BF / Door $15.

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