Sickness… Burglary… Mistaken Identity… Losing a band member. All in a year’s work for Seattle’s lo-fi, indie-rockers Pretty Girls Make Graves, who were one of the most exciting bands to emerge in 2003.
musicOMH first tried to interview the band last year to no avail. However, we finally managed to collar founders Andrea Zollo and Derek Fudesco for a chat in Manchester during the band’s recent UK tour, and discussed how it feels for the band to be nearing a pivotal moment in its career.
It’s 10am on a Thursday morning in Poble Espanyol, Barcelona. Witha Primavera Sound Festival appearance in just over 12 hours, DerekFudesco sound checks his bass on the Rockdelux by Lois stage. He toys thenotes to the Pixies’ Gigantic. As he and his band mates head offstage, they are promptly mobbed. “We love the Pixies!” cries one. “Oh my God!” another.
Wrong day kids.
Fudesco and singer Andrea Zollo are in stitches as they recall this bizarre taleof mistaken identity. “We were like wow! People know who we are! We were so boned, but we thought it was actually really hilarious!” exclaims Zollo.
Three months later, the pair are huddled at the bottom of thestairs at Manchester’s Roadhouse. It’s approaching the anniversary ofthe release of their quite brilliant second album The New Romance,capping an extraordinary 12 months that has seen them tour to their wits’and bodies’ end (Zollo was struck down with a bout a fever on their last twoUK tours).
Fidgeting with a plectrum, Fudesco muses on the year that has been: “We had a lot of great stuff happen, but I don’t know, it’s been a tough year. We got our van with all of our equipment stolen (as in pillaged and stripped bare). Nathan (Thelen, guitarist) left the band.”
The quartet (completed by guitarist Jay Clark and drummer Nick Dewitt) shot to notoriety from the relative confines of Seattle’s indie punkscene through a combination of heavy touring, the undeniable genius of TheNew Romance, praise from the music press, confident backing from their label Matador, and some good old-fashioned word of mouth. The band, who take their name from a Smiths song, finally had the stage to really bring their infectious blend of effects-laden melodic punk to the masses.
This all nearly never happened though. The time around their debut album Good Health, released in 2002, was fraught witharguments. And in 2003 things reached boiling point with the band almost splittingbefore The New Romance was written.
“Part of the split had to do with Nathan quitting, because he quitprevious to this” says Zollo. “It was a time after we’d had been touring and touring like mad. We’d been fighting a lot. We were really, really burning ourselves out.”
But luckily their busy life-style on the road led to a positive development within the band. Explains Zollo: “When you tour like that and make music,you become this family – you really have to live with each other. When youdon’t really know each other it puts a really weird twist on things.”
The blossomed camaraderie is now starting to bear fruit, with Fudesco revealing the band have already written their new album. “The real difference with thisrecord is that there are songs on there that each one of us wrote”, he enthuses.Penned during the summer, the untitled album is set to be a more upbeataffair, with the group setting their standards high, ditching a raft ofsongs before rewriting. The message coming from the two is clear: this nextalbum is set to be their most original, diverse work yet.
Indeed if the shift from the economic Good Health to the lusher grandeurof The New Romance was big, these next steps are set to take things to atotally different level. Of the fifteen ‘ideas’ mustered when they enter thestudio this September (once again with Phil Ek, producer of Modest Mouse) fanscan expect greater instrumentation, with electronic songs, tracks with nolive instruments, along with some acoustics and trumpets added to thekeyboards and samples.
“It’ll make sense from The New Romance,” explains Fudesco. “If someonegot Good Health and then listened to the stuff we’re doing now – thatwouldn’t make any sense. It’s kind of a natural progression. But I’m reallyexcited about it. I think the songs are definitely the best songs we have sofar.”
“I’m reallyexcited about it. I think the songs are definitely the best songs we have sofar.” – Derek Fudesco enthuses about their new album that they’ve already written.
While a promising thought, especially on the evidence of the songs airedat the show later, what about the pressures of an album number three and the fans’ expectations? “I don’t feel any pressure at all,” he says shaking his head. “It depends on what point you’ve heard our band. People that hear The New Romance don’t necessarily like Good Health. People who like the EPs don’t like anythingelse that we’ve done. That’s helped us not feel any pressure at all. We justmake our songs and whoever likes it, likes it.”
“It could be totally new people that like the next album,” says Zollo.”We kind of wonder what’s going to happen – if people will like it or not.But I mean we have to always keep it challenging and interesting for us. Soit’ll be interesting to see what the reaction will be.”
With an album to record and three tours before Christmas, the band have a long road ahead of them. After a Christmas break, touring resumes in January before the album hits stores in March, where they get back on the treadmill at full pace once again.
You can sense the excitement brewing in the pair. Their creative drive and glowing enthusiasm for their new material makes PGMG an even more exciting prospect for 2005. The capability is evident in the must-own The New Romance. Can they better it? Who knows. One thing is for certain: this is a band who are moving on to something much bigger, and much brighter.