Editor’s Note: We try to refrain from first-person blog-style pieces on THE BOMBER JACKET. There are reasons behind this decision that we don’t need to explain now, but here is an immediate heads-up: This article is going to be a first-person, blog-style piece. Yeah!
The New York University Journalism Handbook For Students (haha) defines a conflict of interest in journalism as “situations in which there are competing professional, personal and/or financial obligations or interests that compete with the journalist’s obligation to his outlet and audience.” The handbook further states, “Most newspapers bar reporters from writing about, or including quotes from friends or family members, although there may be some exceptions, if the reporter is open about it.”
It is necessary to preface this article with this particular point so that readers can be aware there is a conflict of interest here. I’ve known Pretty & Nice for five years now. To write about the band and their third album that they’re releasing today, without acknowledging our connection or the things about them that inspire me to work in the industry, that would mean I’d have to omit majorly meaningful details. Why would I not want to share such details with readers?
I first heard about Pretty & Nice while working for my college radio station (WTBU, Boston University) and learning about local bands in Boston. I grew to know the band over the course of my studies and booked them shows in Boston a few times. We grew to have a strong respect for each other professionally–me, as a radio DJ and curator, and the band, as a promising talent that was/is one of the defining sounds of Boston.
At the time I didn’t understand what it entailed for the post-college musicians to hop on nation-wide tours in support of an album (they had just released Get Young through Hardly Art). Getting to know the guys provided me a glimpse of what it was like for young bands to go after an audience and discover the “indie” community of the 2000s. I witnessed some of their highs and lows and still remained in close touch with them when I moved abroad for a couple years.
I remember spending summer evenings hanging out with the guys, in awe of Jeremy’s understanding of musical instruments, Roger’s affable personality and undying passion, and Holden’s knowledge of the classic records that any aficionado needs to know by heart. It was fascinating to see P&N spend hours on parts of songs that, to a naked and unpracticed human ear, might sound basic and simply “poppy.”
P&N fans eventually discover that there is more behind each line of the band’s music; it was through getting to know Holden and Jeremy that I spent more time listening to their music and breaking down what initially honestly seemed to me like simple pop songs.
Consider the band’s biggest single, “Tora Tora Tora,” or the brilliantly vibrant track, “Solar Energy.” These songs, at first listen, manage to capture the listener without overcomplicating things, introducing jarring structure, or giving too much away lyrically. With more listens, the songs unveil intricate sections that aren’t necessarily noticeable or accessible the first time around.
Personally, I had issues with Pretty & Nice’s vague, sometimes sarcastic lyrics. I wanted them to be more connected to their words and express feelings directly to their fans. When I voiced this to Holden once, he said something like, “That would be the easy thing to do, wouldn’t it be?” and I didn’t get it. But after studying their songwriting more intently, I got it. It’s as if it is too easy to speak obviously about a failing relationship or the feeling of love. There’s more about life that’s worth discovering, and there are smarter ways to use the English language (listen to the track “Hyena,” for example). So even when the bands writes about a romantic interest, there’s still a refined mystery to their words (“Peekaboo” manages this), and that is one place where their artistry shines.
All song technicalities aside, another aspect of Pretty & Nice that writers cannot forget to mention is the band’s live energy. If you just “like” one of their recorded songs, you will “love” it live. That’s how the band works. They love their music as much as their fans do, so they give their all at live shows, and never (or, seldomly–I haven’t seen every show) appear as if they don’t love what they’re doing. This helps them stand out during an era when there are handfuls of good shows to see in major cities every night–many of which feature bands that look as if they could care less about playing on stage. That’s not the kind of energy you get at a P&N show.
Since I became a fan of Pretty & Nice, the band has released Fantastic Artifact (a 7″ on Black Bell Records), US YOU ALL WE (a self-released EP), and most recently Q_Q (another 7″, this time on Equal Vision Records). Today, April 30, the group is releasing its third full-length record, Golden Rules For Golden People (Equal Vision Records). The release is many years in the making; old P&N fans surely know some of the songs by heart. Although the band’s exact feelings and artistic intentions are still kept semi-secret beneath the ambiguous nature of the album’s lyrics, the album’s title and the song “Golden Rules” speak loud enough to show that the guys know their sound now, and know the road they had to take to get to where they are. The 11 tracks of the record sound complete together. If that’s not empowering, then you’re reading words from the wrong website.
Video by Lambkini
Choice tracks from Golden Rules For Golden People are “Stallion & Mare,” “New Czar,” “Q_Q,” “Money Music,” and “Golden Rules.”
Stream the album in full here.
Buy the album here.
Follow their tour dates here.