The Pretty Reckless follow up their stomping debut album Light Me Up with second LP Going To Hellon Monday (March 17th), we sat down the singer Taylor Momsen and guitarist Ben Phillips to talk about their decision to change record labels, how death and Hurricane Sandy derailed their recording sessions and why they look back to the 1960s for their career inspiration.
Are you excited to finally get the album out? It feels like you guys have had to wait a while to release it?
Taylor: "We're so excited to finally have it out, we've been sat on it for a long while, we can't wait to play the songs live and let people hear them."
So when did you actually finish work on the record?
Ben: "Last summer. We started in summer 2012 and we were really cruising right up until Hurricane Sandy, which fucked the whole thing up. We moved studios, worked through the winter, but it took us a few months to patch things back up."
Taylor: "Then we had another tragedy when Kato (Khandwala), our producer, his wife passed away very suddenly. She was a mother figure to us, to the whole band.
Ben: "None of us are over it, the whole last year has been a big healing process."
Taylor: "We went back in after that and did one more track, which is 'Fucked Up World', which is right at the end of the album."
You've just moved record labels, how was the process of finding a new one? Did you talk to lots of people?
Ben: "Of course, you need to be sure that you're going to enter into a productive partnership. This is a very specific project, a very specific band, there's no a lot of bending outside our vision. People need to be cool with that and that's very hard to find, most labels want to bring in hitmakers and that's not the point of this."
Taylor: "We write our own songs, we write our own music, we have a very strong vision about what we are. We're stoked to be where we are now though."
Ben: "It's very cool to be label mates with Marilyn Manson."
Did you ever consider putting it out yourselves?
Ben: "We did, but we're far more focused on the art. When it comes to the business side of the thing, that's a lot of time and effort."
Taylor: "Business and art don't mix well. Not for us."
Ben: "I think George Harrison said it best after The Beatles tried to do their own thing with Apple Records when he said 'All we're really good at is being Beatles'. We need industry partners and great management, which we have, and which is rare. I think you (Taylor) have been managed really well and very supportively."
Taylor: "As far as I'm concerned, if we're not making the art we want to make, then what's the fucking point?"
What led to you and Interscope parting ways?
Taylor: "They're going in a different direction from what we do, we're just getting heavier and heavier, which is not what they want to do."
How do you feel this album moves on from Light Me Up?
Taylor: "It's bolder, it's more mature, most of the first record was written when I was 15 and I've grown up a lot since then. I was a 15-year old girl then, now I'm a 20 year-old woman. I see life from a different perspective, it's heavier, a lot more honest, the production is lot more stripped down, this record captures what we sound like as a live band."
Ben: "We wrote songs with the band in mind this time, that's what happens when you tour with the same guys for two and a half years."
What kind of subjects do you touch on this album? What kind of album is it lyrically?
Taylor: "It's just as personal as the first album, but with a broader scope, grander topics, it talks a bit about social issues, government, touring the world showed me just how fucked up a lot of the world is. The more you listen to the songs, you'll see a couple of big common themes."
You wrote for a long time, how many songs did you wind up with?
Ben: "Quite a few, we have a method of deciding what stays and goes though, you play a song and you ask everyone 'Do you want to be in that band?'. If people say yes, it stays, if no, it gets scrapped. We'd all have all loved to have been in The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Police, so we approach our songs in the same way, the songs have to come from a band you want to be in."
You're about to head out on tour with Fall Out Boy, are you looking forward to that?
Taylor: "We get to play Wembley, we're so stoked."
Ben: "It'll be fantastic, all the venues are pretty big, but we can't wait to play with Fall Out Boy."
Do you enjoy supporting bands?
Ben: "It's a big learning process. It's not as hard as running your own show, but at the same time, Taylor has a great ability to control and move our audience, and obviously when they're not your audience, that's a little bit harder."
Taylor: "We're not trying to sell anything. It's a bit more 'If you like us, you like us, if you don't, wait for the headliner, it's cool'. That's how we look at it."
What would you say the key influences on the new record are?
Ben: "90% British bands, we kind of hark back to the 60s, which was this time when an artist's vision became popular music, that disappeared in the late 70s with disco, and then when rock tries to follow pop, it always falls apart. We look at bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath for inspiration."
Taylor: "I want to move to England one day, we love it here absolutely."
How do you feel you stand apart from bands today?
Taylor: "A lot of the music that's on the radio is very formulaic, and we try not to do that."
Ben: "How many songs on the radio could be interchanged between artists? So many. Commercial music right now is made by committee, it's a factory system and that's all commercial radio will play."
Taylor: "Hopefully this record will show how different we are from all that and provide some kind of alternative."