Pretty Girls Make Graves, one of the biggest bands to come out of Seattle since the grunge boom in the early ’90s, just released their second full-length album, The New Romance (Matador Records).
Contrary to their somber band name, which is a reference to a song by The Smiths, the band’s music is joyous punk rock, at times earnest and playful. In the upcoming single, “This is Our Emergency,” lead singer Andrea Zollo speaks to the current generation of youth who feel alone in their quest for meaning and offers words of encouragement: “The tiny spark that you create/It can inspire and duplicate.”
Guitarist Nathan Thelen said that Pretty Girls Make Graves is “the soundtrack to the past two years.” Being in the eye of the PGMG storm while making records and touring, he is content to think of their output as “five friends making music” and leave the labeling to the journalists.
The main detectable influence on PGMG is their hometown of Seattle, as the band shares the power-to-the-people ethos of early ’90s Seattle music. However, PGMG’s music doesn’t sound dated at all. The New Romance features intricate production and samples unlike those of any grunge album. While the rich music scene that helped them develop is evident in their music, it’s not a limiting factor. The textured sound of The New Romance is impossible to recreate in a live setting.
“In the studio we’re very studious, making sure we get all of the sounds we wanted on record,” Thelen said. “Live, we’re way more punk rock and we can siphon off the energy of the crowd.” Producer Phil Ek, who has previously worked with the band Built to Spill, aided Pretty Girls Make Graves in the studio. He was a perfect fit for PGMG, Thelen said.
“It’s hard to measure what he brought to the recording,” he said. “He has so many good ideas, so much knowledge, and knows what the songs will sound like sometimes even before we do. I think he’s an underrated producer. He’s fun to work with, and he’s also a friend.”
Ek is currently touring with Built to Spill. Thelen says his band is looking forward to seeing him again and sharing their band’s favorite recreational activity with the producer.
“We’re definitely going to see him. We’ll all probably go swimming together.”
A recently featured MTV2 artist, PGMG will release a video for “This is Our Emergency,” but their career moves aren’t dictated by getting radio or TV airplay. Thelen said he doesn’t mind the music that is on MTV or the radio.
“When we’re driving, there’s a certain type of music that we want to hear on the radio, and that we count on to keep us awake,” Thelen said. “We can listen to Justin Timberlake, but we’re not necessarily that band. We’re a soundtrack for something completely different.”
Thelen said that in his mind there is plenty of room for artists such as PGMG alongside what is commercially popular now, and it has always been that way.
“It seems there are a lot of bands that got a lot of exposure lately, but we’re just going to keep doing things the way that we know how to do it: tour and make records. Whether they (commercial radio and TV) pick up is too touchy and hard for us to care about,” Thelen said.