Melbourne, Australia’s Pretty City have returned with an enormously ambitious rock kaleidoscope of a sophomore album, Cancel the Future, premiering exclusively on Antiquiet today. Pinning down a specific genre for these rockers is a tall order, as they pull influences from everything from Britpop to shoegaze, grunge to psych and beyond. If you’re at a taste intersection between Tame Impala and Foals, you may have just found your new favorite band.
They’ve seen impressive radio success in the U.S. over the past 2 years, reaching as high as #70 on the CMJ charts with their album Colorize in 2016. The band also made several appearances at Canadian Music Week in 2017, and are fresh off a set of shows at this year’s SXSW.
AQ interview with Pretty City vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Hugh Matthews:
What were the biggest differences in your experience between making this album and Colorize?
Colorize carried a sense of naivety & emergence, replete with the jagged edges of an explosive sonic experiment. With Cancel the Future we strove to evoke a more direct discussion of feeling and experience. Lyrics were much more focussed and honest, and the themes were the echoes of our lived experience at that time. The lyrics are filled with our collective angst, insecurities and communication breakdowns, set against simpler, more melodic backdrops. Sonically, we wanted to create a more diverse record, one where each track represented a unique and distinct space inside the album. A track like ‘Television’ is a small, warm space, whereas ‘Nothing Happens For Free’ is a more explosive and muscular expression. ‘Same as Before’ & ‘Flying’ were intended as the album’s horizon line, bringing vastness and air to the record. We built ‘Cancel the Future’ as a consciously diverse experience, filled with different spaces and sonic branches which all unify around recurring concepts of future, ego & destiny.
Your musical tastes and backgrounds are pretty diverse – what was the biggest push/pull of creative force through the writing process for Cancel the Future?
It can be hard to decide whether to play a song live or build it layer by layer. Both techniques were used on Cancel the Future, and we really just let each song tell us what it wanted.
Getting lost became a really important experience whilst making Cancel The Future. Sometimes we would not quite know a new track, and the tiptoeing in the recording would give it its character. Other times we’d get lost in the aggression of a performance and that would be compelling. Then there were many hours spent lost in the layering of multi tracks and loops. We all embraced this feeling of disorientation, swept away in some way. This served the songs and concept of the record well in the recording process.
I can’t get enough of “Boots” – where did that vocal sample come from? How did the track come together?
I’m glad you enjoy it, I like that song too, we often walk onstage to it. The sample is from a film called ‘The Longest Day’, a childhood favourite of mine. I like the sentiment and particularly the tone of the vocal against the synths.
I was feeling quite focussed when I created the song, defiant and on a mission. I was preparing to confront some negative situations and deal with them, to take back some things that belonged to me. The intention behind the track was to express a sense of slow burning tension, and propel the listener through the narrowing of focus, the biting edge and the experience of getting psyched.
I created the sound by blending the film sample, a guitar track, an old iPhone demo and drum loops. I then repeatedly processed it through a cassette 4-track & a digital recorder to achieve a dense & dark tonality.
How do you know when a big-sounding song is finished? Simone seems to capture that feeling of enormity from the onset.
Well with ‘Simone’ I wanted a song that felt both positive & aggressive. We needed to leave it loose and raunchy in the groove, for a little punch & sass. Once it was moving well, we splashed hyper-colour across it in the upper registers and it really burst to life. The band has always sought this type of grungy/silky combination in the sound. When I feel it is being achieved, I start to get excited about a track. I feel it can be a big sound.
We hear you’re recording your 3rd album in Portland? What’s the plan?
The plan has been hatched, a beach house near Portland, a week by the ocean with Portland producer & great friend Dominik Schmidt. We’re very excited by it, I can’t think of a more fitting way to make our next album than to gather somewhere beautiful & unfamiliar.
This last week was your second time through SXSW – what have you pulled from it this time around?
If you leave SXSW with your dignity and some good BBQ, then you’re doing alright. We showcased with Glamglare (NYC Blog) who put a really special lineup together. Their NYC focus gave us a cool overview of the scene, so some travel there might be on the cards soon.
We joined the dots with some friends of friends, and met with our fave US people. It’s such a hive of energy, connecting with Gang of Youths and I am Snow Angel were creative highlights, really inspiring & beautiful people to get to know.
We also played Australia House and met up with many friends from back home, that’s always loose and fun. The head of Mission for the Australian embassy in Washington brought her daughter to the show too, which was a fun event. They were really genuine, interesting people to get to know.
Keep up with Pretty City: