NYC anti-folk trio The Prettiots just signed a worldwide deal with Rough Trade - single, 'Boys (I Dated in High School)' is available on limited edition pink vinyl now and an album is in the pipeline. The 405 sat down with frontwoman Kay Kasparhauser to talk femininity, mental health, The Shangri-La's and Europe's best museums.
I listened to your song 'Suicide Hotline', and it reminded me a bit of Amanda Palmer's 'Oasis'. Not sonically particularly, but in the sentiment of 'oh, a terrible period of my life just happened and I'm going to acknowledge just how terrible it was, but at the same time, I want to acknowledge that things this terrible can be a part of life without it ending." Is that a comparison that makes sense to you, or which you would welcome?
Yeah that's a totally fair assessment and a welcome comparison. The sentiment of the song is basically like, 'yeah, shits grim right now, but it's definitely been worse and I got through that, so I am probably going to survive this'. It's a pretty dark song I guess, but I have always dealt with darkness by making light of it, making jokes about it - I think the only way I've survived that kind of dangerous dark thinking is by joking about it a lot.
It's kind of funny because when I wrote the song it was actually about how I have been in much worse places, emotionally, than where I was when I wrote it, but it's sort of evolved to embody this, "Hey it could be worse and its definitely been better, but maybe it will be better again' vibe. Someone reached out to us recently and told us that song helped them through a period of suicidal depression and that was basically the most moving thing that has ever happened to me. I know how real and scary that gets and to think we helped someone through it by making jokes about Ernest Hemingway is pretty rad.
I listened to your song 'Stabler', and enjoyed the Elliot Stabler references. Is Elliot Stabler a fair representation of the kind of people you find yourself drawn too? If so, what would you say is it about that kind of person that's intriguing?
Elliot Stabler is definitely my type. A strong, dominant man with a love for justice and doing the right thing, an unpredictable temper, a strong sense of family values and some good tattoos. He doesn't necessarily play by the rules but he always gets the job done.
"I know that if I got hit by an 18 wheeler, I'd hope that I'd look up to find that you're the driver." That line from '18 Wheeler' keeps playing over in my head. Can you discuss the idea behind that line?
I wrote that song after I went through my first ever really bad break up. I was running into the guy and his new girlfriend on the street literally every day, and every time I would see them I would be basically incapacitated by anxiety. Like, the first time it happened I ran into a Starbucks and puked.
I sort of became aware that I probably wouldn't be seeing them every day if some part of me wasn't subconsciously seeking that misery. So it became this thing of like desperately wanting not to see them but also sort of needing to, and knowing it was inevitable.
I'm looking forward to the album. Can you talk about the process of making it?
This was the first album I've ever made, so it was all a huge learning experience for me. We worked with Paul Kolderie as our producer (Paul Kolderie has worked with The Pixies, The Go-Gos and Dinosaur Jr., among others). He is really incredible, he made everything really easy and totally got what we were going for sound-wise and then made it a billion times better. It was just really fun. Lulu (Prat, The Prettiots' bassist) and I started writing together about half-way through the album and the sound grew so much from that. I'm really excited.
Thematically, what would you say this album talks about?
Well there are a lot of songs about boys. And kind of just trying to navigate the weird social and emotional landscape of being in your early twenties is 2015 and what that means, all the pain and joy and crushes and heartbreak and awkwardness that comes with that. There's also some funny weird pop culture-y stuff in there; there's a song about Klause Kinsky and a track where we talk about uber and hulu plus accounts and stuff.
I know you used to work in fashion, so I'm interested to hear you talk about style.
Well when we first started out our style and our image was a really big part of our band, we always wore matching outfits and it was very like Japanese school girl/'90s inspired stuff, but as we've developed as a band and grown musically we've become more comfortable having the music speak for itself more, so the outfits we wear have become less important. Lulu and I both have our own style for sure and that's kind of just what we wear now.
The promo material I read described you as 'anti-folk.' Could you describe to our readers what that is and what ethos that term carries with it?
When I think of anti-folk I think about stuff that is kind of folky in its technical musical aspects, but with lyrics that aren't what you would typically expect from a '60s era folk song. I think of people like The Moldy Peaches, Jeffery Lewis and John S. Hall, all of whom are definitely huge influences on my writing lyrically - King Missile was probably one of my favourite bands in high school. I think the influence of a lot of that stuff, which sometimes is almost more spoken word than music, is apparent in some of the lyrics on the album. The songs are super wordy, that's just how I've always written - it's all very wordy and cluttered and very honest and a little self-deprecating.
There was also reference to The Shangri-La's, who I love. What about their music echoes with yours?
Well musically, we use a lot of three part harmonies and hand claps, which is definitely pulled from that era of music, and lyrically we sing about boys a lot. I just really like the idea of a girl group that is singing about 'girly' shit like crying over a boy or falling for the wrong man but aren't weak about it, like that's genuinely part of my experience as a female and I don't think I am any less of a strong independent woman because I address that. I like the idea of taking ownership of these emotions and experiences that can be written off as weak and girly, but still having this 'tough girl' kind of vibe that the Shangri-Las definitely had
I'm coming to your London show on November 10th and am really excited for it. I imagine the line-up is set already, and I know you're here for just one night, but say in a fictional world you're coming to London and playing one show every night here, each with a different support act, which London/European female bands, would you want to have play with you?
Wow I never realized what an overwhelming majority of female acts I listen to are American, some European ones that come to mind are The Slits obviously, first and always, followed by stuff like Pussy Riot and Peaches. There's a German chick band called Cobra Killer I used to love, but I feel like we would be supporting those people not the other way around.
Finally, I heard you're a Museums girl. Are there any museums you want to see while you're in London?
I'm definitely going to the Design Museum I've been hearing about it forever.
'18 Wheeler', 'Stabler' and 'Suicide Hotline' are tracks announced so far from The Prettiots' forthcoming album - details of which are TBC. The Prettiots play The Social, London on Tuesday November 10th.