Interview: The Pretty Reckless
The guys spoke to ATP about how the band got together, their forthcoming debut album, signing to Interscope records, playing this year's Warped Tour, Taylor juggling around the band with her acting career and more.
Alter The Press: How did the band come together?
Ben Phillips (guitar): My song-writing partner and I (Kato Khandwala) met Taylor about a year and a half ago; we then started working on writing songs together. He produced the record and my musicians play on the record; it became the band. Taylor has been writing and playing since she was a kid, and was getting to the point where she wanted to release a record; luckily we caught her on her "upswing" of artistic movements.
Taylor Momsen (vocals): It was a good fit.
ATP: How did the two of you meet?
Taylor: Through Kato. I was looking for producers to work with and I got hooked up with him, who was also Ben's partner. I met with Kato, we were working together; then met Ben, ended up writing the whole record together, and here we are now.
ATP: Everyone knows you in the public eye from your role in TV's ‘Gossip Girl.’ What are people's reactions, when seeing you in The Pretty Reckless?
Taylor: It's been cool, once people can get past that I play a character, on a TV show, named Jenny Humphrey, and that I'm a real person outside of that. I'm an actress who’s also in a rock band.
Ben: The fans of Gossip Girl are great and very supportive.
Taylor: They are very supportive; it's just crossing over to people who are pretty judgmental, because I'm on a TV show.
ATP: Is it hard to juggle around your acting career with the band?
Taylor: It's pretty good; you just don't sleep.
ATP: (to Ben) It must have been hard, for you to work round Taylor's acting schedule, to work on the band?
Ben: The record took, probably, the same amount of time as it would for a regular record but, with her schedule, we were doing 8pm-4am or 12am-7am. She never slept; she just went with it. Taylor had the hardest job but, it was tedious.
ATP: Before you met Taylor, were you in a different band?
Ben: We're all in a band together, and have been playing together since we were twelve, we're part of a band called 'Famous'.
ATP: What made you want to sign with Interscope records?
Taylor: Jimmy Iovine, he's awesome. He's signed so many great acts; he is Interscope. It seemed like a great fit.
Ben: They are a fantastically supportive label, they really support our vision; it's amazing.
ATP: At the end of 2009, you put the song 'Make Me Wanna Die' online. Why did you choose this as your first single?
Taylor: It was the first song we wrote for the record, it was the start of the record, and so it seemed like a great first single as it sets the vibe for the record.
Ben: I think the guys involved definitely created a buzz, so it became the swan song for the rest of the record, and everyone liked it. We just wanted to make an epic song with lots of parts and movements and things.
Taylor: No one thought of this as a single. I thought it was a cool track, but never thought they would want to use it as a single. But they did and we're ecstatic.
ATP: How did it end up on the soundtrack to 'Kick Ass'?
Taylor: Lionsgate Entertainment was working with some people at Interscope; they heard the track and knew it was going to be our first single. Lionsgate liked it and wanted to put it in the film and we were like, totally!
Ben: We're all big comic book fans.
Taylor: It was a cool partnership.
ATP: Have you seen the movie?
Taylor: Yes, a couple of times. It's a lot of fun.
ATP: You just played this year's Bamboozle Festival. How was it?
Taylor: We had technical problems, and I almost threw up during one of the songs because I got heat stroke on stage. I seem to have bad luck with health and technicalities, but besides that, it was great! We met a bunch of fans at the merch booth, and the crowd was a lot of fun. It was super hot and people were under the weather because of the heat, but it was a great show.
ATP: Did you get a chance to watch any of the other bands?
Taylor: No, we were too busy meeting and talking to fans, and doing press.
ATP: You're doing this year's Warped Tour. With it being a skate/punk-rock festival, what are your expectations of how it'll go?
Ben: We don't know. We are a straight up rock band so we'll see how they dig it, but it should be fun. We are a regular, touring, grimy band; so we should fit in pretty easily. They can throw things, as long as they miss the instruments so we can keep playing.
Taylor: Or my face, but bruises are badass, so that's cool.
ATP: But there have been a lot of crossover over the years, bands like Jeffree Star, Brokencyde and even Katy Perry, joining the tour.
Taylor: We're a lot louder than electro! We blew the speakers at the last three shows we played!
ATP: Were you asked to play?
Taylor: Yeah, they heard some of the songs and liked it. They asked us to be a part of the tour and we're psyched.
ATP: Let's talk about the album. Is there a title yet?
Taylor: No, there's no title yet, it hasn't been decided. We haven't announced it because we are still debating over a couple of names.
ATP: How would you describe it, in your own words?
Taylor: A very song driven, rock record. It's a record about life, so it covers everything: death, love, sex, rock and roll, religion, politics; it's got a bit of everything. It definitely focuses on the gritty, grimy, aspects of those things, not necessarily the happy side of things.
Ben: It's heavily influenced by classic rock. To have a female front, to a trident, true, rock band, is a novel thing.
Taylor: Because most of our influences are pretty much male rock bands, to translate that with a female singer, and not have a Joan Jett record, means we have to base it more on attitude than melody. It's not packaged; it's a very dimensional record.
Ben: A singer/songwriter record, Alanis Morisette would be a person to compare it to, someone who wrote their own songs uniquely, but heavier for sure.
ATP: When is the release date?
Taylor: I heard August 24th.
ATP: You mentioned earlier, that the record was already written when you put the single out last year. What made you want to sit on the record for so long?
Taylor: We wrote it and recorded it and, only now, is it in the process of being mixed and mastered. It's still not packaged; there's no album cover, there's no title but the writing side is finished. We’ve finished the hardest part, which was writing and recording it.
Ben: The whole thing's pretty fresh; we've recorded it as we've written it. The last song we recorded was written a month ago.
Taylor: We write the song and then record the song over and over. It wasn't done in the traditional way a record is usually done.
ATP: What are plans after Warped Tour?
Taylor: Touring, more touring and writing the next record. Ben: Writing the next record while touring.
ATP: Do you have plans for UK dates in the future?
Ben: We want to stay and play the UK; I don't know what the deal is because we are only doing one show.
Taylor: I want to play everywhere, I said we just want to play but we're told, “No, you're doing this photo shoot,” and that's fucking bullshit. I just want to play shows, just come and take pictures of them. We just want to meet the fans and play shows.
Ben: If that volcano keeps going, we'll play some shows! But I think we are coming back after Warped Tour, we might be playing Reading and Leeds, it's tentative. We don't know what we're doing, but we are coming back.
ATP: Anything else you would like to add?
Taylor: Buy the single on May 17th and stay tuned for the record.
Ben: Steal this single.
'Make Me Wanna Die' is out May 17th and the band's forthcoming 'untitled' album is out August 24th via Interscope.
- Jon Ableson