Photo: Luke Davison, Gideon Bensen, Izzi Manfredi, Thomas Champion, Jack Moffitt of The Preatures
Since their snappy, retro-rock hit "Is This How You Feel," swept the Aussie charts, Sydney pop quintet The Preatures has become an international Ones To Watch act many times over. In addition to releasing their debut album Blue Planet Eyes last year, recorded with Spoon's Jim Eno, they also opened for The Rolling Stones on tour and grabbed an early spot on the prestigious 2014 Coachella lineup. Riding such a successful first wave of popularity can be fun but also daunting when faced with the aftermath. Recently, the band stopped by Los Angeles to perform at Echo Park's Club Bahia. Their current tour is a journey back to their home base, where they are eager to start working on the followup to last year's impressive debut. We sat down with the band to discuss their followup album and how they've taken their new experiences in stride. Read on below for our Q&A.
Ones To Watch: If you could sum up your second album in a sentence, what would that be?
Izzi Manfredi: It's in our heads. It's probably about 30% done, or 50% even.
Ones To Watch: Consistencies and differences from your first album, have they come up yet?
Manfredi: I think there's still going to be a focus on the songs and pop writing. We were having this conversation the other day about pop writing, like how the word "pop" has become askewed - it's started to mean basically whatever's commercial. But to us, pop is really a classic way of writing. It's Tom Waits writing "Downtown Train." A pop song has stuff you can hold on to, so it's got a verse, it's got a pre-chorus, it's got a hook. It's got a structure: a beginning and an end. So I love songwriting and I want to explore that more in the next record.
Jack Moffitt: We've got ideas, it's an embryo.
Manfredi: Jack and I went into the studio in London just for like half a day to get some demos done. But no, apart from that we gotta get back to our place in Sydney.
Ones To Watch: What kind of studio is it?
Thomas Champion: It's a warehouse based in an old building which is occupied by a lot of artists in central Sydney. Lots and lots of different types of people, a couple of bands had it before us and we moved in almost 3 years ago this year and sort of renovated it a bit, spruced it up.
Manfredi: It's not a studio by any means. It's got a lot of personality.Jack just set up a desk in there and works out of there, records the band. We've done overdubs in other places like we did the beds for the record in Austin with Jim Eno but we did overdubs at the studio in our place.
Ones To Watch: Where in Austin did you record with Jim?
Manfredi: It was a studio called Public Hi-Fi and it's owned by Jim.
Ones To Watch: Speaking of Sydney you're scheduled to play at the Sydney Opera house. Do you have anything special planned?
Manfredi: We've all been going to the opera house since we were kids. And it's really a big honor for bands to play at the Opera House.
Bensen: It's a very prestigious place. There's like three or four different venues within the main concert hall and smaller theaters. But even to be in the smallest one there it's very prestigious.
Ones To Watch: Is it like the Hollywood Bowl to Los Angeles?
Manfredi: Oh, not that big. The place we're playing is about a thousand capacity, but I think it's a bit different to the Hollywood Bowl. But Vivid is a really great festival in Sydney at the moment. It's a winter festival, and it's a festival of lights essentially. So they light the opera house and most of the buildings in the harbor.
Bensen: They get different artists to do different scenes and designs for a particular building. So the art house, the Opera House, and the customs house all have projections on them.
Manfredi: And they just have great artists and great lineups so it's really awesome to be a part of that.
Ones To Watch: How were you dates opening for The Rolling Stones last October?
Manfredi: Well they were brutal. It's very hard to go on before the Rolling Stones for any band. But we did it! And we got to meet them.
Luke Davison: It's like a boy scout badge. Like cool, that was awesome!
Moffitt: It's more like an army medal.
Manfredi: And getting to meet these men, they're so mythological now as people. They were very polite, very nice, and had good senses of humor, and they didn't have to be like that. They don't have to meet bands, they don't even have to have supports - but they do. So yeah, just getting to watch the show, which was two and a half hours, they are all 70 plus years old…
Bensen: Charlie's like the oldest and he's the only one who didn't leave the stage all night.
Ones To Watch: Did you get any one-on-one time with them? Were you able to glean any good advice?
Moffitt: Luke hung out with Charlie for a bit
Davison: Yeah I asked him some stuff, we had a drum conversation. It was really special because as Izzy said, they don't have to hang out and talk to you but he was just really interested in talking drums like a kid comparing them. The band had to be like "Hey Charlie, we're playing now, come on - "
Bensen: Charlie was the only one we could understand.
Manfredi: Keith was like [mumbles]: "Oh are you the lead singer?" Like, classic "Keith" mumble, and my heart was like "That's it my life was complete." To get a Keith marble mouth in your ear was pretty special.
Ones To Watch: What are you listening to currently?
Manfredi: I'm listening to a band I saw in New York called Porches. The new Tame Impala songs. Kendrick Lamar. I've also been listening to this girl as well called Jessica Pratt who reminds me of a Joanna Newsom and a Joni Mitchell. She's beautiful. It sounds like she records everything on tape. It's quite weird as well.
Moffitt: I listened to that new Rihanna song the other day. I was listening to Courtney Barnett's new record a lot, I really like it. I went back and started listening to Frank Ocean again, it's fucking amazing.
Ones To Watch: What's your earliest memory of falling in love with a record?
Bensen: I'd have to say "Blood On The Tracks" for me. That was like the first record I was probably about 16 that I actually really fell in love with. I couldn't not listen to it.
Moffitt: I thought Van Morrisson records, Astral Weeks, my parents had that one and would play it. And I just remember stealing it. I just loved that record so much. Beause it didn't have any history as far as I was concerned. I was like, "I just found this," and it was just something that I had.
Manfredi: I miss that feeling of hearing something and being like "Wow what is this?" And not being able to just click and look - and just being like "What is this record? Who is this person?"
Moffitt: I love that thing you know when you're young and you have questions and it takes so long for you to ask those questions because you don't always have the resources to like, just find the answer right away. I think that's one of those things that makes those nostalgic memories about your earliest records so profound.
Manfredi: Yeah, well it's not like, "Where were you when you first heard this track or single?" anymore. It's like, "Oh I was sitting at my desk clicking through Facebook."
Moffitt: Some of the stuff I remember most vividly though is when I was in the car, listening to the radio. The first time I heard "Elephant" we were driving through Bondi in the rain.
Manfredi: I remember being probably about 14. "Blood On The Tracks" was a record that I got into as well. But I remember getting into "On The Beach" by Neil Young and driving around Bondi Beach, and it was this rainy gray summer night, and it was beautiful and it started to rain. And the first or second song on the record is called "See The Sky About To Rain." That really stuck with me.
Champion: Similar with Neil Young, I had found my parents' records before I listened to a lot of music. And I was like slow music? I should probably listen to this.That was like Napster time, so I knew there were such things as records but I had never listed to them before. I bought a cheap record player.
Manfredi: How old were you?
Bensen: Who gave you the money for a record player?
Champion: I was 14, I had a job! It was like a $70 record player. I found "Tonight's The Night," which was my mom's record, it's a Neil Young record.
Manfredi: That's like your favorite record!
Champion: Exactly! I put it on and it's recorded in what sounds like a barn. It's four terrible, terrible wailing mistakes, but it's amazing.
Davison: Mine's terrible, you guys have all these cool gones. The one I fell in love with to get into playing music to be absolutely honest was The Chili Peppers.
Stay tuned here for more on The Preatures' new music.