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Artist Spotlight: The Preatures

Friday 6 September 2013

Artist Spotlight: The Preatures

It is important to be somewhat suspicious of early band success stories. With their single, Is This How You Feel featuring on Pitchfork a few weeks ago as Best New Track, an almost sold-out national EP tour and media attention from their politically conscious voice (Fuck Abbott), The Preatures joke in charming modesty that it’s actually all a trap.

Despite all the positive attention: rave reviews, heavy radio support and the $50,000 first prize for this year’s Vanda and Young Songwriting Competition, lead vocalist Isabella Manfredi admits that they are still working on finding their own unique sound.

“We treat everything on a song-by-song basis, and we’re closer to finding the sound that will be the band. But I don’t think we’re there yet.”

If they aren't there, they are incredibly close. The Preatures’ relaxed combination of personalities reveal an ambitious, intimate and self-reliant band. Jack Moffit’s intricate guitar lines, Thomas Champion’s melodic bass, Luke Davison’s backbeat, and Gideon Benson and Isabella Manfredi’s leading voices, combined with their award winning songwriting powers, shape the inner workings of the group’s pop-infused sound.

After being on tour with each other since June last year, they headed straight into the recording studio in January to work their second EP, Is This How You Feel, and it was inevitable that some extremely close relationships formed.

“We all slept with each other,” Isabella teased, “We got over that.“

“It was one night,” Gideon added.

Moffit admits they became, “a sort of weird love pentangle.”

Moffit produced and recorded the new EP – released earlier this month through Mercury Australia – in the band’s own studio space in Surry Hills, previously occupied by Seekae –a six month living arrangement that became a crucial element in the creative process.

“I had all this gear that Tom and I, and the rest of us had kind of accumulated over a long period of time,” Moffit explains. “We just put it all in there and started working and recorded all of these things and getting really excited by the freedom – we could get the essence of something as it was happening and all our excitement would stay in there – and we were really keen to explore the idea of pushing out our envelope from within the band. That was really what we wanted to do, just sort of experiment with ideas. And I don’t think we could have made the EP that we’ve made if we’d had somebody else involved. We realised that there was a thread moving a lot of the songs together because it’s not always the case that you get two writers or three writers or writing processes that collide with the same kind of intention.”

Balancing dynamics between two strong and very different lead singers/songwriters (Isabella and Gideon) can be tough both in the studio and on stage.

“We both appreciate what each other does, and you know it’s nice because it’s a bit of competition, which I like. I’m a very competitive person,” said Manfredi. “On the EP there were other songs that potentially were better songs and more suited for it but they didn’t end up making it because you know, one song is really important for me to have on there and another is really important to have on there for Gideon and so we try and make a balance between looking at the songs for what they are in their own merits. Choosing songs – if it’s a good song it should be on the record – but then also trying to create a balance between me and Gid, and have our own voices on there. So it’s hard, we had lots of debates about what songs were going to make the EP.”

“It’s good, you’re always pushed to do something and try and one-up each other I guess,” Benson adds, “In a healthy way.”

“When we play live it’s very different now, he continues, “I think we are well attuned to what each other is doing and what each other is feeling. If one of us is having a good night or one of us not having a good night… the other one picks up the slack.”

Relatively green when it comes to going on tour, every gig is a learning experience, and especially challenging when trying to make their unconventional stage set up make sense.

“I think we are at a point now where it does make sense to an audience but I reckon you can generally gauge how it’s going to go if you say to the front man: ‘Oh we want four vocal mics up the front, two in the centre’. And if he goes, ‘Oh’ then you know it’s going be a certain kind of noise. The only other thing I reckon is really important is that you get a shower in whenever there is a shower. That’s the one thing we’ve learnt,” said Benson.

“And complimentary soaps,” said Champion. “Take the complimentary soaps or the teabags or the biscuits. Just take it all.”

“It [going on tour] keeps you on your toes,” Benson says, “because you cannot out of necessity perform the same show every single night because of the variables that are involved. Like you might be feeling sick, you might be feeling tired - you probably didn’t have a shower. The sound is terrible but the sound guy is really nice. You’re enjoying the fact that it’s so shit.”

A tiny selection of the artists that have been thrown around when discussing The Preatures sound and style include Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground and Fleetwood Mac, but those comparisons are just scratching the surface.

“We’re listening to a lot more new music, and for us we had a lot of late ‘70s, early ‘80s stuff going around in our heads, and playing in the studio while we were making the record,” said Isabella.

Some of the less obvious bands that helped shaped the record include Talking Heads (Isabella), Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Jack) and Tears For Fears (Luke). Here We Go Magic (Jack and Isabella said in unison) was a big influence on Is This How You Feel and Manic Baby.

“Particularly those two songs,” said Jack, “because I really loved all the wacky synthesises that record sort of managed to get together so well. And that record kind of passes you by but you look at the track listing of it and the tracks were all quite lengthy you know, and you sort of never really let up from this great energy that floats through the whole record.”

Not surprisingly, the prospect of a full-length Preatures album is on the band’s – and the media’s – mind at the moment.

“Yeah, we’ve done a few interviews,” said Benson, “and quite a few of them are going, ‘When’s the album coming out?’”

“Sorry, what album?” asks a surprised looking Moffit.

The official answer is that recording sessions for a full-length record are planned for after the national EP tour and world travels: shows in LA, New York for the CMJ Music Marathon, London, and maybe Paris and Berlin. However, this time Moffit will hand over his reigns as producer within ‘the love pentangle’ to a professional.

“We’ve started working on it already and we’re really committed to trying to find a line that we’re comfortable with. [We will be] pushing it really hard... I’d really like to do something that we’re all thoroughly involved in and work to our strengths. My strength is as a guitar player and I’d really like to focus more on that.”

- Lauren Della Marta

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