Comprised of Pachy (drums and vocals), Marco (bass) and Paco (keyboards), the members of the Los Angeles-based trio Prettiest Eyes had all been vital parts of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s music scene for years, playing in a number of bands before each of the members individually relocated to Los Angeles to seriously pursue music And in the little over two years since the trio formed Prettiest Eyes, they have released two EPs of sleazy, sludgy, psychedelic, garage punk rock based around thick, throbbing bass chords, quick-paced drumming, trippy and soaring keyboard and lyrics shouted in Spanish and English. Much like contemporaries such as Raccoon Fighter, The Yetis, The Black Angels and others, Prettiest Eyes’ sound channels the psychedelic sounds of the mid 1960s; however, in the case of the Los Angeles-based trio, their sound also manages to channel the wild, unhinged feel and spirit of punk rock. Although recorded on lo-fi (and presumably analog) equipment, the band’s soon-to-be released debut, Looks is comprised of material that has a desperate, sweaty, primal urgency – the sort that should remind you of catching hungry bands playing their very hearts out in cramped, dank basements that reeked of stale beer and body odor; of the sort of dank, dark bars I’ve spent a considerable amount of time behaving terribly and drinking Guinness excessively and shamelessly. The first time I heard Looks, I was immediately pulled in and couldn’t get it out of my head; it’s been a while, since I’ve heard such dangerous and necessary urgency. In fact, it’s rare for a debut effort to be so solidly forceful with such powerfully sharp hooks. And it’s the material’s primal urgency that i think will cause many of my colleagues to take notice – and quickly.
I recently spoke to the members of Prettiest Eyes about their new effort, just before a series of Los Angeles area shows to support the album via email for this edition of JOVM’s Q&A series. And in this Q&A, the band tells me about their formation; their writing process, which often involves writing songs in both English and Spanish – and when they decide if a song should be in English or Spanish; San Juan’s music scene and how it’s different from Los Angeles’ scene; and much more. Check it out below.
Photo Credit: Kristin Cofer
WRH: I love your new album. It reminds me of a number of shittydive bars that I would spend my time drinking to excess and trying to pick up
women – and generally failing miserably at it. And of spending time in sweaty,
dirty rock clubs and punk rock clubs. How would you describe your sound
and the sound on the album?
Prettiest Eyes: Gritty, distorted, slightly sexual, loud,
semi-aggressive and lower in fidelity.
WRH: How did you get into music and when did you know that if was
PE: We got into music when we were kids and we knew right then and
there that we weren’t fit for anything else
WRH: How did the band meet? How long have you been
together? And how did you come up with the band’s name?
PE: The original lineup has known each other for years. We all
played in different bands together back in Puerto Rico. We happened to move to
Los Angeles around the same time and we started the band after a couple of
months. The original keyboardist decided to move back to the island after 3
months of the band being together and we started playing with Paco after that.
The band has been together for a year and two months (we started in December
2013). The name of the band was Received Via Satellite Communication
WRH: Your latest effort sounds as though it owes a debt to garage
rock, surfer rock, punk and psych rock — it’s anachronistic as it sounds
as though it could have been released in 1966 or well, next week. How much
of an influence has those genres been on your work? And who are your influences?
PE: All those genres played a part in the formation of P.E. as well
as other industrial, post-punk and no wave bands. Influences include Los
Saicos, [The] Gories, [The] Screamers, Joy Division and Contortions.
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
PE: Fantasmes Thralls to
WRH: I was on your Bandcamp page and I found it very interesting.
Your self-titled EP was mostly comprised of songs written and sung in Spanish
with one song in English. The follow up EP, PEEP which was
released early last year was completely in English. And your debut
full-length effort, Looks is mostly in English — with one
song in Spanish. Was that intentional? Did that change your songwriting
approach at all? What are the major differences between all of those efforts?
PE: Every song has its own feel, so language shifts happen naturally
depending on what the music sounds like to us. Sometimes we try to do the
opposite of what it feels like to try something different. Writing in different
languages creates another dimension on how to interpret the same idea in
WRH: You’re originally from San Juan and you relocated to
Los Angeles. What inspired the move to L.A.? And how long ago did that
PE: Music brought us to LA. We moved here in 2012. It’s a good place
to be if you want to dedicate all your energy and efforts to making music and
performing live. It’s also nice to see many different bands and shows all in
the same place. It’s very inspiring.
Several years ago, while covering the Northside Festival in
Brooklyn, I wound up meeting the members of a now-defunct band from Mexico
City, The Oats. While hanging out with them, they had told me that there was a
scene of Mexican musicians who preferred to write, record and perform
songs in English and that such a thing was considered quite controversial. I
was told that those artists who dared to have songs in English didn’t seem to
get a lot of airplay on Mexican radio as a result, despite the fact that
artists and kids seemed to dig live music, no matter language it was in. First,
can you tell me a bit about the San Juan music scene? Is there a scene of
musicians writing, recording and performing songs in English like the members
of The Oats told me about Mexico City? And is the response the same? What’s
the major difference you’ve noticed between the San Juan scene and the Los
PE: The music scene in the island is composed of very talented,
ambitious and highly creative people that all share a strong love for music and
life. The skill of musicianship is very high given the fact that rhythm and
music is in our blood. You can stumble on a group in a random corner and be blown
away by their performance. Some bands write in Spanish and some in English. Airplay
is something that is not easily available to any band so writing will happen
according to how they feel. The major difference between both scenes is that LA
has a lot of bands that leave on tour more often than any band in PR. you will
also have the opportunity to see more live performances of bands in their prime
WRH: How did you come up with the name for this album? Was
there any point that it had another name?
PE: It never had another name. Looks
sounded like it could go well with this album. The tracks are all either slightly
or very different from one another.
WRH: Your sound is particularly sludgy, raw, furious and absolutely
frenetic. It reminds me a bit of The Stooges and The MC5 in that regard. With
such a raw, furious sound, I was wondering something — when do you know
that you have a finished song?
PE: Whenever it feels like its finished.
WRH: How much of your material is inspired by personal experience? i like so many songs from the album but I’ll ask you about a couple
in particular. What’s the inspiration behind “Into
Oblivion” “LSD,” “Not OK” and “I’m Sorry”?
PE: Personal experience always comes into play when writing but we
also like to stray away from it. “Into Oblivion” would be the
psychedelic experience and the love of thinking of life in a non-conventional
way. Whatever that means. “Not OK” and “I`m Sorry” happened
by trying to put stories together of situations/characters that might seem
weird, supernatural, unreal or fucked-up.
WRH: What advice would you have for artists trying to make a name for
PE: Do it because you want to do it and work
hard at it.