Photo by Chris Casella

Indie to the Indie

Is there an antidote for indie rock?

My editors have made it clear that they’re tiring of pictures of “sad-looking hipster bands.” But there are so many – and so many are actually worth your time. But I suppose it is difficult to find much new or dissimilar in the raw mettle of Columbus indie rock. So is there an “indie” to the indie? An “undie?”

If anyone has the inspired enthusiasm of wide-eyed pop romantics with the ability to transcend current conceits…right now…at this moment…it’s Pretty Pretty. Take this line from “Too Kind” as proof: “Close your eyes and float away/relax your mind don’t use your brain/escape this space and time.” It rings like a mantra for the band. There’s a sense of purity, an unbridled urge to tear down the tedium of boredom with cathartic glee.

A lot of that passion comes directly from their “play anywhere, anytime” tactics. Both guitarist Evan Wolff and bassist Larry TV – who share the shouted male/female vocals – would rather be on a stage or writing songs together than sitting in for this interview. Early on when the band started in 2012, along with drummer Jon Washington, Pretty Pretty shows were more word-of-mouth invites at places like the Legion of Doom, VVK, or Monster House, rather than formal shows.

“When you aren’t old enough to go to bars, you just have the party at your own house,” said Wolff. “The house show has a magical vibe, cutting out the establishment of curfews, age limits, and alcohol. But playing wherever is fine. That’s the point. That’s the payoff.”

“It was a rite of passage,” added TV.

Though house shows are still part of the equation, Pretty Pretty has recently graduated to recording their paeans to good times. The recently released Leather Weather single is a perfect encapsulation of positive vibes that defines the band. Their influences are homegrown and fairly transparent – be it ’90s mall punk for the basket-case indifference or ’70s power pop for the melodies. Wolff refers to the surge of “region rock” in places like Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Denton, Texas, where bands have formed collective scenes of their own creation, all rallying around a common sonic expression, as a huge inspiration.

The I-71 corridor connecting Cincinnati and Columbus now has its own incestuous community of “region rock,” including bands from both spheres – Sega Genocide, Delay, Goners, Tweens, Vacation – mining a similar racket of sugary pop songs spiked with the attitude and tenets of punk and D.I.Y. culture. Within that gang there’s a fan-club spirit for each other that fuels a healthy one-upmanship. Each new show or recording feeds off what they just heard from their peers.

“It’s music that’s beyond the music. It’s a lot of friends playing in other friends’ bands. Triumphant music that celebrates, that’s groovy. That’s really inspiring.”
To hear Wolff and TV gush about the vitality within that scene is endearing, almost to a fault. Kittens, raindrops, weekend tours with cheap beer – is there anything that could spoil the band’s childlike optimism?

“Too many pedals and not enough songs,” concludes Wolff. As resident doorman at Ace of Cups, he sees endless bands that spend too much time and money at Guitar Center, and not enough experiencing life and writing quality songs about such adventures.
“Seeing a band just plug straight in and rip your face off with straightforward honesty and no bull is incredible,” he said. •

For more information on Pretty Pretty visit www.prettypretty.bandcamp.com.

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