The Pretty Visitor's new single Western Skies is out now! We chat to frontman Connor Reid about the release and more.
Image: James Polley.
After 2020 put a halt to their plans, The Pretty Visitors are gearing up for a big year, starting with the release of their latest single, Western Skies. We caught up with the Portsmouth-based five-piece to chat about the new track and more.
Western Skies comments on the nature of small towns, capturing the frustration and helpless emotions of feeling trapped within one. With self-aware lyricism, the track also navigates being in your late twenties and searching for the correct path in life. The track sees the band bring their particular brand of rock, with spoken-word verses captivating listeners before cascading into a mesmerising chorus.
After a chance meeting on a football trip in Amsterdam, Jack Rudland, Aaron Evans, Sam Bennett and Connor Reid, the four-piece bonded over their shared musical tastes and began writing and creating together. In 2019, the band roared onto the scene, dropping four demos throughout the year and performing headline shows across the South Coast of the UK. The four-piece also toured with the likes of Circa Waves, Jaws, The Family Rain, Sisteray and Cassia. Last year, the band dove head first into 2020, kicking the year off with a headline set at Ice Breaker Festival (Portsmouth), a live performance on BBC Radio Kent and a self-curated live session filmed in a church. They also dropped their debut single Mystery Woman, following it up with Head In The Sand.
Western Skies is out now! Read our interview with the band below.
Tell us a bit about how you came into music...
Three of us met at college and one joined after coincidentally meeting on a football trip in Amsterdam. Before that none of us had really played properly, maybe the summer before I (Connor, guitar & vocals) had begun to write bits and bobs but nothing much. It was immediately apparent that Aaron (Guitar) and I shared so many of the same musical tastes straight away and we always loved talking about music and what it meant to us. We swapped CD’s, taught each other bits of guitar and just organically started creating things. When Jack (Drums) and Sam (Bass) joined something just seemed to click. It became an instinctual need to create something and comment on our lives, and each one of us complimented each other easily to make the songs the best they could be.
Starting the year off with a brand new single Western Skies, what was the inspiration behind this track?
This song came from a place of frustration and helplessness in the small towns where we live. I had an uneventful day and felt like I was walking around in something like ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ and felt the need to write about small town life along with being late twenties and not knowing what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be. As with everyone’s place they grew up in, it's a love/hate relationship, and I think this song articulates that, along with nuanced details that you can only notice about a place that you have so many memories attached to.
How did you arrive at the sonic soundscape present on the track?
Musically, everything just fell into place perfectly and effortlessly, which is always a good sign when we’re writing a song. I demoed the track at home after relentlessly listening to ‘Avant Gardener’ by Courtney Barnett, and so I think that’s where that simplistic run of chords and the spoken word delivery comes from, but then the chorus just ended up massive and Oasis-like when we came together in a room to play it, and everyone added things that just built a really great and layered sound to the track. We also recorded in a different place in London too, and this time more of our live playing was a part of the recording, which gives it a unique and massive sound that isn’t quite as present on our other songs.
If Western Skies was a piece of visual art, which artwork would it be?
Lyrically, I hate to say it, because I’m not really a fan of his stuff, it would probably be something of Lowry’s, maybe ‘Market Scene, Northern Town’. The town centre inspired a lot of the song's lyrics, and it’s truly a slice of mundane reality that most of us live in, and which Lowry often depicted. Hopefully the song as a whole though is much more exciting!
Who or what are your influences when creating together, whether it differs single to single or album to album?
We all have really varied tastes, but there are some artists we all have a mutual love for. All of us love Oasis, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and The Rolling Stones, so I guess that’s the four cornerstones to our collective tastes - but then individually those wouldn’t even make it into our top five artists, so it’s quite interesting in the way it all comes out in our tunes. When we write and record now, I think we’re always just inputting our own flavours to drum sounds and guitar tones that either come unconsciously from whatever we’re listening to at the time or purposely to invoke an emotion to bolster the song and its lyrical themes. Either way, it all seems to work out for us more and more as time goes on.
Take us through your creative process when it comes to writing and recording new music…
Each song seems to require different approaches. Generally, one of us will come into a band practice with the skeleton of an idea, and if we all dig it and jam out something half decent, it will often be taken away and lyrics will be added. But sometimes the whole song is written, sometimes the song’s 3 quarters there and we jam out ideas to finish it, or sometimes it remains a half song for years until we remember it again! It’s all dependent on our moods, the idea, the music - there’s a fluidity and freshness to our songwriting in that way I guess.
Recording wise we pretty much always have the song tight and ready by jamming out before we go into the studio, and we get the bare bones done quickly. Then we like to get quite experimental in the last half a day or day and just see what we can try to add to the general atmosphere of the track. Swinging microphones, tapping floors with drumsticks, micing up a hoover and using 80’s tape echo machines are some of the things that have ended up on the recordings!
People start the year off with resolutions, we prefer aims, so what are 5 aims for The Pretty Visitors in the coming year?
Write more songs!
Play a gig of any kind
Release an EP after Western Skies
Gain some more listeners
Get more airtime on the radio
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic? Or what was the most challenging part?
The most challenging part has been trying to get into a room and jam together to figure out things that way, but the internet has been a saviour for bouncing song ideas back and forth. We all have Garageband and a means to create home demos, so it actually works out ok in terms of creativity - but yeah, it’s not ideal. We also managed throughout last year to get into the studio to record three new songs whenever the restrictions allowed, so we put a foot in the right direction regarding that too. This time round though it’s definitely hard, we feel uninspired and the length has zapped us of energy. It’s also been horrific to see so many of the local venues we love and are desperate to play go through so much hardship, with minimal help from an uncaring government. We keep our fingers crossed for those places of culture that help showcase creativity of all kinds more than we do for ourselves at the moment.
Are you working on any new music? Will there be any new releases in the coming future?
We have so many songs backed up and we’re constantly writing new ones too, so it’s just a case of arguing it out and picking our favourites to record whenever we can. After Western Skies we have one song already recorded so we’ll aim to record three more and make an EP hopefully before the year is out, but we’ll see. One things for sure, we’re certainly not short of any material!
With everything that’s been happening in the world, touring has changed, what are your 2021 touring plans, what can fans expect from a live show, and is there a chance we’ll see you performing in Australia anytime once travel restrictions ease?
After cancelling so many gigs I think now we’re resigned to wait and see what happens and then we’ll probably book gigs accordingly. Hopefully the vaccinations begin to be rolled out and the death and infection rates plummet down. Then we can embark on world domination and Australia is right at the top of our list, we’re sick of grey clouds and rain!
Oasis, Strokes, The Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys
Modern day: Tame Impala
All Time: The Beatles
Album that has had the most impact on you?
The Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Simple, effective, personal
A musical release you’re most looking forward to in 2021?
Kendrick Lamar (fingers crossed)
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
They Live (1988) Dir. John Carpenter. I get that this is an 80’s film, but I’d love to update the dreadful echoey massive overly 80’s sounding soundtrack to this one, what a film.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Miley Cyrus without a shadow of a doubt.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Any album would get really annoying but probably To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar just purely due to the story, nuances and sound that he manages to create that beg repeated listening.
Best concert you have been to?
Oasis at Wembley Stadium 2009. Second to last gig they ever done, nothing has come close to the atmosphere.
Last concert you went to?
Bob Dylan and Neil Young at Hyde Park in London. Amazing day, and it happened over a year and a half ago which is so depressing.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Guilty music pleasure?
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Present Day: We open, Courtney Barnett main support and The Strokes headline
All Time: we open, Bob Dylan main support and The Beatles headline.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
Without a doubt The Beatles.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Stop crashing your Rolls Royce into hotel swimming pools.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
The moment we all first played in a room together.