It’s been two years since we last heard from The Pretty Reckless, but now they’re back with a new album. Who You Selling For is, by Taylor Momsen’s own account, a snapshot of how she’s feeling right now, and makes for an introspective listen from start to finish.
They haven’t been languishing between album releases, either. Last year saw them tour with Halestorm, who they describe as ‘awesome’, and worked on the new record. Team Rock caught up with the band to learn more about the album…
You’ve mentioned the new album is representative of how you’re feeling at the moment. What kind of topics are you discussing?
Taylor Momsen: “All of them! The best, and the worst. I think it covers a wide range of emotion and thought.”
Ben Phillips: “It’s a broad question, but it’s a very broad record. Humanity is a simple answer.”
Taylor: “I think, in all honesty, we want everyone to have their own interpretation of it so I don’t want to clarify or specify any sort of direction. I’d really like the listener and the audience to hear it for themselves and however they take it. Once you release something, it’s no longer yours, it’s everyone else’s interpretation and however they take it. I like to leave that open.”
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It seems like there’s a lot of personal things on there, perhaps touching on anxiety and how the rest of the world views you. Were those the kind of things going through your mind?
Taylor: “I think I said anxiety once in an interview and then it became a headline.”
Ben: “A song or a lyric in a song might touch on anxiety, a song like Prisoner is not about anxiety although being imprisoned is very anxiety-driving.”
Taylor: “Simplifying the record to anxiety is too limited. We don’t set out to write some sort of concept record. There’s no ‘we’re going to write about this’, there’s not a blueprint. As you write, a collection of songs and multiple themes will develop throughout that process, and you have a record that captures a moment in our lives. In ten years we’ll probably look back at this record and see it in a whole new perspective than we do now.”
The cover image is a piece of art that you say really meant something to you when you saw it. It could be interpreted as alluding to body image, did it mean that kind of thing to you?
Ben: “Clearly it has those tones as well as others.”
Taylor: “I think the thing we found striking about that piece of art when we got it is that we all felt it was the album cover. Everyone just went, ‘that says so many things in one image’. It poses a question just like the record title does, where everyone is going to have a different interpretation of it which immediately leaves the listener open again to take in the music and the art and however they view it. Everyone’s had a different opinion on it. That was something that made sense for this record.”
There’s a real classic rock vibe to the album. Would you say you’re more inspired by a bygone era of rock than whatever modern trends are happening in alternative music?
Ben (laughs): “I take offence to bygone!”
Mark Damon: “Music that’s so well made that it’s timeless is always influential to us, and always will be.”
Taylor: “The term ‘classic’ does not mean old, it’s classic for a reason, which means it’s exceptional. It lasts every generation and will continue to last as long as the earth is turning and music can be played, so yes, we are influenced by those records. It’s more like a renaissance of music.”
There’s a really striking lyric on the second song on the album, Oh My God, where you sing ‘I wish I was black’ – what do you mean by that?
Ben: “You’re the first person to ask about that! Thank you.”
Taylor: “Again, I don’t wanna get too specific, it’s not that simple. It’s not just as simple as ‘I wish I was black’, it’s ‘I wish had soul and my music attacked’. It’s going, I wish I had more to me than I feel like I do.”
Ben: “If you take that song literally, and I don’t think people do when they hear it, but if you break it down and ask questions about it…”
Taylor: “… it kind of rips away the whole point of the song, which is desperation.”
Ben: It’s like Animals by Pink Floyd, when he says ‘big man, pig man’, it’s not actually a pig man. If you asked him, ‘is there a pig man sitting in front of you?’ the answer would be no. That was a really terrible analogy! But I think that song is desperate desire to be more than you are, and that lyric is interesting.”
That was the lyric that suggested to me that you might be discussing how other people view you, especially with your previous acting career, Taylor, that it might be a plea to the outside world to view you with more depth than a Hollywood actress?
Taylor: “See, this is why I don’t like to talk about our music, because everyone has a different interpretation and I learn new things about our songs every time. You just said something completely different to what I’d thought. That didn’t cross my mind at all, not even a little bit.”
Ben: “To me, it means I’ll never be Hendrix!”
The Pretty Reckless release their album Who You Selling For on October 21 through Virgin EMI.