Boston Duo Pretty & Nice Work Hard to Produce Music That's Just That

Pretty & Nice hold hands around the campfire (sorta)
Brian Tamborello

Adjectives Aplenty
Boston duo Pretty & Nice work hard on songs that are both of those things

The first two songs on Pretty & Nice’s Get Young are about, respectively, carnivorous fish and Pearl Harbor. Few records open with a one-two punch as effective as the grabby pair “Piranha” and “Tora Tora Tora,” and yet the Boston band spent more time on those lean anthems than on the album’s more complex entries.

“The songs that were simpler were more belabored,” says singer/guitarist Jeremy Mendicino, “which is bizarre. ‘Tora Tora Tora’ took us forever. We’d been playing it for a couple of years, so it was the song that most bored us. We had to make it interesting to us.”

Avoiding boredom seems like the guiding principle behind Pretty & Nice, in which Mendicino shares front-man duties with singer/guitarist Holden Lewis. Lewis is the only original member; Mendicino produced the 2006 debut, Pink & Blue, and joined as a fill-in before becoming a permanent addition. Now the two are the core of Pretty & Nice, writing, playing and recording everything at Mendicino’s home studio. Mendicino produces other bands on the side, and the pair recruit a bassist and drummer for touring.

If the band’s rapid-fire songs and quirky flourishes speak to a battle with boredom, it’s also a challenge to not overly rely on guitars. “When we started recording,” Mendicino says, “I told Holden I didn’t want to use any guitars. I own way too many, and I’m totally sick of them. But they do play an integral role in the ease and operation of our lives. That’s why whenever we wanted to add a flourish or embellishment, we grabbed a weird keyboard or dived to the sampler.”

Such elements are delivered in a tidy package—most of the songs on Get Young are less than three minutes long. “Our natural inclination is to not dwell on anything,” Lewis says. “If we like something a lot, we go by it just as quickly as every other part. A chorus doesn’t have to be refrained a hundred times for people to get the idea.”

Still, Mendicino adds, “we stick a lot in there. We keep ourselves entertained.”

Pretty & Nice came together when Lewis and Mendicino were living in Vermont. After relocating to Boston and self-releasing Pink & Blue and the remix EP Blue & Blue, the band signed to Sub Pop’s newly minted sister label Hardly Art to release Get Young last October. While the album didn’t catapult them to the same overnight fame as fellow Bostonians Passion Pit, it attracted giddy reviews and continuous attention as the band have toured. A breakout could be right around the corner, though, since Pretty & Nice landed the opening slot (alongside Australian outfit Youth Group) on the Get Up Kids’ comeback tour.

It’s tempting to call Pretty & Nice post-punk or power pop, yet Get Young as a whole is difficult to classify. Some songs have the same rubbery, overactive quality as Starlight Mints or A.C. Newman, while the glitzy New Wave detour “Solar Energy” has inspired comparisons to Devo that aren’t so farfetched. So how do Lewis and Mendicino describe their music?

“I think that, underneath it all, we’re actually a fusion band,” Mendicino says, as deadpan as ever. “What we try to do is fuse everything we’ve ever heard and loved and make something personal and hopefully interesting. We don’t think of ourselves as a specific type of band. It’s an amalgamation of whatever the hell has passed our way and we’ve enjoyed and wanted to re-experience in different ways.”

He continues, “I actually don’t listen to anything that sounds at all like Pretty & Nice. We were just asked what we were listening to, and it was Simon & Garfunkel and Steely Dan.”

Holden chimes in: “The closest thing I’ve been listening to is the Hives.”

The men are currently writing a third album, but as with Get Young, it’s a long process that involves a lot of work. Lewis says he can’t see the band going into a studio to cut an album in three weeks.

“There’s a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction,” says Mendicino. “Everything amasses, and then gets scraped away and amasses again.” With a laugh, he concludes, “Eventually, it comes to an end, and we make ourselves release the record.”

Pretty & Nice with the Get Up Kids and Youth Group at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; Wed., 7 p.m. $23-$26. All ages.

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