The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen + Ben Phillips Discuss ‘Going to Hell,’ Touring + More
This year has seen the breakout of The Pretty Reckless in the rock world. The band has enjoyed their first chart-topping single, ‘Heaven Knows,’ and quite a bit of success for their ‘Going to Hell’ album. ‘Loudwire Nights’ host Full Metal Jackie had a chance to catch up with The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen and guitarist Ben Phillips, and they spoke about the recent success, the formation of the group and finding their sound. Check out the interview below:
Loudwire Nights, Full Metal Jackie here. We’ve got Taylor and Ben from the band The Pretty Reckless. How are you guys?
Taylor Momsen: Doing well, thanks.
Ben Phillips: Very well, thanks. Great Kubrick reference on your name.
Oh, thank you. The Pretty Reckless celebrating a lot of victories. First of all, the first No. 1 hit for the band — ‘Heaven Knows,’ and you broke the record for most weeks at No. 1 [on the active rock chart] for a female-fronted band. It has to be a cool feeling.
TM: Yeah, it’s definitely a good thing to text everyone.
BP: It’s a good thing to write your mom.
It’s not an easy thing to have happen, and it’s even harder to hold on to it. So congrats to you guys.
TM: Thanks for playing it and thanks to all the fans that listened to it.
What impressed each of you guys about the other when you met and started making music together. What’s the most noticeable evolution of that creative relationship between albums?
TM: The biggest thing is I’m older from the first record. I wrote the first record when I was 14 and 15 and on this one I’m 19, 20 so there’s definitely an evolution there.
BP: Time did its job.
TM: Yeah [laughs] — I think we honed into a sound on this record.
BP: When we met, the thing that clicked with everybody is that when you’re looking for a band — when Gene Simmons puts in an ad in the back of ‘Rolling Stone’ or whatever — you’re looking for people who are like-minded. We all had very ethically similar musical tastes. It was pretty simple.
How did you guys come together?
BP: I had a band and it was produced by a guy named Kato [Khandwala] who is our producer. Kato met Taylor and he said, you should write with this guy.
TM: Well, I met Kato and then through Kato I met you –
BP: She heard the band and went, well I’ll just be the singer of that band and write your songs [laughs].
TM: New band name, new record and new singer.
BP: And new songs.
TM: Six years later, here we are.
It sure worked out for you guys.
TM: Yeah, it pretty much clicked pretty immediately.
Ben, I think it’s safe to say you’ve got a hot chick singing for you guys. Most people focus their attention on Taylor. What does that give you an opportunity to do both onstage and off-stage? How does that result in the betterment of the band?
BP: It depends on which band member you ask. Some want more attention, some want less. I like to say that if I asked you who the drummer for System of a Down is, would you be able to give me the name? No. Most people know the singers. Serj from System — the singer is obviously the star of any band, so even though it seems it would be different because there’s a celebrity in the band it’s really the same as any other band. I personally, it allows me to do nothing which is really why I got into this.
BP: Which by the way is a Beatles line that she stole.
TM: Yes. That’s a John Lennon quote, if anyone cares.
Taylor, your musical role models are predominantly men. Being a woman, but having those masculine points of reference, how much of an advantage is that when you’re trying to make a song relatable to both genders?
TM: I don’t really think about it, to be honest. It’s something that never really crosses my mind until I get asked about it in interviews. We just try and write as honestly as possible … Write a quality song and if we’re happy with it, you put it out into the world and hope it can connect to people in some way.
It seems like it may have just happened. A lot of the songs on the record aren’t songs that just a girl would relate to or a dude would relate to. That’s got to be something that’s considered key in songwriting to be able to have it relate to anybody.
TM: We write for ourselves, we really don’t think of an audience or having — who knows if it’s even going to come out. [laughs] That’s not the intent when we’re writing. You just try to write something that’s good and makes you feel good, and is quality. When you write something good there’s no better feeling. That’s always the goal. You put it out into the ether and see what happens.
Taylor, does your acting background come into play when you’re on stage?
TM: No. [laughs] — there’s no character onstage. I don’t have some alter ego and some other name like, I’m going to get into this zone now. We walk out, we crank to 10 and we play. There’s no character there.
BP: Who is Garth Brooks alter ego [Chris Gaines] when he went on ‘SNL’ and he had the black haircut?
TM: I know who you’re talking about, drawing a blank.
BP: That should happen as rarely as possible. Not that Garth Brooks isn’t an amazing songwriter in his own right.
Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie. Taylor Momsen and Ben Phillips from The Pretty Reckless with us on the show. The Pretty Reckless are going to be on the road for about a month and a half going across the U.S. before heading overseas this summer. Of course celebrating the success of this latest record, ‘Going to Hell’ and the No. 1 rock hit ‘Heaven Knows.’ Each of you plays guitar, Ben obviously you’ve been playing longer, what specifically …
BP: I’ve been playing longer than she’s been alive. So yes. That is true.
TM: We actually have another guitar player, our producer Kato is essentially a fifth member of the band.
BP: Taylor is more of a songwriter-guitar player.
TM: I play a bit live but it’s — I find it better to focus on one thing. Guitar playing, I use it more as a songwriting tool. I’m pretty basic at it. Kato is the second guitar player on the records.
BP: Live, it’s more of a three piece behind a singer. A little more Van Halen, or Led Zeppelin.
When you got together as a band did you say here’s some of my influences? Did you have bands in mind that you strived to follow in the footsteps of?
TM: We’re all massive Beatles fans. That was the start of the kinship relationship. We all have the same taste in music, which was refreshing for me when I was looking for the right band members and people to work with. Just to have the same taste was strangely hard to find.
BP: It is hard to find. When your taste is one of the six giant bands in the planet, you’d think everyone would like it. But, they dont.
Let’s talk about the video for ‘Heaven Knows,’ which is great — an eye catcher. I was reading you got sick during the filming of that, is that why you had to cancel that tour?
TM: Yeah, I co-directed that video and we shot it over two days in Miami. There’s tons of fog, in the fog machines. Screaming and directing kids and screaming over loud music, thats how you lose your voice. I really lost it for the first time in my life.
BP: Taylor is kind of notorious in circles that work with her of really going to town on videos. She’ll be in the 23rd hour when cinematographers are walking off the set, fine, she’s like hand the camera to the AD and keep rolling.
TM: It wrecked me for a minute. I never lost my voice singing, but screaming over loud music and the fog and all that.
BP: The haze was brutal.
Be careful next time, we don’t want you to have to cancel another tour.
TM: it sucks canceling tour.
BP: The next one won’t have any haze, so it’s going to be fine.
TM: It might have some haze, but a different kind of haze.
You guys are doing a ton of the big rock festivals. Do you like doing your own headline shows in a small intimate club environment as compared to these big festivals where there’s 50 bands playing and 50,000 people?
TM: It’s all fun.
BP: I think the medium sized venues, the 1000-2000 seaters where it can still be intimate but its still big, to me they’re the most fun. Once you get into arenas, it’s also fun. Everything is fun for a different reason. Being able to be intimate with a crowd that still has volume is still the best. Headlining is always the best, anyone who disagrees, you own the venue for that day and get to do what you want.
TM: It’s your show. You’re not under any restrictions. Festivals, getting to play with lots of musicians and bands, that’s totally fine. Playing in front of an audience that might not know you is always fun too, but then playing to an audience that’s entirely your fans is awesome.
BP: Playing music for a living and calling it a job is fun.
Not something everyone gets to do for a living, and getting paid for.
BP: We respect that.
TM: Playing is not the hard part, it’s the travel and all the work that goes in between it. That’s the job. Playing is awesome.
Good luck on all the upcoming touring, congrats on all the success on ‘Going to Hell.’
BP: Thank you for supporting, too. Loudwire is predominant in the world of music right now.
That will continue. We’re looking forward to new videos and more music from you guys.
TM: Well you’ll be seeing it soon! [laughs]
Our thanks to The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen and Ben Phillips for the interview. Be sure to pick up the ‘Going to Hell’ album, available at iTunes and Amazon. Catch them on tour at these locations. You can listen to ‘Loudwire Nights’ with host Full Metal Jackie Monday through Friday at 7PM through Midnight on more than 20 stations across America. To find out where you can hear ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.
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