Prettier Than Pink
The all-girl Filipino-Irish alternative rock band Prettier Than Pink (www.prettierthanpink.com) may classify themselves as “New Wave”; and
rightfully so, but their genre skydiving is perhaps closer in spirit to that of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, another energetic group that juggled funk, punk, and narcotic pop with giddy abandon. Prettier Than Pink is a band that may have some radio programmers scratching their heads, wondering if they fit their format, because they play without any rules at all. The artistic free-for-all on their U.S. debut Chop Suey (www.cdbaby.com/cd/prettierthanpink) on Sutton Records is a dizzying roller coaster ride that will leave you breathless. Just ask radio stations such as KDHX in St. Louis, Missouri and KMUD in Redway, California, merely two of the over 50 FM dials that have quickly fallen for them. Vocalist/guitarist Lei Bautista, guitarist Pam Aquino, bassist Melody del Mundo, and drummer Ann Connolly recently took time to answer questions from Ink 19 about their Asian origins and future in America.
How different is Chop Suey from the albums that Prettier Than Pink released in the Philippines?
Lei Bautista: Very different. There’s not much creative freedom in the Philippine market because it’s a very small country. If you want to hit it big, your music has to sound a certain way, sacrificing creativity. Chop Suey is a complete liberation from that. In the U.S., there is a market for any type of music and music lovers are open to uniqueness. In fact, the more unique it is the better. Therefore, it allowed us to experiment and do songs as creatively as we wanted.
Do you come up with the grooves first prior to the lyrics?
Bautista: Not all the time. It could go any way. Sometimes you have the riff ringing in your head. Sometimes you have lyrics with no melody. Sometimes you have a melody haunting you with no chords or lyrics. It just comes to you.
Did the group get its name from the ’80s film Pretty In Pink?
Bautista: No, not consciously. I say that because I came up with the name, and I never intended it to be a tribute to the movie although of course I was a child of the ’80s and watched that movie (I’m not a Molly Ringwald fan, though). I probably derived it unknowingly.
There are buckets of New Wave-oriented acts these days- how does Prettier Than Pink see itself within that large group?
Bautista: Well, we offer something very unique. An all-girl band that can all play instruments and sing at the same time. Our sound is a mixture of ’60s harmonies,’70s psychedelia, and ’80s new wave. We have a fun, psychedelic, diverse album with positive messages reaching all ages and musical genres. Also, how often do you have a New Wave all-girl band with three Filipinas and an Irish drummer? It doesn’t get crazier than that.
What is “Hair” about?
Melody del Mundo: “Hair” is obviously about people who are into transforming themselves through cosmetic surgery to satisfy their partner’s synthetic needs. It also applies to people who may not be so confident about themselves and want to look good and feel good through reconstructive surgery. Well, you know what I mean.
The tracks show remarkable diversity. What musical backgrounds do the members have and how did this contribute to the album’s wild genre hopping?
Bautista: The first CDs I ever owned was a box set of the Beatles. I have a wide range of influences, all types of music except for rap/R&B/hip-hop that I am not fond of. The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, the Ventures, Motown, the Mamas and the Papas, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc, from the ’60s. The B-52s, the Go-Go’s, the Bangles, etc, in the ’80s. I am also heavily influenced by Broadway and theatre.
Pam Aquino: I can appreciate any type of music. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of indie pop and reggae music. I am also looking for this Turkish singer I heard on the radio whose music sounds like it was an excerpt from an opera. The songs in the album are very diverse because of all of the band members’ styles combined. Individually, we have different tastes in music, and we also don’t want to confine ourselves to just sounding like one genre. I had a lot of fun doing the album. I wouldn’t have had fun doing it if I felt I was only limited to a certain type of sound.
Mundo: My musical background is vast. I can say that I’m not limited to a certain genre or type of music, not even to a certain language. I believe that a song is very good if it moves you and touches you. Basically, I just go with my musical feel and the emotions that I’m entrapped with while writing a song.
Ann Connolly: I started out playing traditional Irish music at an early age, in later years the music of Brazil, Cuba, West Africa, and New Orleans. The late ’70s and early ’80s in Ireland brought the genre of Celtic rock groups like the Horslips, and Thin Lizzy introduced guitar and drums to traditional Irish music. At the same time U2 were making waves in arena rock. In my teens I started playing percussion, mainly the Irish percussion instruments (bodhran, bones and spoons) that I soon started to apply to other genres.
Why aren’t there songs in the band’s native Filipino language?
Bautista: Our previous albums were mostly in Filipino. This is a refresher. Also, we wanted the album to be as universal as possible and didn’t want to be categorized as a Filipino band but plainly just as musicians making it in the global market, just like everyone else is.
When did the group form and how?
Bautista: The band went professional in 1991 from a girl group that was formed in college. Two days before graduation, we auditioned for a local club with our entire repertoire of three songs, and to our surprise, the club owner gave us a break. Four years after gigging we released our first album that hit gold five months after. That was the start of a very long career. Members have come and gone over the past decade but the spirit of PTP lives on long after its members. PTP has never been about individual personalities and personal gratification but rather a culmination of unique, extraordinary female talents that can put aside selfish wants to come together and create an explosive insurmountable energy that is felt by everyone that experiences a PTP gig.
There’s only one “normal” love song on Chop Suey, which is “Baby”. Was there a conscious decision to hold off on romantic sentiments?
Bautista: None, it just happened that way. The theme of the album is fun, funky and psychedelic and usually “normal” love songs are ballads that we didn’t want in this album. There are other love related songs on the album though, “Kryptonite” is about falling in love with a guitar player; “Johnny Blaze” is about falling in love with a fire-blazing headless biker (Ghost Rider). Even “Mr. Smoothie” is about love. I think everything is driven by love one way or the other.
Two of the tunes — “Kryptonite” and “Johnny Blaze” — have blatant comic-book references. Who are the comics buffs in Prettier Than Pink?
Bautista: “Johnny Blaze” I composed really for Nic Cage’s movie coming out next year, Ghost Rider. Elfquest rules! I was so fascinated with the unique story line and amazing graphics. Cutter and Leetah are my faves. That comic book just takes you away to their own world. My sophomore year in high school pastime was reading all volumes. In fact, I am trying to collect the newly released colored version of it. I also used to read Superman, Batman, Spider-Man (all borrowed from a classmate’s collection). Archie, Betty and Veronica, Casper, and Richie Rich when I was younger. Does Mad magazine count?
Aquino (composer of “Kryptonite”): I did read a lot of Superman comics when I was little. I remember having this very thick, very old, Superman book. “Kryptonite” wasn’t really about Superman, though. It’s about a girl having a crush on this guy who just has a sexy way of playing his
guitar. I don’t even think she digs the music. It’s just the rock stance that got into her. “Kryptonite” came up since I couldn’t think of anything else that will rhyme with “black and white,” when I was doing the words. I also read a lot of Archie and Mad when I was young. Nowadays, I’m more into Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku.
Prettier Than Pink: www.prettierthanpink.com