Summertime Sips and Summertime Sounds is our occasional, seasonal foray into summer vibes with our fave local “summertime” bands, in which we meet up, share a drink, and revel in the sunny weather (check out editions 1, 2, and 3, featuring Work Drugs, Cruiser and Chill Moody, here). Today we catch up with Philly’s The Pretty Greens; read on to experience the adventure.
One thing I love about The Pretty Greens is that their take on “summer” music is delightfully multi-faceted. They’re not writing music to escape, or bliss out to; and they’re not writing ragers to sweat out to in some basement. No, The Pretty Greens are writing music that’s visceral and tough to characterize, incorporating bits of surf, garage, Brill Building pop, punk, new wave, and more, into a warm blend of sounds that’s perhaps more evocative of the real complexities of life.
Not surprisingly, people have started to take notice. In the past year, they’ve shared bills with the likes of La Luz, Hunters, Shannon and the Clams, and Upset; this fall, they’re opening for the generally wonderful Allo Darlin.’ The Philly trio back up solid songwriting with a high-energy live show—and real enthusiasm that comes from believing in your message.
On stage, the girls go by Carly Green, Julia Green, and Kool Schmool; in real life they’re Carly, Julia, and Sarah. And while they seem a little like garage-punk bad-asses on stage, in real life, they’re totally sweet and psyched to be drinking mid-week beers with me.
We meet at Fountain Porter, in South Philly—I’m psyched because this is the first Sips spot in my neighborhood, and because already I associate this bar with sweet summer times, mostly involving cheeseburgers and listening to old vinyl on Sunday afternoons.
I’m also psyched because after meeting with three groups of dudes, it’s nice to be among some ladies, who totally understand when I order Dock Street Summer in Berlin because “it sounds refreshing” (“It does,” agrees Julia) and whose eyes don’t gloss over when I talk about handbags (only because it came up). Julia orders “Summer in Berlin” as well, and Carly orders “Milk Carton Stout,” which we all agree sounds delicious. And Kool orders Jack and Ginger, her go-to summer drink (more on that later!)
Over the course of an hour or so, we talk shore life, riding in cars with no AC, and the best (and worst!) things about summer in Philly. Read on for deets on feminist beach flyering, free pizza, and the bands they associate with growing up and summer.
The Key: So the summer is winding down. What were the most fun things you did this summer, and what awesome stuff are you still hoping to squeeze in?
Julia Green: Well, the most summery thing we did as a band this summer was playing Asbury Lanes—it’s a bowling alley in New Jersey, and if you play there, you get to bowl for free. So we spent the day hanging on the boardwalk, then played a show at night, and then the next day I actually went to the beach, which I generally never do…and I got this watermelon bikini that I was excited about. So it felt really summery.
Kool Schmool: The venue was like a block from the beach, so that was really exciting. It was all of our first times in Asbury Park.
JG: We actually flyered on the boardwalk beforehand. We were like “feminist punk rock! Feminist punk rock!”
TK: Did you get anyone from the boardwalk to come to the show?
JG: Well during the show we were like, “did anyone come from us flyering?” And nobody raised their hands [laughs].
Carly Green: We also played a really hot house show at [West Philly DIY spot] Safety Meeting, which was fun. It was super hot. There was mango water ice, which was really good. Some people said they came just for the water ice.
JG [laughing]: Well, the water ice was what got them in the door. But then they stayed because they loved our sound! [laughs].
KS: We also made the trek up to New York this summer…
CG: Yeah! The venue we played at, Lulu’s, is actually closed now—but it was the first venue we played at where you got a free 10” pizza if you bought a beer. Plus all of the bands got free tickets for pizza too—so the pizza was flowing all night. It was really an ideal situation.
KS [nodding]: The New York show was definitely a highlight. It was our goal for the summer to play more outside Philly, and that show was a lot of fun.
JG: It was so hot that day, and we drove up in a van together without air conditioning. I got us all these little personal fans at the dollar store. It was an adventure. We got home at 4 in the morning or something….
CG: …And to answer the second part of your question, before the summer ends, I think we’d really like to record in some nice weather. Usually our practice space is either really hot or really cold. Lately it’s been just right.
TK: Where do you practice?
CG: We practice in Media, in an attic. So it’s very extreme conditions.
TK: Wow, that is unusual. So, summer in Philly. When I think summer songs that originated in Philly, I always think about your “Jealous Waves” cover art, and also about the song itself, which sounds so summery with the waves crashing. But it also came out in February. Did you set out to make a summer song to pull yourself out of the dregs of winter?
KS: The timing of the release of that song came about because February Records asked us to put out a song for them for Valentine’s Day. And they really liked “Jealous Waves.”
CG: Kool’s friend Stephanie Kao did the artwork, and she came up with this really cool, ‘80s, sort of neon, new wave image.
JG: It’s funny, because another song on that single is “Lonely Hunter,” which is about the winter. And when I’m singing that song I’m always very aware of what season we’re in. So sometimes when I’m singing it live in the summer, I’ll switch up the lyrics to make it more relevant to the moment. We don’t want to pull it from our set, because we like it, and people seem to enjoy it. But I don’t want it to be about just one thing either. I don’t want to sing about winter while people are sweating.
TK: Do you think the idea of summer consciously influences your songwriting?
KS: This summer for me, I’ve been very influenced by Link Wray. He’s a famous surf-guitar god. So when I’m sitting down by myself, trying to brainstorm ideas for songs, that’s immediately where I go to. Just summer, surf, surf-rock, garage. And I think the last few songs we’ve written together have been very surf-y. But they’re not released yet, so everyone has to come to our shows to hear them! [laughs]
CG: Honeyblood is a summery band that is a huge influence on me. I’m always looking for the perfect lyric formula; I’m trying to break the code. And they just get it. Sometimes you hear lyrics by other people, and you’re like, “ahhh, why didn’t I write that?” But at the same time, it inspires you to write better music.
TK: So what does summer music mean to you? Who are some of your essential summer bands?
KS: You know, The Beach Boys, Link Wray, Tame Impala…
CG: I think maybe music like Black Moth Super Rainbow, or Stereolab. Also, I grew up across the border from Michigan and we had a lot of Motown Radio from Detroit. So any kind of Motown feels summery to me—groups like Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, The Crystals, The Shangri-Las, Marvin Gaye—anything with a simple pop beat. Also, Hunx and His Punx. They’re really fun and garage-y. [Kate’s note: these guys rule!]
JG: So I have a confession to make: I’m really not a summer person. [Everyone laughs.] I jog, so when I think about each season I think about what I want to listen to when I’m outside sweating. So in the summer I need to listen to stuff that’s really punky to get me through it. So this summer it’s been like, Bikini Kill and The Coathangers. And then when I’m home, just relaxing, Beach House, Teen Dream, is just something I’ll put on repeat. Just something light and dreamy. I was also into this one Conor Oberst record, which is sort of embarrassing. And CocoRosie. I think some of it has to do with whenever I buy the records—I associate it with that season.
CG: For me, it’s Honeyblood; I just can’t get over it. I’ve been listening to them on repeat. I love it—it’s definitely a summer album for me. [laughs] I feel like this whole article is going to be about my love of Honeyblood. [Kate’s note: after this interview I listened to Honeyblood’s record all the way through. It is solid.]
TK: So derailing from the summer theme for just a sec—a few weeks back I did an interview with Amanda X, and one thing we touched on was the climate of playing in an all-girl band, and getting grouped on bills with other girl bands. Do you ever feel like you’re pigeonholed being all girls? Do you think it’s an advantage?
CG: I don’t think we’re pigeonholed. I think we might have been a little bit at the beginning but I feel like now we just strive to play bills with people we really like, or who have something interesting to say.
JG: We’ve played on bills that are deliberately all female, and that’s a good thing. One of my favorite memories was playing the opening for the Alien She show at Vox Populi. That was a feminism night. Sarah put together that bill, and it was like, us, Trophy Wife, Mannequin Pussy, and Pushin’ it to the Limit. In situations like that, I think having all girls can be very empowering. It can be empowering if it’s inspiring activism.
KS: I agree that we don’t get pigeonholed anymore. But I think that’s because our sound has evolved. When I first started playing with you guys, we were more punky and outwardly feminist. Now our feminism is more subliminal.
TK: I like that! Subliminal feminism. That’s pretty punk. So: drinks. What do you guys like to drink during the summer? What’s your perfect summer drink and where do you want to drink it?
JG: It’s funny, because during band practice, we’re all business. We really don’t drink at all, unless it’s a really bad day. So my perfect drink is actually non-alcoholic. I’m obsessed with seltzer, and I have a soda stream… so what I do is put in fruit juice—pineapple is my favorite—and then I put in frozen fruit where the ice should go. That way it doesn’t get diluted. My favorite combination is seltzer, pineapple juice, raspberries, and blueberries.
TK: That sounds delicious!
JG: It’s very refreshing. I don’t have central air in my apartment so it’s my way to trick myself into enjoying the heat.
KS: In the winter, I’ll drink Jack and Coke. In the summer, I drink Jack and ginger [laughs].
CG: I’m a huge Ginger Ale fan; I also love darker beer, like stouts. I’ll drink them year ‘round [gestures towards her beer]. In the summer though, I think that new Teavana Mojito Lemonade is super refreshing. Oprah knows what she’s doing [laughs].
TK: Ok, now time for some either-ors? Beachside or poolside?
TK: Morgan’s Pier or Spruce Street Harbor Park?
ALL: Neither [Kate's note: Oooh, burn!]
KS: No, I’m just kidding. Actually I’d say both. The park can be cool during the day with the arcade games and hammocks, and then you can walk down the street to the Pier. Morgan’s Pier can be hella fun. Last year they had James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem, which was cool.
TK: Totally. So next one: MGMT or Vampire Weekend?
JG [excitedly]: MGMT! One of my favorite jobs ever was working at a Barnes & Noble. And it was the year that one of their big records came out, and it was literally the only record we carried that I could stand to listen to on full rotation. So I have many fond memories of alphabetizing books to that record.
KS: I would say, neither, and replace it with DIIV.
[General discussion breaks out about how the hell you pronounce “DIIV”; we also talk about how I didn’t know how to pronounce “Wavves” at first]
TK: Moving on: Margarita or mojito?
JG [sheepishly]: I can’t help it; I like the mint!
TK: So last one: summer raging or summer lazing?
CM: I think it depends what you’re raging against—or for.
TK: I was sort of envisioning a mosh pit rage.
CG: Well in that case maybe a little raging. The Pretty Greens know how to have a good time!
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