The Preatures On The #MeToo Movement & Why They Want To Get Back To Their Rock N’ Roll Roots On Their Next LPWritten by Sally McMullen on January 30, 2018
While most of us have probably long forgotten, broken or discarded our New Year’s Resolutions, The Preatures are holding true to theirs this year. Well, more of a mantra than a resolution, 2018 will be the year of the “hustle” for the Sydney rockers.
But considering the massive year they had in 2017, it’s difficult to think how they plan to top it. Following their hugely successful debut Blue Planet Eyes and the departure of former guitarist Gideon Bensen in 2016, The Preatures released their sophomore record in August. Titled Girlhood, the 11-soul searching tracks explore the tumultuous nature of womanhood as told by front-lady, Izzi Manfredi.
And while the record boasted many sonic gems such as the glittering title track and lamenting ballad ‘Your Fan’, it was ‘Yanada’ that stole the show. A pop-rock number peppered with 80s-sounding synth, the chorus is sung in the local Dharug language and was The Preatures’ way of paying respect to the rich Indigenous heritage of the Sydney area that they call home. As non-Indigenous people, they sought help from songwriter Jacinta Tobin and members of the local community including the Mudgin-Gal Woman’s Group in Redfern to write the lyrics.
Outside of promoting Girlhood, The Preatures were also very vocal in the #MeToo movement. Izzi published an unabashedly open letter inspired by the #MeToo movement and was one of the many brave players in the music industry to sign the #meNoMore open letter slamming the prevalence of sexual harassment and inequality in the biz.
Despite the colossal last 12 months, The Preatures have hit the ground running in 2018. It’s been less than six months since Girlhood was released, but apparently ideas for the next record are already underway. And in between songwriting sessions, they don’t appear to be slowing down on the road either. From festival gigs at Mountain Sounds and Party in the Paddock and supporting gigs for the Foo Fighters and Harry Styles to the Twilight concert series at Taronga and Melbourne Zoo, their calendar is filling up pretty quickly.
We chatted with lead guitarist, producer and co-songwriter Jack Moffitt about Girlhood, the long-lasting impact of ‘Yanada’ and why it’s important for Aussie musicians to speak up about gender equality. He also opened up about the new record, upcoming gigs and exactly why 2018 will be their year of the hustle.
Music Feeds: It’s been a few months since you released Girlhood, what has it been like touring the new record and seeing how fans are receiving it?
Jack Moffitt: It’s been really special. The kinds of responses we’ve had from shows and something as simple as watching the way that people sing along to things. Like the way people are singing along to ‘Yanada’ and the way that it feels to play a song like ‘Magick’ in a room of people who are there to see it is great. It’s such a warm feeling. I think it’s a really emotional record, so to perform that for people and to get that feedback has been really special and really great.
MF: Have there been any tracks that you’ve especially loved performing live?
JM: They’ve all been great. I think this record was a really good challenge for us as a group. Performing a lot of those songs that came to life mostly through just writing and being in the studio, it was a challenge. But the thing is, when we started playing, everything was a challenge and going through the motions of doing it night in night out, you get to learn a lot about who you are, like what’s at the base and what’s at the bottom of the band? What’s at the heart of the band? How does it feel to be us? Every time we make a new song or something, we’re still learning what that feeling’s like.
MF: Do you think that self-reflection as a band was even more important because it was the first record since Gideon left to pursue his solo career?
JM: To some extent. But mostly it just left us with the same questions we were always asking. Like ‘what are we trying to do right now?’ ‘How do we make the best of the situation that we’re in or what is happening in our group?’ They can be really hard questions to ask yourself. It’s like doing work on yourself. It’s not always easy. It feels a bit dark and sometimes you can feel a bit isolated or alone. Or maybe you’re a little out of touch and you don’t have the right perspective.
Gid leaving wasn’t all sad. In a lot of ways, what it helped the both of us do was to get clear on some of the murkiness that I was just talking about. It can be hard sometimes to have a lot of identities writing on multiple causes and trying to combine them into a unit, it’s a challenge. Obviously it was sad, but we’re really glad to be doing what we’re doing now. It’s giving us a lot more strength.
MF: You were really involved in creating the narrative that flows through Girlhood. Was that something you planned beforehand or was it a product of the songwriting process?
JM: Well, it was the title that Izzi wrote really early in the process of making the record. Then from there, we sort of filled in the world around the concepts that Izzi wanted to write a few of the songs about, the times and places and events in her life growing up as a young woman.
I never want to do things half-arsed. So I was trying to figure out what my role in that was. How could I be the most supportive partner and get into a space that would allow for her to go deep into that zone and help make the room for her to be honest and reflective. I guess between the two of us, I’ve always been the kind of partner who that will write ideas and present them as things that she might want to work on with me or work on by herself. There are a lot of those moments on this record. There are a lot of other great moments where we wrote together and trying to commit the ideas or chasing something we were both writing towards.
I wanted time on this record. That was the thing that I wanted and I think that was all for the better. It gave us the chance to go really deep, which is what I wanted to do and explore that concept, the sound and harmony between masculine and feminine energy. And how to represent the band through the lyrics and the intention that Izzi had written into all of the songs.
MF: The record explores a lot of the hardships of growing up as a woman and Izzi has been really vocal in #MeToo movement. What do you think is your position as musicians to speak up about some of the inequalities in the local music industry and the wider world?
JM: We need to change, really at the bottom of everything. It’s always a difficult thing to look change in the face but really what it comes down to is shifting little things daily, in your outlook or keeping an open mind in conversation and accepting the fact that things are changing around us and if you’re not going to observe them, you could at least be mindful of them. Things do change. I think being in a group with somebody as strong as Isabella has really changed us individually as people and obviously as men and as musicians and whatever other label you want to attach to our being.
Some of the greatest things I have ever learned have happened over the last 18 months and have had to do with supporting a woman through her artistic process and witnessing everything that’s happening with #MeToo and listening to women’s speeches and what women are saying about what’s happening and trying to participate in that conversation might hopefully change things. That’s what humans do, right? That’s what humanity is all about. Everything that we’ve ever done is because we’ve changed something. We’ve always felt that as a collective, we’re looking to be better and this is part of it.
MF: Yanada is probably one of the most significant songs off the album. As non-Indigenous people, why did you think it was so important to explore local languages and connect with the Dharug community in the way you guys did through that track?
JM: It’s important because, like what’s happening with the conversation that women are instigating now, the Indigenous community has had that dialogue with, in want of a better phrase, white Australian culture for so long now and we are so blessed to be received by this country. It’s not often that you really take stock of just how incredible our Indigenous community is and those communities are. It’s important to us because, we were looking at a lot of things as we were making this record, and one of them was what it means to be Australian. The first thing that came to mind was that after travelling all around the world, we didn’t know a single thing about our own Indigenous heritage or we didn’t know enough to feel confident to reach out to the community from a place of understanding.
So we just went for that and that meant getting in to conversations with people and asking questions and accepting that there was stuff that we didn’t know and that it’s not our fault that we don’t know those things… We feel a deep respect and extreme gratefulness that the warmth that we’ve been shown from that community and the gift of language and the blessing from a lot of people in various communities, not just in Sydney and not just from the Darug people but other language groups in Sydney and other Indigenous groups across Australia in different ways, expressing their gratitude, I suppose, for doing it the right way.
There’s a really interesting quote that I came across and it sounds ridiculous but Charlemagne said this thing about to use different languages is to possess different souls. Indigenous language is around us every day and it makes up part of our soul and to acknowledge it is to strengthen that soul. That’s just an individual thing for me obviously and that’s how I feel but if we can do it as Australians, I think we’ll have a greater soul. We’ll have a great richness of character and we can protect from harm and harm that’s already before and thing’s that can happen to us in the future. We’re a nation. We need to kind of figure out what that means for us. So for us, ‘Yanada’ was a big part of that.
MF: Yeah, what you’re saying seems especially relevant considering January 26 just came and went again.
JM: Yeah, absolutely. It’s probably one of the greatest achievements for our band. I get very emotional thinking about what that song means to me and where that song came from and where it went and how it now lives in the world. Just like learning a new language, you start to hear things differently in the things around you. It’s amazing thing to work with someone like Jacinta and a lot of other local figures who are paving the way of what they hope will become a deeper understanding. That sort of reciprocal quality makes great communities.
It hangs large over us and we’re concerned by things that we maybe had been a little bit unwise to when we were younger. For that alone, I’m so grateful that it changed my life in a really profound way. I’m just so grateful we were able to be present with that song and help it live its best life.
It’s a good thing for us to question our identity. Culturally speaking, I think we might’ve hit a bit of a schism and it’s always painful when you hit an obstacle at speed but it’s a good chance to really take stock of where we’ve come from and what we’re going to do next. And we’re at the point in our generation where between you and me and my brothers and sisters and the people at the age we’re at now, we’re about to inherit a great wealth of history. We can change things because we have the mobility and we have the power and we have the collective spirit to shift.
And you know, Australia Day or Invasion Day or whatever you’d like to call it, has many connotations and I think it’s a great thing to be really stark about what those connotations actually mean. And for us, we love to be a part of this journey in the music scene and it’s a good thing to question it. It’s a good thing to question what it means to be Australian. It’s a good thing to want to re-establish an identity not just here but in the world.
MF: 2018 is already panning out to be a massive year for The Preatures and you guys are playing the Twilight concert series at Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo over the next few weeks. They’re both pretty interesting venues, what are you looking forward to the most about those shows?
JM: Umm, not disturbing the animals too much hopefully! I’m looking forward to it because I know it’s very special. A zoo is an amazing thing, it’s like a little preservation zone. Playing music in a place like that… it’s kind of cool. It’s like everything you could think of as a kid, playing in a zoo is probably not one of things that I thought I would do. It’s just one of the many awesome, kick-ass things that we’ve allowed to do as a group. They’re letting us loose in the zoo. We kinda belong there anyway (laughs).
MF: Yeah, what kind of set do you play at a zoo? Like do you have to go acoustic or? (Laughs).
JM: I know that everything sounds like a bleeding heart today but I was really worried about the animals and all of the loud music affecting the bats and the snakes and all the temperamental little beings! (Laughs) Like is this cool? Is this actually alright? Obviously it’s a beautiful space but is this not going to be too disturbing? But I guess anything that can get people out of the house is fucking sick. I’m all about it.
MF: Yeah, especially with the state of Sydney’s night life and lack of live music venues. If we have to visit the zoo to see a gig, that’s what we’ll do.
JM: Yeah, let’s play with the animals because that’s how we’re being treated with all the fucking mitigation and legislation and the whole thing about it. But yeah, look, the Twilight series is great and it’s a really cool thing to be a part of that. Tick it off a bucket list, man. We’ve played at the zoo! It’s great (laughs).
MF: Aside from the shows that you guys have locked in, what else do you guys have planned for 2018?
JM: It’s funny, we had a band meeting and Izzi brought a big wall planner. I’m just looking at it, it’s still in my house. We made it and filled it out as much as we could but they just left it here at my house, so I’m just looking at it being like “God, it’s pretty full on.” Right up until October, I’m looking at little sticky notes of and being like “Yeah, we’ve got an awesome time ahead of us.” A bunch of writing, we’ve got these great gigs. There are festivals and bunches of time where we’re just going to be writing. We’re working on another record which is one of our big goals this year. We just want to keep working and be fearless and keep asking all of the dangerous questions.
MF: That’s awesome! So do guys already have some ideas for the new record or is that something you’re hoping to figure out in those song writing sessions?
JM: Yeah, we’ll figure it out. We always do. I just want to write a big kick ass rock ‘n’ roll record with heaps of edge. That sounds like a really arbitrary explanation but we explored so deeply into ourselves on the last album and with the reaction, we just kind of want to jump track and maybe get back to something a little more immediate about what we do.
We’re a drum, bass and guitar with a fucking kick ass front woman, let’s explore what that means. I think that’s the starting point. We’ll figure it out and maybe we’ll do an electronic record, who the fuck knows? But we’ll keep it lean. This is our focus this year. We have this word every year and and now it’s the year of the “hustle”, so we’re just going to hustle all year long and make it big.
MF: Well, there aren’t too many big rock records floating around in 2018, so that’s not a bad thing.
JM: Well, we’ll see how it happens but for us that’s our truth. That’s what we do and being explorative and open minded and experimental, those things come naturally to us. Izzi and I were chatting earlier the other day about our new word hustle and we were wanting to keep it “lean”, that’s another word we’re throwing in there, and we’re wanting to really hustle our band. We want to hustle our group. We’ve got a fucking bad ass drummer, and Tom’s a kick ass bass player and I’m not too bad on the guitar. These elements are actually pretty timeless, so let’s just fucking get into it. Let’s make something really strong, which is those three things, so we’ll see what happens.
Inevitably we’ll end up colouring it with other stuff and Izzi is an amazing piano player so maybe we’ll try to figure out what we can do at a base level between the four of us before we hang ornaments off it. It feels like the right time. You’re totally right about rock records and the whole bloated fucking tag of ‘rock n roll’ and ‘rock music’ or whatever you want to call it, it’s just pop to us, pop music. It’s the craft. It’s the writing, it’s the scenery, it’s about what’s happening, it’s about being open to your time and acknowledging your place. We live in a really interesting time in the universe, especially for music where there are no fucking rules anymore, so why impose rules on yourself? When you don’t impose the rules, you go through a year of creating an amazingly deep and perhaps genre-bending record.
For us, realising that we have a rule is actually kind of nice (laughs) because you can actually kind of drive a lot of that energy and focus it down and we’ll see. I think a lot people are starting to feel that way. Our friends and bands that we’re with. They’ve had their fat time and they want to work now. That’s how we feel and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
MF: So can we expect the record to be released before the end of 2018?
JM: Ah, man. If it were up to us we’d just put shit out as we do it. But the fact is that we’re on a label and the label can do what they can do and that sometimes means putting the release of something that you worked on off until what someone calls “a better time”. But our goal is to have a record done by August and have it out before the end of the year. And you know, if fucking King Gizzard can put out four records in a year, fuck it! We’re less people in a group surely we can make an album in less than a year.
Everything that you do as a group is the biggest reaction to the last thing you did and that album took a year and it took the time that it needed to take but I think we’re just hustling now. We just wanna put stuff out. We’re not getting any younger. We’re not old by any stretch but we haven’t really hit peak yet and we wanna see what volume can do for that. If that means getting something done, I think we’ll figure out what’s gonna happen with that pretty soon.
MF: Yeah, nice. Striking while the iron is still hot.
JM: Yeah, well the iron is cold as far as we’re concerned. We need to heat this damn thing up first but yeah, we’re gonna keep bashing it for what it’s worth.
Catch The Preatures performing live at the Twilight At Taronga and Melbourne Zoo Twilights concert series, as well as on Mountain Sounds festival and Party In The Paddock lineups, this February and March.