Initially, The Preatures were denied performance visas for the US. When the Australian travel bureau asked that they provide enough proof that they were a “band of international standing,” what the Sydney five-piece gave apparently wasn’t enough. A forthcoming appearance at New York’s CMJ Music Marathon didn’t suffice, an equally disheartening and ironic blow, considering the four days in October is the desired introduction for the almost famous, ready to be discovered, signed and thrown onto a tour bus. The audience is filled with impressionable fans, industry professionals and label representatives. It was a royal opportunity almost crushed due to a simple misunderstanding.
But after a lengthy process and a battle for reassertion, The Preatures returned for the second time to LA, before arriving at JFK, fresh virgins to New York.
We decide to meet in Williamsburg for many reasons, some of which include the vintage shopping, the good food, and the prospective GIRLS references. I suggest 5leaves. The irony continues: an Australian writer interviewing Australian musicians in an Australian restaurant. (Pineapple on a burger, it’s a beautiful thing.) They’re pretty exhausted. Izzi Manfredi, The Preatures’ keyboard-playing frontwoman, has been shopping hard in Soho, and Jack Moffitt, lead guitarist, didn’t get home until 5am because he found himself wandering the streets of East Village without purpose. Yes, a side of fries, thanks.
So far, they’ve played two shows in LA, one at the infamous club The Satellite. The crowd was as crazy as the sound was dodgy.
“If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere,” says Manfredi.
They’ve also just played the first of two shows as a part of CMJ, and both proved to be more challenging.
“The first show at the Bowery Hotel was kind of awkward. Well, I mean, for us,” Manfredi explains. “Because everybody was there and you know they’re there to size you up. It’s kind of like being in a zoo.”
I went to that show. I wouldn’t say it was awkward, but as a promising young band and as newcomers to the New York critiques, I can see how they could feel like caged animals.
“It’s hard to know what the standard is, too, when you come form overseas. What the expectations are, what the field is like. But I think our style of performing and the way we like to perform is much better received here than it is in Australia.”
Jack agrees. “The audiences here are really reactionary. In Australia, it’s a little but more static and hard-working. You really have to move a fucking mountain before somebody will clap their hands for you or get involved, you know. Which is totally the way I am when I go to see shows, but I suppose you don’t think about it when you’re that person.”
Performing in small clubs is where the group finds their cache.
“There’s something sexy about it,” says Jack.
“I can just go into the audience and grab someone’s hair you know,” Manfredi explains.
Nevertheless, their show at the Bowery Hotel was energetic and infectious, a blend of gothic soul and pop rock. Manfredi would rebound off the crowd, sharing vocals with Gideon Bensen, also on guitar, and flanked by Tom Champion on bass, Luke Davison on drums.
Manfredi had a musical upbringing, learning the piano at aged 3 but learning to despise lessons by 12. “I was a naturally talented kid but had no interest in discipline or working hard.”
Growing up, she was surrounded by her parents’ choice in rock and roll. “My favourite song when I was little was ‘Love Spreads’ by The Stone Roses and ‘Statue of Liberty’ by XTC. My mum played a lot of Madonna, Patti Smith, Pretenders and Divinyls. Dad started introducing me to the ‘classics’ like Pink Floyd and Funkadelic and Dylan.”
The Preatures have also taken influence from the diversity of the greats. Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, and The Velvet Underground have all been referenced in regards to their sound, and although they’ve played a few bad Rolling Stones covers in their time, they are no imitation band. Manfredi is, however, a self-confessed Prince revivalist.
“On the train home from school I’d listen to Blood on the Tracks and then a Brandy record or Destiny’s Child. I just love music and good songs and I don't really care where or who they come from. I like a lot of ‘cool’ music and I like a lot of ‘uncool’ music—cheesy funk and blatant pop, R&B, I don’t care.”
For the show at Bowery Hotel, she wore a simple white tank top, which has become somewhat of a uniform for her onstage character. “It's not really ‘me’ but it's a part of me and I like feeling like many people at once. I feel like I can be more sincere if it's impersonal.” She declares to the audience, however, that she had made this sartorial choice before Miley. And she wore it better.
After double-handily defeating burgers, I knew that we had limited time until victory would be succumbed to waves of nausea. We had spoken about the great vintage shopping in Williamsburg, so we decided to hit up Artists and Fleas. We browsed in our drowsy state, tried on sunglasses and picked up handmade tees made from recycled sci-fi curtain material and superhero bed sheets. We put them back down. The Preatures have fashioned a 70s pop-rock image for themselves. Their video clips are filmed as live sets that feature backup dancers wearing leather leotards and gold Lycra. With the addition of static filters and lengthy crossfades, you’ve just entered the disco era.
“The ‘Manic Baby’ clip to me is a total train wreck. Watching it, I'm just like this is so bad,” laughs Manfredi. “We knew we wanted to do a live video clip like all of those Young Talent Time, Top of the Pops old TV clips where they’re just miming and being a bit awkward about it. You know it’s not quite right. So we thought we would just play on it. Play on the awkwardness rather than try and be serious about it.”
Moffitt: I think people were happy to ignore for the fact that [the film clip of] “Is This How You Feel?” was really good. And so it was all right for us to make a mistake like that.
Manfredi: I don’t think it was a mistake.
Moffitt: No, it was a great mistake, I’m proud of it.
Manfredi: It was bad, but if you own it, you’re like yeah, it’s bad.
Moffitt: It’s so bad it’s humorous. And you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously. Especially not as an Australian.
With two EPs to their name, Shaking Hands and Is This How You Feel?, The Preatures have a new record set in their sites. While they were in LA, the band spent a few days tracking new material at Sunset Sounds.
“We’re getting more of an idea of what we want to do with the new record and kind of like the idea of not using a producer but using someone who can be a mediator and an enabler,” says Manfredi with the hopes of producing new work sooner rather than later. “I just don’t want it to drag on for a year and a half, which a lot of these things can do. It’s a product of technology in a lot of ways because there are so many choices with what you can do and you can get really bogged down in making the perfect record.”
Moffitt also agrees for the fear of losing momentum. “I think it’s also an issue of the life span and vitality of an idea. It doesn’t really last that long if you don’t back it up or commit to it early on. If you let this great idea languish then it kind of becomes stale or not as interesting anymore and I think it’s hard to know when to stop on your ideas. I think if you feel good then you know it’s time to move. Right now is the best time and I think we all feel that way. It doesn’t happen when we say it starts, it’s already started.”
All I can assume is that next time, “international standing” won’t be an issue.