“Be authentic. Be awesome. And playing fast is much more interesting.”
These are the lessons taught by the iconic punk band, the Ramones. They are tenets that have passed down to bands that have followed, creating a subgenre of punk called “Ramonescore.” And one of the most exciting acts practicing the form is The Prettybads, from right here in Houston. Jordan Prettybad, the band’s drummer, gave us that brief description and a fuller explanation.
“Ramonescore is loud, fast and minimalistic. Catchy melodies and three-part harmonies (from) bands like the Riverdales, the Queers, the Huntingtons , Screeching Weasel, Teenage Bottlerocket and the Young Rochelles,” he noted. “Fans of the genre are pretty loyal so it helps that we are pretty strict to the outline and we can add to their collection. Of course it's lost on many listeners that Ramonescore is even a thing, but they can still enjoy the sound even though it’s not labeled in their mind. Even the ‘50s and ‘60s references we make in the album can be attributed to a Ramones influences, because they were so open about their influences and showcased their respect for rock-n-roll history. That's kinda what it's about.”
The Prettybads aren’t trying to mimic the Ramones history, though. They’re out to make some of their own. The first step is a proper introduction. The band recently released Meet the Prettybads, a 20-track album. They’ll celebrate with a record release show this Friday at Notsuoh.
The band is a duo, with Jordan joined by guitarist/vocalist Kayla Prettybad. Their friend Ben Bravo is featured on keys and vocals on the album, which was more than ten years in the making, Jordan said.
“Kayla and I have been writing songs together a little over ten 10 years now. Some of the songs I wrote when I was younger. The album is made up of some songs I wrote, some Kayla wrote and some we wrote together. That's how we end up with an eclectic sound.”
The sound is diverse. Songs like “Johnny” (which features a clever paraphrasing of Dee Dee Ramone’s famous “1-2-3-4!” intro) recall 1950s acts like The Shangri-Las. You can hear a bit of Green Day on rave-up “Maybe I’m Not the One You Wanted.” Jordan said the track getting traction and radio play is “You’re the One For Me,” which is an earworm that must have Johnny and Joey smiling from somewhere in the great beyond.
The songs are short and punchy and so was the recording process, according to Jordan.
“I recorded at home. All 20 songs. We started in January. We did all the drum tracks in about 48 hours. We were trying to get all recording done in 30 days for some reason,” he says. “But guitar, bass and vocals were all done in night shifts after work over the next few months. It was mixed and mastered by Sef Idle at Simpul Studio.”
“The Prettybads started in 2012 with Kayla on guitar and Charity Cretin on drums,” Jordan explained. “They wanted to start a girl punk band and did not have a bass player, so I jumped on the bass. We had a show set for 30 days later at a friend’s house party, so we each brought a couple songs and added a few new ones and Charity dubbed us ‘The Prettybads,’ which came from the self-inflicted Riverdales brainwashing we had given ourselves.
“We took a break for two years and when we returned I switched to drums and we were a two-piece with friends joining us occasionally for shows on bass or second guitar,” he said.
The bands and venue chosen for the release show were handpicked for the momentous occasion, Jordan tells us.
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“Our first show as The Prettybads was at a house party, but our first gig at a venue was at Dean’s, next to Notsuoh's, when it was a punk place, booked by Shane Burke, so we wanted to have this party come full circle. So Shane is hosting us next door at Notsuoh,” he said. “We chose Brumes for their thrilling horror vibes, Since Always for their pretty sound and Broke Off for the high-octane punkness! These are all bands we have enjoyed playing with in the past and put on great shows.”
The band is excited about the release show but is also looking ahead. Here at home, they’ll play Wax Taps in Conroe on July 21 with George Bailey. They’ll share a bill with Luchador Libre at White Oak Music Hall on August 10. And, they’re branching out beyond the city limits to give audiences a better look at Ramonescore in action.
"We just got back from Audiofeed Fest in Illinois. We got to meet a lot of kids from all over the U.S. who are into what we are doing. We would like go out to more cities soon, but mostly (we're) using the Internet to get the word out," Jordan said. "I've had many orders to the U.K. for CDs and tapes. We had a little radio play across the globe including Mike Rogers Show in Japan and we recorded an interview with The Antidote for a one-hour special that will include interview and selected tracks from Meet the Prettybads."
The Prettybads album release party starts at 8 p.m. Friday, July 13 at Notsuoh, 314 Main. With Brumes, Since Always and Broke Off. Free.