Isabella Manfredi is sitting in her backyard, drinking tea in her pyjamas. It’s early in the morning by musician standards, which means normal people have been at work for an hour, but The Preatures’ singer has had plenty to do on this particular morning. The edits for their latest video, Manic Baby, had to be gone over today, and they’ve just found out that previous single Is This How You Feel? has been named Pitchfork’s Best New Track. “Everything’s going a bit mental,” she says.
The new clip features a troupe of dancers performing moves inspired by Hot Gossip, the dancers from the kitsch classic TV series The Kenny Everett Video Show. Manfredi calls it “really dated, daggy, risque dancing” and although the band are present they don’t join in. “The boys were very interested in putting leotards on but we stopped them at the last minute.”
It sounds like it slots neatly into the aesthetic they’ve created for themselves, the 1970s Fleetwood Mac via Bryan Ferry vibe of their newer songs, and the way they pull such serious faces that you assume they must be joking at least a bit. “We’ve been watching a lot of old Prince videos and Roxy Music and there’s a bit of that in the Is This How You Feel? video as well,” she says. “That slight Young Talent Time awkwardness about it. It’s cool but there’s something slightly off and amateurish about it as well. It’s not really tightly edited and slick and ‘everything makes sense’. You’re looking at it going ‘Really? Is this a joke? Is this for real?’”
In spite of the old-fashioned elements of the look and sound, Manfredi says she spent a lot of time listening to newer music while they were working on their second EP. “It’s funny, I was listening to Chairlift, Metronomy, the new Cat Power record – Sun was a big influence on that record that we did – I suppose you can’t really call it a record, an EP. But Unknown Mortal Orchestra we really love as well. Who was the other person I was listening to a lot? Pretenders are always a big one. I listen to a lot of Pretenders. I grew up on Chrissie Hynde and Chrissy Amphlett as well is a big influence on me.”
Their previous EP, Shaking Hands, was recorded in LA thanks to a strong Australian dollar letting them afford a producer and book a fancy studio to work in. After that, they felt like a change of pace. “When we came to do the next EP we kind of reacted against what we’d just done. We’d done this record, and we were very happy with it, but we wanted to do something completely different after that. We’ve got our own space in Sydney, it’s just a little rehearsal studio space that the boys have turned into semi-recordable space, and we did the EP there by ourselves. We wanted to work with a producer but we didn’t end up going that way because Jack [Moffitt, guitar] had particular views about the way he wanted to do it so we got in the space and did it ourselves. It was a lot of trial and error but it was good.”
Creating their own “semi-recordable space” wasn’t easy though, with the cheap warehouse room they rented needing more than just some egg cartons on the walls before it was useable. “It’s a very old warehouse space and it’s got graffiti all over the walls – stinks like shit, there’s rats everywhere – but you get into the individual spaces and it’s basically ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’ You do whatever you want. You don’t have any protection if something goes wrong, but we got in there and sanded the floors and coated the floors, painted the walls, cleaned it, washed the windows. Jack got a console desk sent down from Brisbane and he’s got a couple of microphones and it’s a lovely little space. We’ve got fairy lights and stuff in there. It’s good, it’s our little place.”
That was where they came up with Is This How You Feel? which began with a groove provided by the rhythm section and a chorus that appeared spontaneously, though the rest was written four days later. “If something comes naturally you know that it’s got something good, but then the rest of it was just structuring it and editing it. I love that part of the process. For me structuring and having all your definite parts really makes me quite turned on – it’s my favourite part of the whole thing.”
What makes the editing tricky is being a band with two very different lead vocalists, whose contrast adds variety but can also pull a song in multiple directions. “We’ve got two singers so we’re already in the shit because we’ve got to make it all work, but Gideon [Benson] and I are very different songwriters. When we approach songs in the band we got very used to just accepting songs for what they are and treating each song individually and not so much as part of a bigger picture. I think for the album we’ll have to get to the stage where we’re looking for an album as a complete story, but at the moment it’s great to have this freedom to treat every song as its own entity, its own little world, and I love that. I really love that about the band that we’re open to doing that.”
BY JODY MACGREGOR
THE PREATURES hit the Northcote Social Club on Thursday September 12 and Friday September 13 (sold out). Is This How You Feel EP is available this Friday August 9 via Universal Music.