Budding (potential) lawyer by day, and the lead singer of Melbourne’s gnarly party band, The Pretty Littles by night, Jack Parsons is a man of many talents. We chatted with him one fine morning, and enjoyed a refreshingly honest conversation concerning the problem with smoking doobies before getting on stage, the sticky floor of the Lansdowne, and battling dem university blues…
Illustration by Elin Andersson
HAPPY: I just wanted to ask you first how the band got started and how you guys know each other?
JACK: I went to school with Simon who plays guitar, and we’d go to the music room at lunch and play Jack Johnson, and just kind of awkwardly look at each other. And then Jonno and Will, who play bass and drums, were playing in another band and I just kinda poached them. That was when we were 21, so we’ve been together for about 3 years now.
HAPPY: Melbourne has a pretty good pub rock music scene from what I’ve experienced hanging out there over the years. Were you guys well received straight away or was it a struggle to get shows?
JACK: It kinda ebbed and flowed a bit. We were really, really crap at first. Kingswood, who are doing really well now, kinda took pity on us and they gave us some gigs ages ago. Sometimes it would go really well and then it’d go really slowly. But there are some really great rock and roll bands down here so you go out and see a gig and you go “alright, we’ve got a lot of work to do”.
HAPPY: Whats the best gig you’ve ever played, and the worst?
JACK: Best gig was in support of The Vasco Era’s last show, in January. That was the best thing ever, we didn’t play that well but it was awesome to support them for their last gig. Worst gig was when we played with Sons of Rico years ago – it was our first kinda big gig. Will and Jonno love their prog rock at that stage, they probably still liked Birds of Tokyo. Anyway, Ian Kenny (Karnivool, Birds of Toyko) was there and we were a bit nervous so we had a doobie before the gig, and then when we got on stage, we started playing the first song and couldn’t remember how to get to the chorus. So we went around and around for about four minutes straight and then just stopped.
HAPPY: Holy shit… that’s so awkward.
JACK: It was funny though, in hindsight. We got the worst review.
HAPPY: Whats your take on smoking doobies before your shows now?
JACK: Hahaha, yeah… that’s not allowed anymore.
HAPPY: Your track University Blues speaks to me. Have you overcome them and managed to finish uni, or are you a drop out like me?
JACK: Hahaha, that chorus goes “I’m 22 and I’ve got the university blues”. That was written two years ago, right when I was in the middle of the worst arts degree that I think anyone has ever done. I had to do a 2000 word essay on the front covers of children’s books, and I just had a brain meltdown. It just seemed like the stupidest thing ever. But yes, I actually just completed my 4.5 year long arts degree. I was showing my girlfriend my transcript, saying “look how funny this shit is”, and she was like “yeah and you got a GPA of 49″. So across my 4.5 years of studying, my average mark was 49. Hahaha. So yeah that’s over, I had a massive love/hate relationship with uni. But in the end, especially with something like an arts degree, you’ve got nothing to complain about really. Like, it’s a university degree! I’m pretty lucky. I should have called the song the Middle Class Blues, or the Stop Complaining Blues.
HAPPY: You guys are about to kick off your mini east coast tour. Excited?
JACK: Yeah, its pretty fun. No one really goes to the gigs, but its fun doin’ it with the band. The Melbourne shows are fun and wild, and you never know which way the Sydney shows are gonna go.
HAPPY: Have you guys played at the Lansdowne before, in Syd?
JACK: No, cos its been closed down for ages, hey? Whats it like?
HAPPY: Well, the floor is sticky constantly. It’s a pretty classic inner city pub though, it’s been host to a bunch of great bands. It’s a good venue and really unpretentious, which is nice.
JACK: Yeah, I saw Step Panther play there recently actually. Apparently upstairs at the Beresford is a pretty interesting place to play.
HAPPY: Well, it’s pretty fancy.
JACK: Well, we’ll be sure to offend people then.
HAPPY: What was the writing and recording process like on this album?
JACK: Very rushed and kind of thrown together. Looking back on this CD, it would have been great to draw out the recording process a bit more, but you can’t really think like that, cos its always a question of money and time, and we didn’t have enough of it, really. It was 11 songs recorded in about 4 days. When we realised we wanted to make an album, we only had 9 songs. So we wrote Dingo and Lonny in about 15 minutes to beef it up a bit. So we did Lonny, which is just the most stupid fuckin’ punk song. Its really fun to play though, and its got the most ridiculous guitar solo. And when we wrote Dingo, it was just me and the drummer Will, cos no one else was there yet. So I played bass, and we wrote this stupid song called Dingo The Ladies Man, and they’re probably my two favourite songs on the album. So that was pretty representative of the writing and recording process of this CD – there were some serious moments but most of it was overwhelmingly really casual.
HAPPY: Did you record it in a studio, or was it a DIY job?
JACK: We did it in this little studio called Soundpark, in Northcote in Melbourne. It’s cheap as chips, and Vasco Era did their last record there.
HAPPY: What are some other local bands you like?
JACK: My housemate is big on Dan Kelly, so I’ve started listening to him a lot lately and I realllly like him. I really like SURES, and their new song called Time. We played with them a couple of years ago, and they were lovely fellows. I’ve always been a big Big Scary fan. And the King Gizzard stuff, all that trashy stuff is great. Everyone always goes fucking bananas at their gigs.
HAPPY: Whats your favourite thing about music?
JACK: Probably the rare occasion when you get to support a band you like and you play the gig well. And as a social thing, playing gigs is so good for seeing your friends and having a good time. They must have seen us play about a million times and they still come and party with us.
HAPPY: What makes you happy?
JACK: Many things. I like being in a band, it makes me happy ‘cos it’s a sense of achievement and its something you’ve done and made yourself, its yours and nobody else’s. You have these little moments of glory when everything is going great and you’re like, “yes!”, and then you have these moments when you remember its not sustainable. And you go “well, at least I’ve got these other things going on”, things like uni and other extra curricular (!) things that make me happy. And uni does actually make me happy, I finally worked that out. I’m goin’ back next year to study law. I can’t believe I got in after my 49 GPA, hahahaha.
The Pretty Littles have just released their debut album, Mash. The notorious follow-up tour will kick off shortly. Stop by!
Friday 6 December – Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney
Saturday 7 December – Upstairs Beresford, Sydney
Friday 20 December – Ed Castle, Adelaide
Saturday 21 December – The Loft, Warrnambool
Saturday 28 December -Espy Front Bar, St Kilda
Thursday 9 January – Frankies Pizza, Sydney
Friday 10 January – Rad Bar, Wollongong
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Our awesome artwork is by Elin Matilda Andersson – an illustrator and graphic designer based in Sydney.
Elin is passionate about exploring new ways to look at the world through visual language, and using design as a tool to communicate complex ideas. Fuelled by her interest in social change, she enjoys creating work that makes the viewer re-examine their beliefs and assumptions. Her inspirations include everyday life, people and culture.
Influenced by mid-century Scandinavian artists and designers, Elin’s ever-evolving style is at once playful and serious. She enjoys experimenting with different illustration techniques like drawing, painting and paper cut-outs.