I initially got my start with writing about music through being a fan. I was running an update page for a boyband with a few other girls. I knew I wanted to get back into writing and a few publications gave me a chance and brought me on to their teams. Since 2017, I have been a fan of the five-piece boyband, PRETTYMUCH. With an impressive catalogue of tracks that all instantly become stuck in your head, PRETTYMUCH rings in 2021 with a new label, and new music. Recently dropping their fourth EP, “Smackables,” they have been treating their fans with music that is authentically themselves. It has been a treat to see how the group has grown within this time. Ahead of their release of “Smackables: Deluxe,” I got a chance to sit with the five and discuss PRETTYMUCH 2.0. I present to you, Early Talks with PRETTYMUCH.
Meghan: Let’s start with the basics, introduce yourselves, where you grew up, how you got started with music, and what led you to where you are today.
Brandon Arreaga: I’m Brandon, 21, from Texas. I started producing when I was 13, started singing and dancing when I was even younger. Eventually, I was noticed from a dance video on YouTube, and I got in the group, and now I’m producing and dancing and singing in a group.
Edwin Honoret: I’m Edwin, 22, I got into music because I was too shy to sing in front of people so I started making YouTube videos. Then I got found out by a music label, and I was asked to be in a group and I said “hell yeah.” Now I’m here and I produce and write music with a bunch of cool dudes.
Zion Kuwonu: My name is Zion, I’m 21 and from Canada, started singing when I was younger, got into Jazz Choir in middle school. It was just for fun, for funsies.
Austin Porter: I’m Austin, I’m 23. I’m a new dad? It’s been quite the journey. I started doing music when I was 14 as a solo artist. Then I got picked up like everyone else and was asked to be in a band, and I was like “Fuck yeah.” When I got into it, everyone was super hyped, and it was a great experience. Everything up until this point, all we’ve done is learn everything for this moment now, to come and show everything we’ve got.
Nick Mara: I’m Nick, I’m 23, born in New York, raised in New Jersey. I started dancing when I was like, 9, and it became pretty serious. My big inspiration is Chris Brown so I was like, “damn if I’m dancing, I’ve got to be singing too.” I always liked singing but it was behind closed doors, like on the old Photo Booth app and I’d delete the videos, my mom caught me and said “you should start singing.” So I started singing. Got this great opportunity and I joined the group, and I was like “let’s go, let’s do it.”
Meghan: Were any of your parent’s musical influences? Is there a song you remember as a kid that made you think “one day I want to be this person,” and that song inspired you?
Brandon: I remember my first introduction to music, the first album I bought, was the Michael Jackson “Thriller” album. I remember watching the “Billie Jean” video of him doing the moonwalk for the first time, and I remember ever since then thinking, “I want to do this.”
Austin: For me, it was my dad. He introduced me to Elton John. His level of singing and piano playing was a lot for me. I grew up listening to “Your Song,” that was my favorite one. I knew wanted to do music.
Edwin: I don’t know how I found out about Chris Brown, but like, I remember I had a big ass desktop computer, one of the bulky ones, and I would just be on YouTube watching Chris videos. “This Christmas” is one I really remember watching, but on MTV, I would see music videos and think “this is so dope.”
Meghan: You guys have been together for a while now, it’s coming up to 5 years, and on Valentine’s Day, it’ll be four years since the PRETTYMUCH Instagram launched. How has the dynamic changed from five years ago to now, how has the brotherhood developed over time?
Austin: When you’re so, mentally intertwined, with a group of people and you need to be on the same page all the time, as far as creative, and when you’re on stage you have to make sure you’re locked in on where you’re supposed to be and the moves, you’re not hitting anyone else and you’re doing the moves right, I think there’s this underlying unspoken connection that can almost never be severed and binds us together as something more than brothers and more than family, there’s almost no word to describe it.
Edwin: It’s also rewarding to see everybody grow into themselves all around. We were kids when we first got together, and now, Austin is a dad, and that’s crazy. So it’s like, it’s cool to see it all unfold. It’s going to be cool to see where we all are 10 years from now and see how we’ve changed from then. I’m sure we’ll all still be at each other’s beck and call if need be.
Meghan: As the artist grows, the music grows with them. You’ve had “Phases” and the “INTL: EP.” How does “Smackables” compare with those two, and what is this new music like?
Brandon: Ever since “Phases,” that was the first time we really started to like, have a hand in writing a lot of the stuff. From “Phases” on, it has been a lot of our creativity poured into these songs. The only difference now is that there is not a mental boundary on all of us that we have to stay within these walls, we’re willing to go a little bit farther, touching on more genres, more stylistic, artistic choices. Trying to express ourselves and take risks. We want to be the anomaly.
Nick: I feel like it’s definitely more, raw, this time around.
Meghan: You guys have been working with Lido recently, what’s it like bringing someone on the outside in? Brandon, I know you’re familiar with Peder, so what’s it like having that extra person in the room to bounce ideas off of?
Brandon: I mean, it’s so tight. Lido is so impressively talented, with the keys, and his knowledge of music. Every time we get in, Austin was saying, yesterday we were in with him, it’s always straight labbing. From the ground up, we’re just creating. We have this challenge we try to do, we set a timer for either an hour or thirty minutes, just create for an hour, and if we’re feeling it we keep going, or if we’re not we scratch it and go again for another hour, and then we do another hour. At the end of the day, we might have four different ideas and we start expanding on one of them and that one might end up being the one we go with.
Meghan: I think it’s important, to push yourself to create, sometimes we all get in slumps but to push yourself in an attempt to get out, it’s sometimes necessary. With this new era, PRETTYMUCH 2.0, you said don’t call it a comeback, and I don’t think it’s a comeback at all. It’s like a phoenix rising from the ashes, born new and fresh. What can fans expect from this revival?
Brandon: More music, more frequently, lots of energy, lots of “whoa, what was that, what did I just listen to?” More content.
Edwin: Yea, especially because before, we weren’t really calling the shots, as much as we would’ve wanted. Now that we have a team that trusts us and is willing to just let us do our thing, we’re allowed to take these risks now that we weren’t necessarily allowed to take prior. It’s going to be cool because the more you take risks and create and push yourself, the more of a trend you’re going to start setting. We don’t want to be sheep, you know, we want to be the ones leading the cattle?
Meghan: When you’re all creating, and you’ve got something going, how do you all come together as a group and say “Yes, I think this is the one,” or “I think this needs to change.” How do you go about that?
Brandon: There’s an energy. When we know, we’re just kind of like, “Yeah.”
Austin: I was just about to say, I feel like, there’s kind of a double question in that, in the sense that when its an unfinished song and were trying to maneuver things in a way like “ok what can we do to make this better, what can we do to make this hit harder, what can we switch up,” that’s always an open conversation, but I think that sometimes there’s those songs, even in the demo, are so undeniable, the moment we hear it. It’s that unspoken thing that I was talking about, none of us have to say anything to each other, it’s a fire ass song and it’s the way we react to it.
Meghan: Talking about demos and tracks, you’ve had songs that you’ve teased on live streams, and PRETTYBRUNCHES. You’ve had “Line,” “Sorry,” “Mind of Poseidon,” what’s it like having the fans hear those songs and seeing their reactions, and do you take those reactions and apply them to the new music you’re making?
Brandon: 100%. I think more now than ever, the stuff we’re making is reaction-based. Before, it was trying to put out stuff that worked for a boyband, and now it’s like, based off of the reactions from the ones we’ve put on our Soundcloud, YouTube, based off of those reactions, we’re seeing that people are just loving the authenticity and the creativity and the rawness that we can come up with. I think we’re really trying to tap into that and expand on it.
Edwin: Also, before, we didn’t know this, and you have to take those chances to realize it. The only times we were “leaking” stuff was as we were making it. Legally, you can’t leak a song unless you are actually going to utilize it. So that was kind of our, I don’t want to say cry for help, but to showcase, look, we do this. Now, we can actually tease music because we know we’re going to drop it, we created it, and get fans more excited.
Meghan: The world has been working through some things, you know, a pandemic for example. Touring and music were kind of put on a hold in 2020, but how has that moved PRETTYMUCH and the relationship between the five of you?
Nick: I think of it, honestly like, it was a good, hard reset for all of us. It gave us time to sit back and really think about what we want to do, where we want to go, both musically and in life. It was a good reset, for everyone in the world, and us especially, it helped us gain that motivation again. Going into it, it was like a switch over from label to label so it gave us time to really think and gain that motivation and inspiration back.
Brandon: And really, it was such a long process. For us, we didn’t know what we were doing. We knew we were stepping into unknown territory by exiting our last deal and search for a new home. I think it was one of those things like the paperwork, and the negotiations that go back and forth, like “what’s yours, what’s not yours.” It just took so long, so I think in a weird way, this whole, world pandemic thing happened at the perfect time for us. It forced us to be inside and get creative and made us focus on what we’re moving towards. Hit that reset button.
Austin: Also, for me, it was kind of a blessing in disguise in a way that my son was born right before the big hit, I was able to stay home and watch him grow through the very fast developmental stages of baby to toddler, and it’s already going to be a year.
Meghan: Let’s say, budget aside if you could create the perfect tour, what would that look like? What would your dream tour look like?
Austin: Risers, from the bottom of the stage.
Edwin: I had this idea in my head, of doing a stage where it’s in the middle of the crowd, so we’re not performing just, one way, flat forward, we get to like run around and it’s in the middle of it.
Brandon: This is completely budget aside, I always thought it’d be cool to have audience sections that are jacuzzi and pool and water slide, full budget aside.
Austin: If we’re going THAT crazy, hear me out, okay, we have Teslas, suspended from the ceiling, and we’re jumping from Tesla to Tesla.
Brandon: Every night, one fan gets to walk away with a Tesla.
Austin: We just Oprah it, “you get a car! You get a car!“
Meghan: 2021 is off to a great start for PRETTYMUCH. You’ve got the “Free” music video, you’ve got the “Smackables” EP. How would you sum up this new era in a few words?
Edwin: Wavy, respectfully.
Nick: New chapter, that’s all I got.
Meghan: Going into this with the new label, what are each of your goals individually for PRETTYMUCH, and what are your goals as a group?
Brandon: To leave PRETTYMUCH behind and go solo- No I’m just kidding. Honestly, one little goal that Edwin and I were talking about, I feel like it would be sick to start scoring movies. Like, designing audio that would be centered around a visual.
Edwin: Like how Kendrick [Lamar]’s team did Black Panther. To make a whole project where they use only our songs for the entire movie.
Austin: Yeah, like make it work around the storyline.
Meghan: For anyone who’s interested in pursuing music, what advice would you give them? Essentially, talking to your younger self, not knowing any of this would happen, what would you tell them?
Brandon: Believe in yourself.
Austin: Ask yourself if you want your hobby to become the thing that stresses you about making money. At a certain point when you take something that you love as a hobby, and you turn it into a monetary job and it becomes such a stressful situation where you lose the love you have for it as a hobby, basically asking yourself if it’s worth it.
Brandon: Okay, yeah. Establish for yourself whether it’s a hobby or more of a career. If it’s a career, it’s going to take more commitment.
Nick: The only opinion that matters is your own.
Brandon: Yes! Believe in your ideas.
Zion: Most of them.
Meghan: Last and final question, do you have any words for your fans and do you have any words for people who have yet to discover you?
Austin: To our fans, we love you, thank you for sticking with us.
Brandon: Thank you for riding with us, we know it was a long year, but thank you, guys. You guys are the reason why we get to do what we do. So, we love you.
Zion: To the new [redacted], welcome to the party.
Brandon: It’s about to be crazy.
To celebrate the release of “Smackables: Deluxe,” PRETTYMUCH is hosting an EP Listening Party with Moment House on Thursday, March 4 at 6 p.m. PST.
Stay ahead of the curve and follow along with PRETTYMUCH now. Check out all of their new releases down below!