Call & Response: Oh! The Pretty Things

Toronto-based rock & rollers Oh! The Pretty Things have started to turn heads thanks to some solid songwriting and an exciting live show. While remaining independent, they've already released an EP and have started to tour.

The band will crank up the volume for a good cause Friday night when they play Pop With Brains #10, a charitable series of indie rock and visual art shows at the Rivoli that benefit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

I had a chance to speak with lead singer/guitarist Jeff Pinto about their progress so far, Dan Burke, and the real reason why they're playing in support of the CAMH.

Continue reading for all the goods.

blogTO: What's the story behind your band name?

Jeff: We were labouring under the name The Big Three which people were pretty uniformly unimpressed by. We were working on a tune called "Over and over and over", and a friend who was singing on the track (Dave Dalrymple from Major Grange) pointed out that it sounded like a track off of Bowie's Hunky Dory. So I bought a copy and basically listened to it and nothing but for the rest of the recording process. I loved the tune Oh! You Pretty Things and so I took it, modified it cleverly and Oh! The Pretty Things was born. Now, a few months later someone told us there already is a band called The Pretty Things from London who still are out touring, so the name might become an issue pretty soon. We're working on new potential monikers these days.

You guys are coming off a successful NXNE. What was it like playing after White Cowbell Oklahoma?

I have to say that watching them play was at times terrifying. When Chainsaw Charlie fired up his gas-powered chainsaw I think for the first time I thought that the Horseshoe stage wasn't big enough. He proceeded to chew through a few massive rolls of toilet paper, showering the audience and the stage. I wouldn't want to be onstage with a chainsaw, but it suits them; when all those boys get riffing at once it sounds pretty violent. When they finished the stage was covered with about six inches of shredded TP. It took about 20 minutes for the stage manager to clean it up. There was still shredded TP all over the place for our set. They're nice guys too, after our set one of the boys approached us and said: "Listened to the first tune, I liked it so I stuck around, listened to the rest. Great set."

I've heard that the infamous Dan Burke is a big supporter of your band. Do you have any entertaining stories about him?

We hear the horror stories about Dan all the time but we haven't seen anything to really justify it. I like the guy so I'm not going to go into it in too much detail, but the man has his weaknesses, just like anyone. I think sometimes work and play overlap for him, but that's the nature of this business isn't it? He's put together some great shows for us, and he's always made sure to take care of us.

Having said that, did you ever hear about the time he offered to pay us with either 50 bucks or a line of cocaine? Ah Dan...

You're touring Western Canada in September while being 100% indie, right? How did you manage that?

You mean the "Lock Up Your Daughters 2007" tour? Well, we haven't "managed" it yet, you'll have to check in with what's left of us in October, but yeah, Nevada Brown, Stand-up Drummer, Stand-up Guy, and apparently Standout Booker managed to hammer a 5 province, 10 city tour together for us. Our self-titled EP, released in March 2007, has been charting across the country, peaking at #1 in Prince George. So a lot of the bookers we contacted had actually already heard of us. A lot of the radio stations along the way have been very cool about offering us interviews to promote the shows etc. Nevada just got in touch with the bookers and sold them on us. And if you check it out, we're playing the premier clubs all along the way, so the kid did a great job so far. There's going to be a lot of driving though, and only two members of the band have their license at this point.

You're playing a cool fundraiser for CAMH this Friday. I've heard your stage show is a bit wild and "crazy". Is this a perfect fit or some kind of conflict of interest?

Yeah, it's definitely one of the strongest bills we've been on. Let's be honest, this isn't entirely altruistic, the way this band plays and parties, there's a good chance we may need the help of this fine organization at some point; this is really an investment for Oh! The Pretty Things. So to answer your question: yes, total conflict of interest.

You've already released an EP. What are your upcoming recording plans? Is there a full-length in the works?

The full-length is 95% written. The last weekend of July we're going up to the Bathouse (Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Sam Roberts, Hayden etc.) to lay it down. One weekend, One album. Led Zeppelin hammered out Zeppelin I in 36 hours. Aaron Holmberg is going to engineer it for us and it's going to be self-produced.

With record sales going down and record company budgets shrinking, is the goal for this band to get signed or are you happy doing it on your own?

Well, we are musicians first and foremost. It's hard to believe how much work we do that is completely unrelated to the acts of writing or performing music. The goal of this band is to be able to support ourselves by making music - this is what we love - this is what we are good at. If a label can help us do that than we'd be open to hearing what they have to say. There are some things we just can't do on our own at this point. Nevada tried booking a UK tour but it was just impossible to do from here. One thing we clearly need to do is make a lot more money. At times is seems the era of rock and roll excess and antics has passed - we're going to see if we can bring it back just a little.

Pop With Brains #10
Music by The Dunes, Modernboys Moderngirls, Eden Ants, Germans, Oh! The Pretty Things
Art by Kill2birds, Louise Ferguson, Marissa Tamari, Marissa Neave
Friday July 20, 9pm
$5 at the door

Call & Response is a weekly series of Q&A's with bands/artists from or playing in Toronto. Photo by Hugh Sillick

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