Music Editor Jodie Leith is joined by Hannah Berry and Martha McKay from Glasgow-based band Pretty Preachers Club to discuss their unique status as a DIY, lockdown-formed band, their debut EP Going Nowhere Fast and the ambitious plans the duo have in store.
Logging into Zoom on the first day of the second official lockdown, I found myself chatting online with a band who, themselves, were a product of the first lockdown. Hannah Berry (vocals, guitar and piano) and Martha McKay (vocals, guitar and violin) formed Pretty Preachers Club just last year, amidst the chaos of 2020, and managed to release their debut single in October and debut EP, Going Nowhere Fast, in December; all from their bedrooms.
While they technically haven't played their first live gig, Hannah and Martha are adamant the DIY experience has taught them a lot about creative control, producing music, and it's pretty clear that while their EP may be titled Going Nowhere Fast – the success of the band is bound to be anything but slow.
The Glasgow Guardian: How did you two initially meet?
Martha McKay: It was in 2017, through New College Lanarkshire, so in affiliation with Queen Margaret University. Hannah was studying musical theatre and I was studying acting. We were both in a show the summer before I started, so that was how we met. We then got really close throughout Uni.
GG: You both studied musical theatre and acting, do you incorporate performance and musical theatre in your music?
Martha: I think quite a few of our songs have a lot of musical theatre influences …
Hannah Berry: Yeah, it definitely helps. I think because we've both been performing, although it was acting in shows or plays, it'll help us when we start to gig – give us some confidence.
GG: How would you describe your music?
Martha: I'd say it's a mash of a lot of things. We both have quite a broad sense of what we like in terms of genres in music, so a lot of our own music is influenced by those different genres and we've tried to incorporate different genres into the EP. I would probably class it as indie music.
Hannah: Yeah, indie pop.
GG: What's been some musical influences growing up?
Hannah: For me, growing up my family loved Bruce Springsteen and U2, so the 90s and 80s brought me up. Now, I love The 1975 and LANY, who are all also inspired by those decades.
Martha: I'd probably say the same, and also Pale Waves.
GG: What has lockdown been like for you guys, especially having formed a band during that time, dropping your debut single in October and EP in December?
Martha: It was surprisingly really helpful for us. It gave us a lot of time to think creatively and we had so much free time to put it to good use. We could've went one of two ways, and I know a lot of people who felt that creative block over lockdown, but we were so lucky we didn't and it was kind of like a kick up the arse for us to be like, "D'you let's just do it, we've wanted to do it for years and we might as well go for it."
Hannah: Yeah, we never had work or college or Uni or anything, we just had so much time.
GG: Technically you haven't played a live gig yet, is that something you're looking forward to? Is there anywhere you'd like to play?
Martha: We have a few gigs lined up this year, which, fingers crossed, go ahead. We had some lined up for this month, but they’ve been cancelled. I think we just want to do any. We're not particular about places at all, but King Tuts would be a cool place to start.
Hannah: We always say, because when we write these songs, we put them straight into a programme, so then when we released the EP we were like "Oh my God. We need to figure out how to play these live." We were practising the other day and I was trying to remember the piano parts that I had recorded, then I realised one song had seven different piano tracks … how are we going to play that live? But we'll figure it out.
Martha: We've got two musicians joining us for gigs, because we were so unsure of how to play all the songs with just the two of us. So, with a drummer and a guitarist, it should be really helpful.
GG: Are there any local bands you're particularly fans of at the minute?
Martha: For me, it’s always Walt Disco and Lucia and the Best Boys. I love them. It would be really cool to play a gig with them. In general, we're both into indie bands like Sports Team and Dream Wife.
GG: Could Be Worse contains some brilliant, all too familiar lyrics, with "you said [your flatmates] stole your pasta" and "no one wants to hear the fact you're on a three day come down" are some favourite lyrics of mine; what's your song writing process like?
Martha: For me, personally, I try to write about people and things I know. That song was kind of a mix of people I'd encountered at Uni and other stuff. It is just writing down things that have happened, past experiences, and assembling it into poem form. Hannah usually writes a melody and chords for it.
Hannah: Yeah, Martha just sends me lyrics. I sent her a text the other night, "Send me some upbeat lyrics”…
Martha: What does that even mean!
Hannah: She'll just send them in like poem form, and I maybe have to change a couple words to fit it in to make it flow a bit in whatever melody. But it works really well that way and I'm so glad I have a pal who can just send me lyrics because I'm so bad with words.
GG: Hey Boy is particularly heart-breaking, touching on themes of nostalgia and mental health, can you talk a little more about the track and how it came to be?
Martha: It was a letter I wrote my brother when I was fourteen. I never gave it to him, but I turned it into a poem and then, later, me and Hannah turned it into a song. I showed it to him, and he loved it so much. I showed his girlfriend the lyrics this summer and it made her cry. It's probably the most personal song on the EP.
Hannah: I think it's the most raw, black-and-white song on the EP in terms of the lyrics.
GG: From your Spotify fundraising link to your DIY status, it's clear you're passionate about fair pay for musicians and creative control, what's your experience of navigating the music world as a DIY artist?
Martha: I think it’s really important; it gives total control to the artist. I did a recent interview with RouteNote, who are all about DIY musicians, and I said in that that DIY musicians have really boomed in lockdown. There's so many now, which is amazing, and it's because there's so many online resources. Making music and producing music is so much easier now. We've done all this ourselves at home. It just shows you what you can do with technology.
Hannah: Totally. We don't know what will happen with our music, but we always say to each other that we just want to keep doing what we like. You see all these musicians and artists that it's ruined, because the bigger they get the more they're being told what to do. I think in the long run, it's so pointless because it just happens to make money for a short period of time and the musician is just left. I think it’s important in the music industry to support the artist and what they can do and what they're good at.
Martha: We're kind of our own managers, as well. We've started a bit of a record label. We've got vinyl now and we're selling them to raise money for Music Venue Trust. That's what we want to work on in the future, being totally DIY and maybe even helping other people to do the same.
GG: What's next for Pretty Preachers Club?
Hannah: Yeah. We're both so excited, we just want to play and see the response we get because we have no idea if anyone will … turn up. We're in such a bubble of lockdown, so to play the songs live will be such an experience.
Martha: I think because of lockdown people will appreciate gigs more than ever when we get them back. They'll go for the whole show. When me and Hannah go to a gig, we barely see the support, but now I think everyone will go for the whole show and be so happy to be there.