Interview with the Preatures' Isabella Manfredi
To celebrate The Preatures’ upcoming performance at Sydney University’s 2017 O Week, Pulp sat down with lead singer Isabella Manfredi to discuss her time at Usyd, her musical influences, and the #KeepSydneyOpen movement.
Pulp: To start off with as an introduction for Pulp readers who are new to you guys, how would you describe your sound?
Isabella: Oh - sassy.
Pulp: The Preatures are just about to do a performance at the ANU O Week, and then you’re coming to Sydney Uni. How do you feel university crowds differ to your average concert or festival?
Isabella: O Week is pretty loose… I guess the anticipation of starting a new year of Uni and wanting to let off a bit a steam is what it’s all about. I actually went to Sydney Uni, and I loved it.
Pulp: What did you study at Usyd?
Isabella: Just a BA, but I didn’t end up finishing it because that’s when the band took off. But I loved being at Uni – I know it’s probably a weird thing to hear from someone in the music industry, but there you go.
Pulp: Any particularly fond memories of walking down Eastern Avenue or having a drink in Manning?
Isabella: Well you know what, it was just being in Fisher for hours. I used to just go and sit there – I wasn’t really social at Uni, I really loved being alone and left to my own devices. Nobody tells you you’re wearing the wrong socks… it’s nice to be independent, and I love to be able to follow my own research and getting lost in Fisher was all part of that.
Pulp: So tell me how the songwriting process works for you guys? Is it always the same?
Isabella: Well the process has been different from the last record to the new record, which we’ve only just recently finished. Our songs usually just come from the band, we’ll jam and work with a central idea, and then write a song around that. It’s pretty collaborative, which is the great thing about being in a band. Our drummer has been out for a while, he slipped a disc in his back and he’s been out for about two months now, which has been hard because he’s the engine of the band. So Jack and I have been sitting around playing mostly acoustic guitar and actually wrote most of the songs on our new record, so it was a bit different in that respect.
Pulp: Do your songs or your sound have any particular musical influences?
Isabella: The boys love groups like the Talking Heads; we all love the Talking Heads, and then there’s the Aussie influences like INXS or the Angels. Those bands were really like units, they were like – I don’t want to say “machines” but there was that quality of being really well-oiled and dynamic, which can only be established after being ‘somebody’ for six or seven years and playing with them. I’ve been listening to this band called Khraugbn [Isabella then spells this out for me] and they do a lot of sixties-style Thai-influenced music. On the side we’ve been listening to electronic bands, and experimental instrumental music. This new record though has been really influenced by music that I loved as a kid, so like Garbage and a lot of stuff I would hear on Triple J in the nineties, the Sundays and a band called Cake. It’s funny because we’re so knee-deep in this record at the moment that I don’t really listen to any other music. Just, like, fuck everyone else! But especially because our music is so much about lyrics and melody, I really like going home and listening to stuff that just washes the brain, like electronic or ambient music.
Pulp: You guys started out in Sydney, did you find that it was difficult at first to differentiate your sound from all the other up-and-comers?
Isabella: Well we didn’t really have anything that differentiated us. I just remember that when we first started out, actually, we did the Sydney Uni Band Competition really early on, and that was in 2009. We entered as a four-piece and got through some stages and then Gideon joined the band and joined us for a performance, and they disqualified us because we introduced a new member to the band, so we got kicked out of the Sydney Uni Band Comp!
Pulp: If only they’d known they’d be booking you to perform at O Week in years to come!
Isabella: Right! Screw ‘em.
Pulp: So what are your thoughts about the Sydney music scene today? Especially with the Keep Sydney Open movement, how do you think that’s affected it?
Isabella: It’s affected it a lot. I live in the Cross, and I’ve seen it before the lockouts and after the lockouts, and while I err on the side of understanding that something needed to be done because it was getting quite out of control, at the same time I think it’s really important to understand that cities need entertainment centers. And what this government seems inclined towards is creating these places artificially in places like Fox Studios, and now the whole precinct down at Darling Harbour, and I think these things are great, but they’re not taking into account the fact that for culture to be generated, things have to happen organically. A place like Kings Cross, being the centre of nightlife since the late 1800’s, that whole area has developed with small businesses and people coming in specifically because it’s a nightlife area, and scenes like that have to grow naturally. It’s really sad at the moment, just on a basic level. I think it’s undermining a good drinking culture. There are rules in there that are meant to deter people from doing shots after midnight, but they also prevent you from going out and just enjoying a really nice nightcap after midnight, which for a lot of people who work late and who do the work that we do, or are in hospitality or shift work, that cuts them off from that experience, which is only in a zoned area. So we’re looking at the decimation of the Oxford Street scene and the Kings Cross scene, which for the live music scene were staples, and they host a lot of small venues, which are important. For any artist, you need places where you can cut your teeth, and those places are starting to disappear, which is so sad. It seems ludicrous to me that there’s not more consultation with the community.
Pulp: Ok, I have one last quick-fire round of questions for you. You ready?
Isabella: Sure thing.
Pulp: Bob Dylan or David Bowie?
Isabella: Bob Dylan.
Pulp: The Beach Boys or the Beatles?
Isabella: Oh that’s really hard! Beatles.
Pulp: Talking Heads or Radiohead?
Isabella: Talking Heads.
Pulp: One Direction or Justin Bieber?
Isabella: Justin Bieber.
Pulp: Tupac or Biggie?
Isabella: Oh – Tupac.
Pulp: Spice Girls or Destiny’s Child?
Isabella: Destiny’s Child.