After their highly successful last album; “Soft Rock for the Anxious” the Pretty Littles are back with a new tune, a new run of shows and a new (soon-to-be released) album. Jack Parsons was nice enough to catch up with Jack Davison and have a yarn about a number of things, from dodgy carpark surfboard exchanges to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, to song-writing and the c-bomb.
The Pretty Littles new song; Don Dale, is specifically written in regard to the shocking, and disgusting treatment of young kids, predominantly Indigenous, in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
“Basically, I saw the Four Corners expose (on Don Dale) and the images of Dylan Voller and some other things, and kids just being treated so disrespectfully. Like shit man. And these crook, totally under-trained guards or whatever the fuck they are, trying to manage the joint. And its full of kids man, and it fucks them up. Its just fucking them up.” - Jack Parsons.
It should be noted that following a Royal Commission into Don Dale, it was specifically suggested that the Detention Centre be immediately shut. Six months later and it is still up and running.
Its one hell of a tune, from one hell of a band who isn't shying away from writing songs that address things that a lot of people would rather look the other way about. The lads go on tour later this month, and are donating all their ticket profits to BushMob Aboriginal Corporation. If you want to see an epic show, whilst also donating to a great cause catch them at one of their up-coming gigs. Have a read about what Jack had to say.
Jack Parsons; Hey man, whats going on?
RR: Not much brother, how are you?
JP; I just picked up a brand new bloody surfboard. Actually not brand new. I met a bloke in a carpark and swapped boards with him. Now I’ve got a fuckin’ 9”1 Mal in me car and my car actually isn’t really big enough.
RR: The old dodgy carpark surf swap?
JP; Yeah, exactly man. Exactly.
RR: Haha, have you got a sore head from yesterday (Sydney Road Street Party). How was yesterday?
JP; Yesterday was pretty cool man. We had a sick party at the Penny Black. They were real cool. They looked after us. Yeah I do have a sore-head. Thats why it took me so long to answer that fucking question. It was a sick day.
RR: Yeah, I’ve never been but I’m well keen to go one year. Anyway, I’ve got a few questions to ask about the new single.
JP; Yeah cool, lets get into it.
RR: So, you’ve just recently released Don Dale, the new single. And now you’re following it up with a few gigs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brissy. Is that right?
JP; Yeah man, and Adelaide. They're kind of big gigs and big rooms which is kind of terrifying. I don't actually know why we’ve done that. We were talking about it the other day. Especially with Sydney.
RR:The Lansdowne yeah?
JP; Yeah, the Lansdowne. We played there recently and it was fucking wild but its a big room, and there all big rooms but we will see how we go. Haha what can you do though, its done now.
RR: The last time I saw you boys was at Howler, and you sold that out pretty easily.
JP; Yeah that was sick. That was a big moment. We sold that out on the day of the gig which was fuckin’ grouse, so hopefully we can do that again.
RR: Yeah, nice. That’d be sick. I was saying to some mates the other day, prior to Don Dale being released, that it would be cool to hear The Pretty’s release another sort of politically driven song along the same lines as “Tall Man” off the last album. Before I ask you about Don Dale, what was Tall Man written about or written in regards too?
JP; There’s a book by a girl called Chloe Hooper called the Tall Man and its about a really awful Indigenous death that occurred in North Queensland on an Island called Palm Island. It’s a little island off the coast that has a really awful history. A lot of the Stolen generation crew was put on that island, sort of just shipped off and it was sort of a melting pot you know? A number of different Indigenous tribes and cultures all sort of just thrown on this Island. So it was just a total fuck around man. Anyway, its always been a bit of heavy place and this guy, I don't even know if I can say the name, if you’re allowed to say the name of Indigenous people after they’ve died, you’ve got to be careful. But this Indigenous guy died in custody after getting arrested for being pissed and this big copper essentially killed him. He apparently kneed him and came down on his body, and the fella who died had the same injuries that you would get in a high speed car-crash. The same internal injuries you would have.
JP; Yeah man, it was real crook. And the copper got off and they call him the Tall Man. Theres a documentary on it, but the book and Chloe Hooper are sick.
RR: I’ll have to give it a read, it sounds heavy.
JP; Yeah man, give it a read. If you don’t get to that there’s a great doco on itunes and all of that. That song just came together man. I remember doing that, the album was finished and I was kicking around with that song for ages. So many times it happens, I never know if certain songs are band songs but they always end up being fucking rad. Like Don Dale even. When we first started kicking it around it was a weird kind of song (Tall Man) in that it wasn't like anything we’ve done before really but it is now because everyone’s gotten involved but initially it was just this weird little demo I had on my phone which I really liked. On the last night, there was just two of us left in the little mixing room, and we set up this little basic drum kit, and I had this resonator guitar that sounded cool as when you would flick pedals on and that song just came together really luckily at the end. We were just talking today actually, we need to start playing it again. We keep forgetting to put it in the set.
RR: Yeah, the first time I saw you boys you supported Band of Skulls at the Croxton and Tall Man stuck out big time I thought.
JP; Fuck yeah man. It’s fucking sick fun to play that song man. Obviously that stuff, I don’t know, it feels like it’s important to write about that sort of stuff.
RR: Yeah, it’s cool to see a band not just writing songs about taking the piss out of a big weekend or something. Sort of, actually writing with some sort of idea behind it.
JP; Yeah, well fuck like. I don’t know. I don’t really like emotional songs about people responding to stuff, and there are a lot of self-pitying songs at the moment about big weekends, and the struggle to pay rent, you know, and “yeah I got pissed again, and smoked to many ciggies” but the thing is that those songs that people write like that are what people connect with because that’s what younger people in Australia, that’s there issues.
RR: Yeah, that’s whats going on in there bubble at that time.
JP; Yeah, exactly. And I suppose thats why it’s really easy for people to connect with stuff like that because you can relate to it. Especially us you know. On behalf of everyone in our band at the very least, we’re so fucking lucky and we are all given so much opportunity but you know, you still have bad days and I suppose that’s where those songs come from and we do that too sometimes. But I feel a bit embarrassed doing that though sometimes, because I’m not in a shitty mood for a really long time so by the time the mood passes and I’m still writing about it, it feels a bit stupid. But then, I suppose when you do write a song like Don Dale, and songs that aren't about you, it is harder for people to connect maybe. Thats just an early theory, but Pride was a really emotional song and people seemed to really like that so I don’t know haha.
RR: Haha, yeah I suppose it all depends doesn't it?
JP; Yeah, it just depends if the songs any fucking good. I don't know what I’m talking about. If the songs good it’ll probably do alright.
RR: Exactly, and a lot of people probably don't listen or read to much into either.
JP; Yeahhhhhh, our mates play in a band called Neighbourhood Youth and one of the members always tells me to stop looking into lyrics to much. Sometimes the songs just sound nice you know or sound cool or whatever. And I get really judgemental and pessimistic about little lyrics that I don't like or something, which can be so annoying.
RR: I suppose it’s good to have that side of it as well though.
JP; Yeah man, nice mix.
RR: Yeah, and obviously Don Dale has some pretty heavy themes throughout as well. What was the writing process behind that? Was it based on what went down with the inquiry into Don Dale last year or the year before?
JP; Yeah, sort of man. I was in Darwin when I was doing my law degree. I spent some time interning at a place called NAAJA (North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency) which was an Indigenous legal aid place so I was across Don Dale already and knew that it was a pretty crook set up. And then yeah I watched the Four Corners episode, which is worth a watch, on Don Dale and they just had this really awful vision and that Four Corners expose kicked off the Royal Commission into Don Dale. But, Royal Commissions are so shit house man because for a second there an issue is in the limelight like “hey, we’re going to do a Royal Commission into this clearly bad place” you know. Clearly this place was mis-managed and was full of malpractice, and then they're like “hey it’s all good though we’re going to do a Royal Commission” and everyones kind of like sick, all good then. And then they do one, and the Royal Commission is always spot on. They hire all the right people to investigate and work it out and the Commission makes all these key suggestions on what to change and they never do them. Like, Don Dale man. One of the suggestions from the Royal Commission was that Don Dale should be shut immediately and its still open six months later. All of the recommendations are so on the money, so right, and then nothing happens. Basically, I saw the Four Corners thing and the images of Dylan Voller and some other things, and kids just being treated so disrespectfully. Like shit man. And these crook, totally under-trained guards or whatever the fuck they are, trying to manage the joint. And its full of kids man, and it fucks them up. Its just fucking them up man.
RR: Yeah, and it’s weird in the first place that it took ABC Journos to uncover it to then prompt a Royal Commission in the first place. As if people wouldn’t have known from the top down what was going on.
JP; That’s true. They always know from the top down. But I suppose the great thing now is there is more transparency than there ever was. I think the sad thing about the transparency in a way, is how much the crew in charge is crook. Its almost though its too much. There is so much corruption and little instances of people being aware of whats going on and not doing anything because somehow they are in a position of power that maybe they shouldn't have been in anyway. And all of this stuff starts filtering in, and there is so much malpractice and so many shadows of corruption that its almost like where do you start?
RR: And, the people involved are most likely scared to uncover it because like you said it would be like opening Pandoras Box.
JP; Yeah man, everyones a fucking crook. But yeah Don Dale, I remember watching the expose and feeling very effected by it and I remember writing it down and I knew I was writing as though I was in the joint. And I was aware that you’ve got to be careful of doing that because most of the kids in there are Indigenous and I’m white and from Melbourne.
RR: Yeah, and people may get on there high horse and say who are you to write about it, but thats not the point I don’t reckon.
JP; Yeah, I sort of looked into it. And I sent it around to a few people whose opinion I respect and stuff and they were all supportive. So it was just an intense little burst, written in about five minutes. I don't know when the music came, I found it on my phone when I was driving through New South Wales last year some point. And I showed one mate and he was like “what the fuck is this song?”. It was just me screaming out of the phone, and then I started playing it on the Up The Guts tour and I thought it was just a weirdly intense acoustic solo song and then we jammed it out and it kinda sounds like a fucking 90’s Punk Pop song or something like that. I don't know.
RR: Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s cool how it sort of progresses the whole way through and doesn't really have a chorus.
JP; Haha, yeah. We struggle writing choruses man. We struggle with them, they're fucking hard.
RR: Ahh, you don’t need them haha.
JP; Haha, yeah fuck them.
RR: Was it annoying to have the c-bomb cut from the Itunes and Spotify version of Don Dale? It seems weird that they get hung up on cunt, and not fuck.
JP; Ohhh, yeah nah. It was fine man. We knew that cunt is still a word that people have a problem with. What can you do really.
RR: Yeah, I suppose theres not much you can do.
JP; Yeah, we struggled with it a little bit because we thought it should be there and we still do and it will be on the album and whatever. But we really want the song to be heard because we are proud of the song and we think it does have a purpose.
RR: Yeah, and it gets people talking about it. You said you’re white and from Melbourne but it gets people having a yarn about it all which is great.
JP; Yeah man, we've had some fucking legends come up to us and a lot of people getting around us I suppose for this tune, that may not have been into the band before. But yeah, the cunts are good but what can you do?
RR: Nothing you can do I suppose. I saw on your Facey page that you're donating all your ticket profits to BushMob Aboriginal Corporation. What sort of work do they do?
JP; Yeah, they're out of Alice Springs. They're a really awesome program that gives kids a kind of support who are in trouble. They can go and stay there and get clean and that sort of stuff. And they only have them in a few spots just because funding is so tight. We didn't want to make make any money off Don Dale, that would feel absolutely fucking stupid. Not that we make much money anyway, but to make any money would just feel shit. So we wanted to donate it all somewhere, and I spoke to one of our friends Celeste Liddle who runs an awesome blog called Black Feminist Ranter, anyway we hit her up. And she suggested BushMob and we looked into it and it was fucking perfect and we hit them up and they were such legends and gave the song a post. So I hope we sell some tickets so we can donate some cash to em.
RR: That’s awesome. I think you will sell a lot of tickets.
JP; Yeah fingers crossed.
RR: Whats the plans for further into the year? After this little run for Don Dale, you guys have got another album ready to go?
JP; Yeah, the albums finished. We’re gonna finish it fully on Wednesday, and have one final check with Greg, the guy who's producing it. And yeah, were just going to put that out. If Don Dale gets put on the radio, were just going to keep trickling songs out. But I don't think Don Dale will get put on the radio, we will probably just keep trickling songs out. And then yeah probably put the album out mid-year or something. We’ve kind of all scaled back a bit, we do erecting ourselves and theres no strategy or label or agent or manager.
RR: That’d be nice though. A bit of freedom.
JP; Yeah, its freedom. But we kind of just make it up as we go because we don't really know what the rules are. I’m trying to convince the others to put another song out before the Don Dale tour. But we will see what happens. Hopefully people buy it man, we all love it.
RR:Is it sort of similar to Soft Rock for the Anxious? How would you sort of compare the two?
JP; Its a bit heavier for sure. We've never spent as much time thinking about all the little parts of the songs as we did with this one. It was a pretty involved writing process which at the time was pretty shitty but now we are all pretty glad that we did that. And it was all recorded live. Even the vocals we all just got in a room together and Greg got some pretty nice sounds and it was all live. Don Dale was the first song, and we got it first take. We didn't add anything at all.
RR: One go? Fucking hell.
JP; Yeah, one go. And we were like fuck this is sick and then obviously it got harder from there. But Don Dale was straight in. The album is a bit rougher I suppose because its live and a lot of the vocal takes are first and second take. But it’s not as optimistic as Soft Rock. Soft Rock had some nice moments. But yeah, fuck I have no idea.
RR:Yeah its a hard question to answer especially when you're so connected to it. I’m really looking forward to it coming out though.
JP; Yeah, so are we man.
RR: I wont keep you too much longer man. I’ve just got a couple more vague questions. What are some of your favourite Australian at going around the moment?
JP; Umm, some of our mates Go Get Mum are on of our favourite bands and Neighbourhood Youth of course.
RR:Are they doing the Don Dale run with you?
JP; Nah, they're both playing in Melbourne though. Let me have a think about this. Give me a second. I always fuck this question up.
RR: No rush man.
JP; What have I been listening too? Fucking Verge Collection are my absolute favourites at the moment. Every song is so sick. And I like Tiny Little Houses and his voice. I like Big Thief as well.
RR:How have long have the Pretty boys been at it?
JP; Fucking ages man, we started playing together when I was 20 odd. We were pretty crap. We were fucking shit.
RR: Are there any words of advice you could give to bands that are just starting out?
JP; Um, I don’t know. I don't think we can even give advice aye haha. You’ve got to be so patient and don’t have any expectations. I suppose if you have expectations you just start getting disappointed. I had so many expectations when the ban first kicked off. I wouldn't mind going back and releasing some of the earlier albums differently as well. For ages we never did single launches because they always felt like such a walk calling one of your songs a single. We used to just call them song releases. So for ages we just never did single launches which felt dumb, but really it is a nice tool to create a bit of froth around the album. Patience and realistic expectations.
RR: Yeah, you’re not going to become famous overnight.
JP; Well, you’re just not going to become famous. You believe in what you’re doing. Otherwise you wouldn't do it. Everyone believes in their stuff so you put yourself through all that shit like gigs and rehearsals because you love it but you also believe in it but its important to remind yourself that no ones going to give as much of a shit as you do. Fuck, I don’t know. Thats pretty nego isn't it.
RR: Yeah I understand what you mean though.
JP; I’m fucking pessimistic haha. Thanks for the chat man, really appreciate it.
RR: Nah, thank you man. Appreciate you giving us your time.
JP; Its been good, its like going to see a shrink.
RR: Haha, yeah getting it all out.
JP; Yeah man, I feel better already. Lets do this again tomorrow alright? I’ll call you.
RR: Call me at 9am, Ill be up.
JP; Alright brother, I’ll see you guys around the traps.
Catch The Pretty Littles at one of their upcoming shows
The Lansdowne, Sydney
The Howler, Melbourne
Exeter Beer Garden, Adelaide