Dirtblonde Archives #1: Pretty

Ok then – we’ll be starting a new thing on our blog, which we’re calling Dirt Archives… just looking back at some moments in Dirtblonde’s story… why? Why not! We need to start using our blog more often, anyway! So we’ll talk about Dirtblonde stories of battles past, present struggles and failed plans for the future. Or something…

We’ll start with ‘Pretty’ and the very beginning of Dirtblonde. ‘Pretty’ was the first song Dirtblonde ever wrote… before we were Dirtblonde!

Pre-Dirtblonde

Before I met Lula, I used to live in pre- Arctic Monkeys Sheffield, after coming from Brazil. It was a fairly nice place, but full of dreadful bands. I was in a band there, which I joined after posting an ad on NME/ Melody Maker saying I wanted to be in a band that mixed the drums of Public Enemy with the guitar noise of Jesus And Mary Chain. We were not great but at least we were not boring. Anyway… eventually the band split, and the singer went on to form Candy Panic Attack in London.

Snotty punk days before forming Dirtblonde

Snotty punk days before forming Dirtblonde

We briefly tried to revive the band but it didn’t work out, including a few rehearsals with a guy called Gypsy, who went on to form the excellent Popular Workshop and has remained a good friend. 

So, that was my situation… I had big plans for an exciting noisy band but it didn’t work out, so by the time Lula and I met, and were living in Liverpool, I was just playing riffs and recording song ideas with little focus or purpose.

Alexa Chung... almost became Lula Blue's bandmate, believe it or not!

Alexa Chung… almost became Lula Blue’s bandmate, believe it or not!

Meanwhile, Lula also wanted to be in a band, and, mostly inspired by The Strokes and the Ramones, decided to borrow my bass and teach herself how to play it. Lula actually decided to look for band members in London, and met a few girls who also wanted to be in a band. Turns out they were all models, and non-musicians… one of them was none other than a pre-fame Alexa Chung! Lula, Alexa & co only had one meeting, and just talked about their ideas to form a band and got pissed in Camden, but it never led to actually doing anything. Needless to say, none of them models decided to pursue a musical career… unless you can count Alexa Chung hanging out with musicians a “musical career” of sorts, haha!

But Lula soldiered on and met another bunch of people in London, with whom Lula actually did a few rehearsals. Originally, Lula would just play bass, with a girl singing and a guy playing drums. It was during this time that the song ‘Pretty’ came about.

Lula heard me playing the bassline and really liked it, and decided to sing lyrics to it. She thought it was a good song idea and took it to her new band members in London, where they played around the riff, but eventually nothing happened and this band also split up.

Lula Blue, recording Pretty in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Lula Blue, recording Pretty in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

So I was left with this basic recording we made with just bass and vocals, and, with nothing better to do, decided to put a guitar part. Lula and I decided it was a pretty great song… actually, we liked the result so much that we decided to write more songs together, and they also sounded good so we decided to do what was surprisingly NOT obvious to us: since we were both looking for a band, why not form one together! Thus Dirtblonde was born, almost by accident! 

‘Pretty’ remains one of our best-loved tracks and one of the few songs we must play at every Dirtblonde gig! We still never tired of it, especially because ‘Pretty’ was the first of our “open ending” songs, as I call them – we have never played this song the same way twice, because the final part of the song is open to improvisation, and we take it wherever the mood takes us, always a noisy messy affair, but still with a certain  structure…

Dirtblonde recording session in Rio

Dirtblonde recording session in Rio

The “official” recorded version of ‘Pretty’ was cut in Brazil, during a mini-tour we did there back in 2005 when we were just starting, before we released our debut single, ‘The Hangmen’. It was meant just as a demo, but we never re-recorded it because it sounds fine and we prefer working on new ideas.

Anyway, it was a pretty good way to start a band! Most bands start writing shit songs, but Dirtblonde started with a really good song! So good in fact, that we even had major label A&R people sniffing around. I remember some bloke from Virgin Records, who signed Razorlight, saying how brilliant the track was. I told him something along the lines of “Well, we’re much better than shit like the Black Velvets [Liverpool band who were signed to Virgin at the time]”.  The A&R guy said “I like them… I signed them!”. Ooops. Nah…no big deal. The sign of a good song, such as ‘Pretty’, is that it can appeal to people with great music taste, and alsoappeal to people with musical tastes you could describe as… less than credible. So I don’t take offense, or feel embarrassed, that one of our songs could also appeal to fans of dreadful bands we hate such as Razorlight or Black Velvets (who, of course, were confined to the forgotten trash bins of music history, while Dirtblonde carries on writing good songs and get fans excited).

The song  is now available as a bonus-track on the reissue of Dirtblonde’s debut album, ‘White Noise, Rubber Heart’, which is available on iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp.

It’s been a while since ‘Pretty’ first came to life, and only now we decided to do a video for it, using footage of some New York Fashion Show, plus catwalk misshaps, falls and fails. We always thought the song would make great catwalk music… so there it is!

And don’t forget to check the Dirtblonde YouTube Channel for more Dirtblonde videos!

More later,

Ivan

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