INTERVIEW: Papa vs Pretty

Like a Rawle-ing stone

Playing alongside Birds of Tokyo, Phoenix and The Temper Trap; touring with the Big Day Out, Laneway Festival and Parklife; selling out dates across the nation on their own headline tours. It reads like a daydream wishlist for any band; yet Sydney rock trio Papa vs Pretty have clocked all these achievements just over two years after forming. But if you expect frontman Tom Rawle to be crowing about his achievements, you’ve misjudged the young bloke.

“A lot of that is ‘interpreted success,’ and I don’t think about that too much,” he says down the line to Radar.

“I try to think about the music. If you try to think about the mechanics of how bands get big, it stresses you out if you’re not doing well at that point in time.”

He’s not ungrateful or arrogant; far from it. He’s just conscious not to let the early successes – of which there have been many – of the band go to his head. Starting as a self-confessed “bedroom project,” a 14-year-old Rawle would record one-man demos in his bedroom – he reckons he compiled “around thirty albums worth” of material since then – before linking up with bassist Gus Gardiner and drummer Tom Myers. Their first EP dropped in 2009, consisting of reworkings of Rawle’s solo recordings; Rawle now says it “wasn’t very good,” yet the EP, along with their explosive live show, saw the band greeted with sold-out shows around the country upon the release of 2010’s powerful and hard-hitting ‘Heavy Harm.’ Spawning the grungy singles ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘Heavy Harm,’ the Papa vs Pretty juggernaut continued right through to the release of this year’s debut album, ‘United In Isolation’ and massive single ‘One Of The Animals.’ In the meantime, they’ve played alongside the likes of the Kaiser Chiefs, Silversun Pickups, Birds of Tokyo and Phoenix, played on pretty much every festival worth playing on, and scored more Triple J airplay than most other Aussie bands could ever dream of.

Yet the singer-guitarist isn’t fussed with the accolades and the current accomplishments. Rawle says he just wants to write good songs.

“I think a lot of musicians get caught up in fashion and trying to be successful, rather than writing good songs. The thing I aspire to, is being a good songwriter,” he muses.

“I’ve never really thought about image, but now I have to, and it’s strange because that’s not really my thing,” he laughs. “But everyone has to be good at marketing these days if you want to be successful; and I think that’s where a lot of people get caught up.”

Rawle says that, though ‘United In Isolation’ has barely been out for three months, that he’s “pretty much written the next album already.” He’s itching to get back in the studio, but those plans will have to go on hold for a little while; they’re out on the road right now, playing between The Vines and Bleeding Knees Club on the ‘Future Primitive’ tour. The gesture of the veteran rockers, The Vines, taking newcomers Papa vs Pretty and BKC out on the road isn’t lost on Rawle;

“I met Craig [Nicholls, frontman for The Vines] after our gig with the Kaiser Chiefs, he’s such a nice guy. And I really like Bleeding Knees Club, so it should be really fun!”

Papa vs Pretty play the Unibar on Thursday September 1st, with The Vines, Bleeding Knees Club and Step-Panther. Click here for tickets and more details.

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