When The Pretty Reckless arrived on the rock scene, it wasn’t that easy for them to be taken seriously: every heavy elitist and his dog was ready to undermine the legitimacy of the young outfit whose frontwoman Taylor Momsen, at the time, was forever in the presses for her appearance on everyone’s favourite rich-kid drama Gossip Girl. With the fact that their third studio album ‘Who You Selling For’ hit both the ARIA and Billboard Charts when it was released a couple of weeks ago in mind, it’s clear that that’s no longer a problem for them.
Speaking to Momsen, being constantly in the press spotlight hasn’t completely alienated her from it, although she admits that it “gets a bit irritating when your words get twisted”. The struggles for the New York band haven’t so much been in the public realm, but have revolved around the ups and downs of getting involved in any project that demands a little heart and soul. The record has been informed by the isolating life of touring, but also the low that hits when it’s over.
“Anytime you do something creatively, and you put so much of your energy and your voice into it, and it ends, your life’s kind of empty, and you need to figure out how to fill that void”, Momsen stated. “My answer is always to fill it with more music”.
The strategy of overcoming a creative activity ending by initiating a new project is what was initiated after the band’s touring cycle for LP2, and it’s what ultimately produced ‘Who You Selling For’. It’s been credited as a record that sees The Pretty Reckless mature, an observation that isn’t just an excuse people are using to justify liking it.
“I mean, I’m older”, Momsen laughs. “We’ve grown individually and together, and literally! So I think that definitely shows on this record”.
There are some things that haven’t changed for The Pretty Reckless, including the fact that no matter what’s going on in the world right now, no matter what artist has done a complete 360 thanks to their obsession with Drake, it’s classic all the way for these guys.
“I’m always influenced by the same stuff. I mean, it’s just The Beatles, and I listen to a billion other amazing bands, like Pink Floyd and The Who and Soundgarden and Nirvana and Pearl Jam and The Doors and Neil Young – I could keep going”. If you flash back five years to any interview Momsen’s done with a music magazine, you’ll find her praising the exact same roster of acts, supporting her point that “they’re called the greats for a reason”.
For her, music is “a universal language and whatever it means to the listener is what it means”. It’s that interpretation that has led her to take a path that sees her refrain from actively trying to reach people with her songs; at the end of the day, what they take out of it is up to them.
“I write for myself and I make things for me. Songs are very strange things to put out into the world. It’s a huge compliment as a writer, that something I wrote in my bedroom can connect with people around the world and help them or they enjoy it”, she explains. But in terms of whether there’s an objective of assistance, entertainment or empowerment, “it’s not intentional when you’re writing, if that makes sense”.
There are some components of Who You Selling For that aren’t up for interpretation, namely the David Bowie reference on the song ‘Mad Love’. The song was written after he passed and is what Momsen describes as her “homage to him”, who she unfortunately never got to meet. Having shared stages with artists ranging from Joan Jett to Marilyn Manson, it’s a fair question to ask if there’s anything left on the bucket list for Momsen and the outfit. “We got to play one show with Soundgarden”, she recounts. “I would love to tour with them. That would be a dream of mine”.
As for the short term, The Pretty Reckless are travelling around the world playing music with the purest of rock ‘n’ roll intentions. “We’re on tour right now, but this tour’s essentially a small little warm up tour. We’re gonna be going around the world and around the world again, I think the touring cycle’s going through like 2018 right now. So lots of shows to come and lots of new music.” Australia will be included in that, the band’s first time back down under since they dropped by for Soundwave 2014. “We will be coming back and we’re looking forward to it”, Momsen added. “We had a fantastic time the last time we were there”.
At this point in her career, it’s hard to imagine that Momsen has many regrets about what she’s accomplished. The truth is that she really doesn’t. “I certainly had some questionable wardrobe choices, I do think ‘oh, maybe that wasn’t such a good look’”, she jokes.
“We’re all in a really good place right now and your past makes you who you are today so I wouldn’t wanna change anything because I like where I am now. Everything that’s happened to me has made me who I am today”. For a band that influences so many of its fans, and for a female that’s a role model for so many young women, it seems like a good moment to ask Momsen what she’d share with someone who looked up to her.
“Everyone has good days and bad days. Just power through the bad days and it will be better. Keep moving forward…just be a decent person. I think that’s it: have morals and be kind”. It doesn’t seem like advice you’d go too wrong following.
‘Who You Selling For’ is out now.