Fight club

Pretty Girls take their hits seriously.


Graceland, 381-3094, $3 9 p.m. Mon., Jan. 7

PRETTY GIRLS Make Graves, Emerald City's newest indie-punk-rock hit makers, have a pretty simple M.O.: If they ain't fightin', it ain't workin'. That's what happens when you band together five people, each of whom wants his or her two cents duly noted.

"Everybody's bringing ideas," says bassist and singer Derek Fudesco, "and it makes you want to work."

By "work" he means "rip each other to shreds."

"When we practice," says guitarist (and ex-Kill Sadie member) Jason Clark, "about 75 percent of the time, if anyone comes in and they have a part, we destroy that part and break it down."

"We really do; that's not even a joke," says Fudesco, 26, a former Murder City Devil. "We get in massive fights when we write. Then we'll walk away from it, and then we'll come back. And then we'll do something else, and something really great will come out of it."

"We really don't know we're going to be happy in the end," says singer Andrea Zollo. "Everyone's generally really mad."

Whatever works—and the four songs on the band's current self-titled EP for Dim Mak Records certainly do. United by the urgency of Zollo's lyrics, songs such as "3 Away" charge furiously through an array of post-punk sonic change-ups carefully maintaining a satisfying balance: personal, but not overtly emo; political, but not self-righteous.

Live, the songs "work" even harder. During a recent gig at the Crocodile, the year-old outfit cut a distinctive figure—or rather, five distinctive figures: Drummer Nick Dewitt, 23, plays with a pew-straight back and shoulders like he's vying for a gold medal in posture. At 6 feet 3 inches or so, Fudesco's almost too tall to actually stand up straight. He flails about the stage like a tipsy Charlie Brown Christmas dancer, occasionally stepping to the mike to blurt an "Aaaaaauuuuggggghhhhhh!" Meanwhile, everything about 22-year-old guitarist Nathen Johnson is fresh faced, so much so that you'd never peg him to call for a bourbon and ginger ale during an early afternoon interview. Clark, 23, serves as Pretty Girls' straight-faced muscle man.

And then there's Zollo, 26. She struts on the Croc stage like a New York hardcore badass; pointing wide-eyed at her head or throwing fingers to the ceiling for emphasis. Only she's not a lunkheaded, testosterone-soaked jock, but a 5-foot- 4-inch compact powerhouse with stylish blond streaks and a knack for putting across inspired tunes like "Modern Day Emma Goldman."

Not all shows have gone so swimmingly. While opening for Sleater-Kinney at the Showbox earlier this month, they suffered a 10-minute equipment failure. Though they went on to win over the punk-hungry crowd, the band brooded over the set as their Worst Gig Ever.

This coming April, Pretty Girls will release an eight-song disc on San Francisco's Lookout! label. Included on the disc is a song called "Panic Attack," inspired by the anxiety bouts Zollo, Clark, and Fudesco all suffer. They insist that the songs are well removed from their current EP, but their perspective is probably colored by their ambition. Onstage, at least, the new songs sound of a piece with the existing ones—and that's nothing to be worried about.

Of course, you gotta wonder if now that Pretty Girls are so attuned to their creative protocol—the ideas, the fights, the separations, the synthesis—perhaps they've squelched its effectiveness. Clark suggests they progress to fisticuffs—just so they all know they're serious.

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