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Interview with Pretty Odd
This week Volatile Weekly interviewed three individuals, Wesley Hitson, Josh Wells and Pierce Clawson of the band, Pretty Odd.
The band was founded by members, Pierce Clawson and Wesley Hitson, who knew each other from grade school. They grew up drawing comics, playing in mud, and writing music together in their rooms. Pierce got the bug for music somewhere around the 5th grade, when his dad introduced him to the Godzilla 2000 soundtrack. On that CD was a song called Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. Wesley got into music through his uncle in california who gave him an Ipod Nano loaded with the music of Van Halen, Cream, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks. Pierce and Wesley continued to keep in touch with one another through their interest in music, even after they left school.
A shared interest in Rock and Roll led the both of them to pick up the guitar early in their teenage years. By the time they reached high school, they knew they were ready to start a band. Pierce had already been in a couple of Middle School music projects (The Forgotten/ Mystique) It was in Eighth Grade when Pierce met Pretty Odd’s long time drummer, Willow Patten in an Algebra class.
Willow Patten joined them on drums in the fall of 2011, and not long after, reformed guitar player Louis Montgomery agreed to take up the bass. After deciding on the name “Pretty Odd”, the band played their first gig at an American Idol-style Battle of the Bands at a church, where they placed second overall, though a band called Dograhajo caught Pierce’s attention. They had come to the gig with not just some catchy cover song, but their own original tune. After donating their winnings, the members agreed that the most important takeaway from that event was the significance of writing original songs.
Newly inspired, they began crafting what would become their first EP, tweaking their sound playing weekend shows at Shakedown Street, Sadlack’s Heroes, and Schoolkids Records in Raleigh, North Carolina, their hometown. That first EP, “Ballad of the Rider”, was recorded at Falls River Music and released in 2013. After selling 7 copies, the band knew they had to capitalize and get back into the studio ASAP. They settled on SoundTrax Recording Studios, where they recorded the aptly titled “Pretty Odd II”, also released in 2013. Then, when the world needed them most, they vanished. Because they went to college.
Pretty Odd stayed in touch and played the occasional show throughout the next 4 years, playing mostly house shows and pizza joints. Pierce went on to form a music festival alongside The Veldt, where Pretty Odd opened for Dex Romweber. He also helped form Greensboro band “Kicking Tom” and Winston-Salem outfit “Bad Dog”. Throughout that time, the members amassed a metric ton of lyrics and music, and by the time 2019 rolled around, they realized they had enough original material to record a full-length album. Their first session at Thread Audio happened in the Fall of that year. A mere three years later, in March of 2022, the album “Archaeopteryx” was finished and released.
While working on the album, Willow, Pierce, and Wesley all ended up living on the North Carolina coast. They seized the opportunity to get back to jamming again, and in the process of playing around town, came across percussionist Josh Wells at Carolina Home and Garden, and solo artist Mackenzie Pelton, a.k.a Malibu Mac, at Swansboro Music and Pawn. The newly-formed five-piece then embarked on a tour across North Carolina with over 50 dates. From the Crystal Coast to the Blue Ridge Mountains and everywhere in between, Pretty Odd brought their high-energy rock show to their adoring fans.
Looking to capitalize on the momentum of their first full-length album, Pretty Odd is embarking on a new journey of recording a follow-up in their high-end home studio (basement). They anticipate the release of new material in the Spring, shortly before their upcoming tour.
Volatile Weekly: “First things first, how did you come up with the name, Pretty Odd, and what does it mean to you?”
“Pierce can tell the story better but he thought Panic! at the Disco was an album by a band called Pretty Odd and when he found out it was the other way around, he thought that was a great band name and it was up for grabs.” says Wesley Hitson, the lead guitarist of the band.
Volatile Weekly: “What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?”
“I had an uncle who gave me an iPod, that definitely jump started my interest in music. It helped that Pierce and I were friends and he was also getting into music through his dad, and there was a lot of overlap in what we were getting shown. I have a lot of hobbies, if I wasn’t doing music I would probably spend more time on my dune buggy project.” says Wesley.
When we asked about the band's most memorable shows, percussionist Josh Wells replied, “Opening for Treehouse on my birthday, October 21, 2022 was amazing! Mendes had started his own festival called Mendyfest! I have been listening to Treehouse since before I even knew how to play music. They’re a great group of musicians to be with! Another of my favorite shows we have played together would have to be the Inn at Pine Knoll Shores. It was super cool having everyone above us listening from their hotel room balconies.”
Wesley says, “Our most memorable shows are the ones where people are having a fun time. I remember one house show where there were so many people in the living room jumping up and down that the whole floor was swaying.”
Pierce Clawson, Pretty Odd’s bassist and vocalist stated, “The best show we have played was probably at ETC in Greensboro. Back when I was in college, all the bands that meant anything to me played there or out in Winston. I saw bands like Lee Bains + The Glory Fires, Old Heavy Hands, DOG, The Wahyas, Paint Fumes, and Richard Lloyd of Television play out there, I knew I had to make that a reality someday. I would love to book a show opening for a band out at Cat’s Cradle. Many band’s I love have blessed that venue. Of Montreal, Temples, etc..”
Josh then responded to Pierce by saying, “I know as a band we have been wanting to play at Boxcar in Raleigh, Durham or Greensboro or at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC. Personally, I think whenever we play at Shakori Hills, it will be a vibe!”
Volatile Weekly: “That’s a great question, are there any places you have in mind to perform at in the future?”
“Uh, can I say Red Rocks? Haha, I do like outdoor venues, we have played a couple, I would also love to play the outdoor stage they have at the Beaufort Music Festival. I have also had my eye on playing at the Charlotte Whitewater Center, sounds crazy but they have a stage with a man-made river next to it.” Says Wesley.
Volatile Weekly: “How long has your band been around?”
“Pretty Odd was first formed in 2011, so about 11 years, which is crazy to think about.” Says Wesley.
Volatile Weekly: “Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?”
Wesley answered with, “We are originally from Raleigh NC, and now we are based out of Emerald Isle, NC. I feel like that has given some of our songs a little bit of country and southern rock influence, particularly in our new song Rebel Child.”
The next question asked in their interview was, “What is your favorite song at the moment?” to which Josh replied, “I would have to say my favorite song would be one of Pretty Odd’s. We have a new one called Heading West that will be on our next album coming out stay tuned!
Pierce said, “I would have to say that Hands by The Raconteurs, or We Can Work It Out by The Beatles are some of my current tunes I’ve listened to. I have also been really big on listening to E’nuff Z’nuff! I actually got the chance to meet Chip Z’nuff the leader/ bassist of the band and talk to him about recording with Robin Zander of Cheap Trick and Slash of Guns N’ Roses.”
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
“It’s so hard to pick because we’re in the middle of recording some new ones and I see the potential in all of them. But I am excited about Heading West because the idea for the lyrics came from our last recording sessions when we would drive to Raleigh to meet up and record.” states Wesley.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Wesley responded by saying, “We like our new song Dutch Girls quite a bit and we are excited to record and release it. But of our released songs, I think Starchaser is probably requested the most.”
Volatile Weekly: “If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?”
Pierce responded with, “I would tell myself not to get too stuck in a rut with all the coordinating and pre-planning it takes to manage a band. The reason we are a band is that we each take responsibility for coordinating schedules, promoting shows, booking venues, determining practice hours, etc. I cannot be the sole person in charge of curating all of that, you know?”
“I probably would have encouraged myself to start singing earlier. I didn’t always sing in the band and I have fun with it now, and I think I have improved quite a bit since I started so I wish I started earlier.” says Wesley.
“If I could go back in time and give myself advice, it would be to always follow your dreams. Don’t stop for no one! Never forget who you are or where you came from. When it’s all said and done, look out for those who looked out for you.” says Josh.
Volatile Weekly: “What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?”
Wesley Hitson states, “Playing in a band is like dating a bunch of other people. You have to get along as people as well as just musically. You’re going to have lots of late nights, some arguments, and some chaos and you have to be able to work through that.”
Volatile Weekly: “Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?”
“All the time! I think that’s part of the creative process, because everyone has a version of what they want in their head, and the collaboration on what works best is what elevates the songs. We do our best to make sure everyone in the band feels like they have a voice.” says Wesley.
“Yeah, usually we just put up a boxing ring during our shows and duke it out before pummeling them with our music!” Pierce says with a strong laugh.
Volatile Weekly: “What do you like to do when you are not playing, what inspires your creativity?”
“What else inspires my creativity? Welp, I love to hang with my massive doggo King Sully Bear Loma, I love surfing and traveling! Honestly, my weekly paint/jam sessions with Malibu Mac keep me thriving.” Josh Wells says.
“I enjoy my records, my art, and my books. I love going to events and being social with people I haven’t ever met. Conversation often stirs the pot in my creative brain. Love to get a little wavy-gravy before putting on a good record. Been really into this band called Vanilla Fudge, and the other projects that the members were a part of, such as Cactus, Beck/Bogert & Appice, etc.” Says Pierce.
Wesley states, “I have a few other hobbies that I try to keep up with, one of which is scuba diving. Our song Dutch Girls was inspired by a trip I took to Bonaire, which is a diving destination. Diving is a very zen activity and I tend to lean towards high energy songs, so I haven't really written a song about diving yet, but I’m sure I will some day.”
Volatile Weekly: “What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?”
“Pierce and I were the main songwriters for a while. Usually he would have some lyrics and I would have some music, and we would try to match them up. Recently it has been great to add Mackenzie as a songwriter because she brings a fresh approach to it.” says Wesley.
Volatile Weekly: “If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?”
“Anyone? Well I’ll have to cut myself off somewhere. Can I get Jimi Hendrix, Neal Peart, John Paul Jones, and Billy Preston?” says Wesley.
“I think an ideal lineup would be: Rainbow Kitten Surprise, TreeHouse!, Dr. Bacon, Vibes Alive, Urban Soil, The Unmentionables, Pretty Odd, and Malibu Mac. Ugh, God, there are so many more! I want to go ahead and start planning out the 2023 Woodstock!” stated Josh.
Next we asked, “What is the message of your band? What is the music about?”
“The message to our fans through our music is simple, LOVE! We want to create a safe judge-free zone for people to come and be themselves and enjoy good music!” says Josh.
Pierce responded to our question with, “I think our music often leans on the topic of being free, learning from challenges, and what is it Pure Prairie League says? Falling in and out of love with you? I mean, bands have always talked about love and regret. We have at some point or another discussed those same topics in our songs.”
“Our last album was a concept album, so we were trying to make the songs all related to the same idea. This time, we don’t really have an idea yet for something similar, but maybe as we flesh out a few more songs, that will change. I think like Pierce said, a common thread is personal freedom.” states Wesley.
Volatile Weekly: “What are the future plans for Pretty Odd? Any shows lined up?”
“We are planning on finishing up our latest batch of new songs, and then we have a lot of shows planned for the summer!” says Wesley.