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Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless on Rocking at Rockville and Rocking On in General
Liza Mitchell April 13, 2017
Anyone who ever said rock ‘n roll is a man’s world has obviously never heard of Taylor Momsen. The former Gossip Girl turned rock vixen looks the part with heavily lined raccoon eyes, a goddess mane and the requisite amount of latex and fishnets. As the frontwoman for The Pretty Reckless, Momsen could pull it off without ever playing a note. But the doe-eyed darling is a 21stcentury Renaissance woman, and she’s rewriting the rules of the game.
The Pretty Reckless hits the Welcome to Rockville Festival stage Saturday, April 29, at Metropolitan Park (www.welcometorockvillefestival.com). The 2017 lineup features Soundgarden, A Perfect Circle, Eagles of Death Metal, Def Leppard, The Offspring, Mastodon, Seether, Three Days Grace, Of Mice and Men, Chevelle, Papa Roach, Alter Bridge, Amon Amarth, In This Moment, Pierce The Veil, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes, As Lions, Gojira, Motionless in White, Nothing More, Rival Sons, Highly Suspect, In Flames, Beartooth, Every Time I Die, Attila, Kyng, Skylar, Fire From the Gods, Dinosaur Pileup, I Prevail, Starset, Bad Flower, Goodbye June, The Charm The Fury and Cover Your Tracks.
“It’s one just big giant party. You get to play to an audience that might not know you, which is always fun to win them over. You get to play in the outdoors, and to have the experience of the wind in your hair and the sun on your face is exciting,” says Momsen. “You get to play with friends and see people you haven’t seen in a while. Old fans and new fans–I don’t like to segregate them as fans. Just cool people.”
“I think that history have proven that’s it difficult to be a woman in a man’s world, but, at the same time, I don’t like to divide music by gender. I don’t really see it that way. A good song is a good song. I look at it as kind of black and white, but I do know that it exists,” she says. “You have to look at the history of any band. The lead singer is the main focal point. They are the ones that everyone is going to connect to. Yes, there are guitar players and amazing drummers and bass players that people relate to. In the overall scheme of things, the front person is the one that everyone looks at. Look at U2. The Edge is amazing, but everyone knows who Bono is.”
Coming up the ranks as a “new band” in 2009, Momsen says The Pretty Reckless felt like all new artists with something to prove. “Every band feels that way. There’s no way not to,” she says. “You’re putting your soul into trying to prove yourself. That’s literally what you’re doing if you’re a brand new band. You hope people can connect to something that you wrote in your bedroom. It’s a nerve-wracking feeling, but a necessary one.”
The Pretty Reckless formed in 2009 and released their first studio album Light Me Up the following year, spawning three singles including ‘Make Me Wanna Die.’ The band released the EP Hit Me Like a Man in early 2012. In 2014, the band released their second studio album Going to Hell, topping the US and UK charts with the singles ‘Heaven Knows’ and ‘Messed Up World.’
As an established fixture in the rock world, Momsen says the pressures are still there with the hunger and excitement of a new band and the seasoned confidence of a matured collective of artists. “I feel like both, like an old band and a very new band. I feel like we’ve grown a lot since the very beginning of this, yet we still…have so far to go that we’re so excited about, [so] we’re still in the middle,” she says. “The pressure is more on ourselves and trying to better ourselves. Our goal as a band is quality and longevity and making sure that each record is better than the last,” she says. “We want to keep getting better and better, every show, every record, every song. The pressure is more internal now than when we first started.”
The Pretty Reckless went through a handful of lineup changes, as bands do, before landing on the current roster of guitarist Ben Phillips, Momsen as lead vocalist and rhythm guitar, bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins. Momsen and Phillips write together, separately. One will come to the other with a riff or melody, lyric idea or song in full bloom. The only process is that there is no real process.
“Both of us kind of require isolation and time alone. Neither of us write that much on tour. We jot down ideas, but you’re surrounded by people 24 hours a day and never have time with your own thoughts. You need time to reflect and think. You need time to keep your mind open and hope that something hits you,” says Momsen.
“I immerse myself in all art. I sculpt. I paint. I watch great films. I read. I listen to great records and just try to keep my mind as open for any idea or inspiration to strike. When it does, it’s like a lightning bolt. It has to come naturally. It has to be honest, and it has to mean something. It’s a scary thing to dive into it, but, at the same time, that’s what makes it the most rewarding thing. It’s kind of like sex. It’s a lot of work for like two minutes of pleasure, but there is no better feeling.”