THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Return to The Pretty Reckless

Getting reckless: Momsen on band’s tour and advising young women to accept themselves

By Eric Althoff - The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Taylor Momsen does not miss acting — not even for a moment. The 23-year-old rocker and frontwoman of The Pretty Reckless looks back on her teen years working on “Gossip Girl” and other shows with appreciation, but says that as soon as she was old enough to make her own decisions, she was happy to hang up the comedy-tragedy mask for good.

“It wasn’t my passion at all. Music was my passion, and I really needed to focus on that full-time,” Miss Momsen told The Washington Times. “Acting was just a job. I quit and haven’t looked back.”

Miss Momsen and her band The Pretty Reckless will play the District’s legendary 9:30 Club April 26, sharing the bill with opener Them Evils of Huntington Beach, California, as part of The Pretty Reckless’ “Who You Selling For” tour.

Miss Momsen formed the band in 2009, when she was all of 15, comprising herself on vocals and guitar, lead guitarist Ben Phillips, bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins. The men in the band were already seasoned musicians, but that didn’t stop them from voting confidence in their young leader.

The singer also said there is no hard gender divide in a band where she is the only woman.

“We’re all a big family at this point, so there’s no secrets,” Miss Momsen said and laughed. “We share a bus and we 

share dressing rooms. It’s very much a family.

“In one way, the longer you’ve been doing it, the more challenging it becomes because you get so used to the grind,” Miss Momsen said. “But at the same time, it becomes easier because you’re more familiar with it.”

When The Pretty Reckless started out, there was little comfort in their collective tour van. With success has come a travel upgrade: a bus.

“Touring is like a second home in a way because we’re on the road so much,” Miss Momsen said of the more comfortable traveling conditions longevity has afforded.

Inevitably, spending months on the road in a bus can lead to some uncomfortable moments among the members, but Miss Momsen maintains that she and her bandmates are typically quick to laugh off any minor squabbles.

“I think comedy is the salvation on tour. You have to laugh about everything,” she said. “And if you get into a spat or something goes wrong, at the end of the day, you have to laugh about it and make jokes.”

It is that same sense of humor — and of brushing off adversity — that the singer has employed since she was still an actress and prone to extreme media scrutiny. While still a teenager, Miss Momsen attracted some backlash from parents groups for speaking frankly in interviews about her sexuality, watching porn and masturbation.

(“Guys can masturbate. So why can’t girls? Why is that such a hidden topic from the world?” she was quoted in a 2010 issue of Revolver magazine.)

“I was a little surprised that they paid that much attention or cared, [but] nothing surprises me anymore,” she tells The Times now.

When asked what advice she might give to young women now about growing into themselves and accepting who they are, Miss Momsen offers frankly: “You’re not going to figure out who you are unless you experiment, so [expletive] what everyone else says.”

Miss Momsen and guitarist Mr. Phillips co-write the band’s songs, but she says the optimal time to come up with new music is away from the road, where there is less ambient noise and fewer distractions.

“For us it requires isolation,” she said, “so we tend not to write on tour because you’re always around people.”

The band’s latest disc, “Who You Selling For,” was released in October, and lent its name to the current tour.

“When [the band is] going to write a record, I just try to immerse myself in all art and keep [my] mind as open as possible,” Miss Momsen said of an album’s gestation, adding that, when composing songs, she will listen to the great records of her heroes, paint and even sculpt to keep her mind “creative and open.”

“You hope that something hits you like a lightning bolt,” she said. “You never know when that’s going to come; you can’t force it.”

Like many other professional musicians, when asked for advice, Miss Momsen advises aspiring rockers not to pursue rock ‘n’ roll as a career unless prepared to give their all and more to the music.

“If you have an interest to be a doctor and you [also] like music, go be a doctor,” she said. “But if you have this undying need to play music, and that’s all you can see for yourself, then go for it. But know that it’s going to consume your entire life.

“It’s a wonderful job and career to be able to self-express … but it’s a lot of work, and you have to give everything up for it.”

By the same measure, The Pretty Reckless won’t have time to sightsee before or after their set next week at 9:30 Club, with Miss Momsen describing the aggressive “Who You Selling For” tour as “roll in, sound check, you play, and you roll out.” However, she has family in the capital area and looks forward to having them present at the 9:30 Club to support her during the capital pitstop.

When asked what she might like to impart to District audiences who perhaps might not be familiar with The Pretty Reckless sound, output and attitude, Miss Momsen advises trying out their records first to see if the music stokes any fires in the imagination.

“If there’s something there for you and you connect to it, come and see it live,” she said. “It really is a fun show: energy, loud, live, raucous rock n’ roll.

“And who doesn’t love that?” she said with a laugh.

The Pretty Reckless play on a double bill with Them Evils April 26 at the 9:30 Club. Tickets are $30 via Ticketfly.com.