Finding a topic of conversation with the leading lady of Sydney funk-pop band The Preatures does not prove to be difficult at all. The five-piece outfit have had a huge 2013; they’ve released and toured their Is This How You Feel EP, filmed two fantastic music videos, played in London, LA, and at the CMJs in New York, and have now been nominated for an ARIA Award for Best Pop Release.
Having only been home for a short while, Isabella Manfredi admits that the jetlag has been hitting hard. “We went the wrong way. We went LA, New York, then London. A lot of drugs were passed around to try and get over all the jet lag,” she laughs.
“The biggest thing that affects me is my balance. I trip over and get quite clumsy. You’re just like, where the fuck am I, you know?”
It was seemingly all worth it though. The songstress describes the successes of their first American tour. “It was our first time in New York, which I suppose is a highlight in itself. You could easily go over, have a great time and party, but nothing really comes of it.”
“But the shows were packed and we didn’t get panned. It was a pretty big success. I was preparing myself for being caught out, and that didn’t happen, so I’m really happy.”“I don’t think it’s ever not been good, Australian music, but artists like Gotye and Tame Impala have just gotten people interested in the island”
The frontwoman attributes the band’s success to a strong sense of purpose. “If you’re making that expensive trip, you need to have a purpose that you’re going over for. And for us, every show, you just plug in and play. There’s no bullshit.”
Manfredi attributes The Preatures’ success to the unprecedented overseas interest in Australian music in the last few years. “I can’t really remember another time in history where it’s been like this. It’s been so easy for bands to get over there. It’s happening because the music is good.”
“I don’t think it’s ever not been good, Australian music, but artists like Gotye and Tame Impala have just gotten people interested in the island. You could definitely feel it over there, so it was just good timing.”
The band flew into New York for the CMJs, a music conference that attracts bands and plenty of industry names from across the globe.
“Part of the CMJs is just to encourage people to go out and see music. I think, for Australian bands particularly, it’s a great opportunity because nobody has seen you before, or the shit incarnations that you were when you first started.”
“You’re fully formed in a lot of ways. You’re only going to make that move if you’ve got something going for you. It’s like going on a blind date for the first time. You can impress people as they’ve got no sense of history of you.”
In her refreshing, laid-back way, she laughs at the notion of the band having a cultivated image. “Music is five parts natural, five parts fake. What you do is never really as you are, otherwise why are you doing it? People are so obsessed with music being this natural talent. I get up on stage because I don’t wanna be me.”
“David Byrne said this really great thing: ‘When you’re singing, you’re able to be you, but also many other things at once.’ And that’s what I love about being on stage. You get to be characters. Everyone has many different characters inside themselves.”
Anyone who has seen the video for ‘Manic Baby’ can understand her meaning, although she is hesitant to commit to wearing those costumes again. “I think the boys would,” she jokes, “they’d probably rather wear what the dancers were wearing though.”
Nonetheless, away from music videos, Manfredi has her own way of presenting her onstage persona. “For me, music is really physical. I love moving on stage, but not in a sexy way. I love running on stage, getting up in people’s faces, getting into the crowd.”
“We’re just seeing the end of Shoegaze and that post-punk revival where performance is not a huge part of it. I think people rejected performance because they equated it with unauthenticity and show business. We’ve gone so far in the other direction that the person playing doesn’t even bother to look at them. They’re over it. They want a show again.”
Manfredi is not shy about speaking her mind when it comes to politics, either. She jokes about taking Tony Abbott as a date to the ARIAs, referring to the time her ‘Fuck Abbott’ t-shirt was censored in a photo taken at the Vanda and Young Songwriting Competition.
Manfredi is not about to rule out sending him a band t-shirt. “Or, we could get the great music fan Christopher Pyne to wear one. Did you hear his comments about Lou Reed on Q&A? He said: ‘Oh why would I be a fan of someone who is a drug addict.’”“I love moving on stage, but not in a sexy way. I love running on stage, getting up in people’s faces, getting into the crowd.”
She laughs at the notion that he might be a fan of The Preatures. “I don’t think he’s a fan of anybody but himself.”
The strong-willed singer is also quick to respond to the detractors of the ARIA Awards, and people who accuse the body of under-representing female musicians.
“My take is that the last couple of years at the ARIAs, and music in general, has been heavily female dominated. I also think the person who made the fuss about the lack of female representation perhaps didn’t look at the bands nominated to see if they had females in them.”
Manfredi herself has been nominated, along with her band, for Best Pop Release. The song in question is the funky hit ‘Is This How You Feel?’
She concedes that the condition of women in the music industry is “a vast and complex issue” but that it’s not as dismal as some claim.
“All you have to do is look at the last few years at the ARIAs to know that it’s been a huge couple of years for women in music. Megan Washington won Best Breakthrough Artist a few years ago. Lisa Mitchell, Sarah Blasko, and Kate Miller-Heidke have all performed,” says the singer.
“They always do as much as they can to recognise good music, and there are a lot of women making great music. They’re not actually looking at what the important issues are that are stopping women from succeeding.”
Manfredi also gives a gentle reminder that women also work in the industry as session musicians and backing singers. “The Vanda and Young Songwriting Competition has been won all three times by women,” finishes Manfredi, who snagged the top prize herself earlier this year.
Keep an eye out for The Preatures at the upcoming 27th ARIA awards, and check out Isabella Manfredi’s collaboration with Flume on the brilliant new song ‘The Greatest View’. Whatever happens in Australian music in 2014, The Preatures will surely be in the thick of it.
Watch ‘Manic Baby’ here and catch The Preatures at the Endless Summer Festival.
Endless Summer Festival 2013 Lineup
+ more to be announced
Endless Summer Festival 2013
Presented by Southside Events in association with Southerland Shire Council
December 27th – 29th, 2013
Gunnamatta Park, Cronulla NSW
Further info at facebook.com/pages/Endless-Summer-Festival-Cronulla