Co-Founders of Pretty Blue Presents, Marshall J. Brooks II and Guy Culver claim the official inception of their label happened in the first week of August 2007. But Brooks' tale of Pretty Blue Presents begins as a drunk youth in Stockton, CA a central valley city off the beaten path of most Cali-tour itineraries.
Fed up with the city closing the doors on local venues, Brooks took it upon himself to sustain a scene. “I threw my first house show because another show got shut down after two bands,” Brooks said. “I drunkenly invited the touring band that didn't get to play back to my apartment to finish the show. And then I did some more organized ones that went well.” At the house parties Brooks' friend Guy Culver would often play two or three sets a night with different bands. Brooks recorded the shows, making handmade covers to give away to friends.
Slowly Brooks, Culver and their musically inclined friends began moving to the Bay Area, a natural migration for the Nor Cal youth. Brooks took habitat in an old dentist office in the Excelsior District. He threw shows in the waiting room, let his friends play once again and made CD-Rs to give out around town. As the lifestyle continued, Culver and Brooks discussed naming their collective. Brooks said “Pretty Blue” was just a name he had been holding on to since 2005. “Guy and I decided we needed a 'company' if we were going to continue doing stuff like this,” Brooks said. “Our first couple of months we didn't really know what we were doing so we just put up all the recordings and CD-Rs we had collected over the years on the internet for people to listen to.”
“We knew a lot of great bands and we wanted to make a community out of it,” Brooks said. “The bands have always been there, we're just keeping everything together, and helping everyone move forward.” PBP is still uncertain of its methods, leaving its possibilities up to chance.
[A Pretty Blue show]
The first chance to fall into to PBP's proverbial hands was absorbing materials from the defunct Pish Posh of North America label. When Pish Posh folded PBP acquired its catalog, Casy & Brian and old tapes by Pigeons or Panthers. “Most of us worked in the early stages of Pish Posh of North America back when everyone was in screamy noisey bands and Pish Posh was the label for the CD-Rs,” Brooks said.
The label has no official roster, a core few exist, but PBP never hesitate to promote a show of its interest, post an exclusive song to its Myspace page or help book shows for touring bands. “If I were to give an official Pretty Blue Presents roster I would say maybe 13 or so bands that wouldn't get mad at us for putting them on it, or at least we could easily hug it out,” Brooks said.
Equally off the grid is PBP's pretensions in playing outside the bar scene. When the label has a show in SF, bars monopolize the scene, so its bands prefer to keep things on the other side of the bridge in Oakland. “We have shows in real venues and bars but houses, warehouse and other venues like John Benson's Bus are just more fun places to spend ones time,” Brooks said.
Brooks first met Casy & Brian on the infamous bohemian bus at Christmas Party II, an annual party he threw. John Benson, of A Minor Forest, had no place to park his bus for the night, so they parked in front of Brooks' house. C&B happened to be playing on the bus that night and Brooks drunkenly fell into Brian's keyboard.
“Pretty much everyone that would become the Pretty Blue scene met that night, combining my show with the bus show,” Brooks said. “Religious Girls wouldn't exist as they do today without that night.”
Brooks seems open to the attention PBP receives, but is sometimes befuddled by bands requesting to join the label. “I never really know why or what they expect from us,” he said. “It's not like we have money or anything. I get a lot of people asking me how does their band join Pretty Blue and it always makes me feel like shit. We don't really know!” For now, PBP keeps its mission statement simple and vague when asked, Brooks states, “We're trying to improve the quality of life.”
Plans for the future are as vague as the mission statement, but equally ambitious. Brooks said, “We have a big family tree, and not everything has a name on it. But we have a lot of different things planned, not just records and CDs, but some cassettes and books too. We have some artists that we're working with too. We're not just sticking to music.”
Without further delay, Marshall J. Brooks II presents Pretty Blue Presents: The Bands in his own words.
Crocodiles is Brandon Welchez and Charles Rowell of San Diego, CA. Both were in The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower who were absolutely amazing and one of my all time favorite bands (if you haven't heard Dissertation, Honey the Plot's first album, you've wasted the past five years). Brandon sang, Chuck played guitar, same deal in this band though the rhythm section has been replaced with an Ipod. The music is more rock and roll (the good kind) and less spastic than The Plot. They have two music videos right now, one of them is for this song. “Neon Jesus” is their first single put out by Zoo Music on 7″. Zoo Music is the label run by Brandon and his wife Kristin of Grand Ole Party.
Maus Haus, Lark Marvels
We kind of lucked out on getting Maus Haus. When we absorbed bands from Pish Posh earlier this year, Pish Posh was talking with Maus Haus on putting out their new album and once that obviously wasn't going to happen, we continued with the talks. Their album “Lark Marvels” is our first vinyl and our first real attempt at being a record label.
With the six members, there's about ten instruments on stage. They are a bit of a San Francisco super group with members from Battlehooch, Social Studies and The Lovely Public. They definitely know how to write a pop hit.
Religious Girls were originally Destroy Tokyo but once Dylan Reznick and Chris Danko replaced their drummer with Nick from Brother (another Pretty Blue band, see below) and added Guy (who seems to be in damn near ever Pretty Blue band) they are easily one of the best bands I have ever seen.
[Note from the writer: I saw Religious Girls in a Sacramento living room that was cleared out for a show. The band wowed me for its entire set of spiritual chants, tribal drumming and ecstatic synthesizers. Maybe I was high, but it felt like it was one continuous song meant to free a chained inner child. When Religious Girls smear their drums and symbols like drizzling gloops of neon paint, they're doing something communal and playful. I couldn't help but smile as a girl scooped some paint on her hands and smeared little streaks across my face. Religious Girls' performance welcomes the weird and weeds out the stiffs.]
Pigeons or Panthers
Pigeons or Panthers formed in early 2007 with Ben C. and Guy (both of whom help run Pretty Blue Presents, Ben was the first person we added to help). They started demoing a few songs on a four track, Guy on piano Ben on acoustic guitar. They put out their first demo as a duo and then added Joey to play drums. Soon after they added Matty-Ice, Amanda Ann and Jason (second drums, keys, and bass). Ben also moved to organ and pretty much anyone who wanted could play a maracas and stand on stage (it was usually just a ploy to take advantage of the guestlist). So imagine a band on stage with three different keyboard/piano players, two drummers, a bassist and an assortment of maraca girls. The music often felt like rushes of keys rolling along waves of drums. But too many people in a band often causes problems and soon Ben quit followed by Amanda and the maracas girls.
Now a four piece, the remaining members became a much tighter band, reworking the songs and more or less playing musical chairs with their instruments. Pigeons or Panthers became one of the best bands in the Bay Area, but after a tour of the western half of the U.S., the band took a break. Guy is pretty busy with Religious Girls while Jason and Matty-Ice have an electronic band called Pierre Le Robot. Pigeons or Panthers still plays and have plans to record but they are all focusing more on other projects at the moment.
Casy & Brian
Casy & Brian are originally from Seattle, but moved down to SF a few years ago. They got tired of the Seattle scene and wanted a change. Casy & Brian became everyone's favorite party band and when Pish Posh of North America put out their album CatBees, it instantly became everyone we know's favorite album of 2007. We were all obsessed over it, constantly going on random sessions of “Here we come! Here we come!” or whatever quote happened to pop in our head. Casy & Brian was one of those crossover bands that was on Pish Posh technically, but we constantly professed our love for and claimed as our own. So when Pish Posh was “absorbed” by us, we pretty much only took the CatBees CDs and left the rest.
Casy mostly plays drums and has dark hair, while Brian does the vocals and keys and has the lighter grayish hair. Everyone is always confused and too afraid to ask which one is which. A lot of the CatBees album talks about different animals (which is their metaphor for the different people they knew) and some of the trouble they have caused in Seattle (like Nocturnal Friends Stand United) but a lot of it is about getting down and shaking your groove thang while doing what you want and doing it yourself.
Currently we're planning a US tour for Casy & Brian with another one of our bands, Crime Novels, and working on putting out their next 7″.
Pierre Le Robot
Matty-Ice and Jason Gill of Pigeons or Panthers started working on electronic songs under the moniker Pierre Le Robot together while on tour this summer with Brother. When we came back and Pigeons went on hiatus it became less of a side project and more of a real band. They are Pretty Blue's club band I guess.
Ellery Samson was once in this amazing SF band called The Mall. Guy and I loved The Mall record so much we were playing it three or four times a day, often forcing parties to listen to it more than once. They broke up. It happens. Ellery started making electronic beats and doing his trademark vocals over them. We loved it. We plan on putting out Crime Novels next album and doing a tour for him. He is also our guy in New York and our only east coast band we can claim.
Up Mine, Sunshine
Up Mine, Sunshine is a one man band that sometimes includes his wife, Ashley. Matt Beck is one of the founding members of Pish Posh of North America and used to be in Annabel Lee Murders. He quit that band to do stuff on his own. First it was pretty funky bass driven pop, and then he started experimenting with samples which lead to the music he is making today. Some of it makes you want to dance, other songs are just plain beautiful, while there's a few that he suggest you cuddle up with a bong or take some shrooms and space out on.
Casey is one of the most prolific musicians I know. All he does is smoke weed and write songs. He has a new album every month it seems like! He also runs Ascension Publications & Recordings, which can be considered a Pretty Blue imprint. He also does a lot of the filming of our shows and is Ben C's little brother. Don't confuse him with Casy of Casy & Brian.
One Hundred Swans (aka Benjamin Chisholm)
Benjamin Chisholm (aka One Hundred Swans) is the solo project of Ben C. probably my right hand man in running Pretty Blue. One Hundred Swans came about after Ben quit Pigeons or Panthers and just wanted to go back to playing an acoustic guitar.
No Paws (No Lions)
No Paws is a two piece band from Riverside, CA. Our favorite So Cal kids and one of our first bands. I was drunk one night and heard their songs on a friend's Myspace page. I instantly fell in love with their simple lo-fi pop jams. I think they are awesome and some of my most favorite people ever.