NewTracks New Artist: Pretty Stooked

NewTracks New Artist: Pretty Stooked

What’s My Line? Oh, it’s the name of the latest single from Ōtautahi indie band Pretty Stooked. Actually, we say band, but (for the sake of this interview at least) it’s more songwriter/guitarist Eddie Kiesanowski, who you may remember from his previous band Skelter. Well, Eddie’s back kids (cue cascading leaves and almost five minutes of very Kiwi swirling guitar chords and glorious indie-rock) with My Line. We want you to feel it, and NZ On Air Music obviously do, too, since they featured the song on their NewTracks compilation this October. 

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Eddie Kiesanowski and I’m from Christchurch. Guitar is my main instrument but I also dabble with bass, and can play a little bit of drums and keys (poorly).

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I studied music at Ara Institute of Technology in Christchurch after high school. Aside from getting better at my craft I really value all the people I met while studying, and the opportunities it gave me to get involved in the local scene.

Any other previous (or current) projects might we know you from?

I used to play in a rock band called Skelter. We released an EP and played around NZ for a few years, and then had a short stint in Melbourne before disbanding in 2019.

What’s the background story of how Pretty Stooked came to be? 

After Skelter disbanded I felt as though I had the freedom to write a different style of music than I had been writing for a long time which was really cool. I wrote a bunch of songs and just had fun recording demos at home which then became the basis for Pretty Stooked.

I was living in Melbourne at the time, but I didn’t know many musicians that weren’t already super busy with other projects, so I just started as a solo act. Once I came back to NZ I linked up with my brother Cullen to play bass and my good mate Jayden Bowley to play guitar, then Jayden’s brother Mitchell joined on drums and we became a band of brothers! A little later I thought it would be cool to bring in some keys/synth parts so I reached out to Tyler Robbins, who I’d heard great things about, and we had our line up.

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

I got asked to play a gig in Melbourne and I wanted a name to play under. I was brainstorming ideas and my flatmate suggested I call myself ‘Stooke’, which was the name of the street I lived on. The name was taken on Instagram so I made my handle ‘pretty stooked’, and then decided I liked the sound of that. 

How has your writing (or music) evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

I’d like to think it’s improved! I first got serious about songwriting at about age 15, I was super into my classic rock at that time so that shaped the kind of songs I was writing. As I got older and my music taste became more eclectic I started to draw inspiration from lots of different genres and that really helped.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

Probably our Spaced Out Session at Grater Goods. It was our first sold-out headline and it was my mum’s birthday, so it was a special night.

What makes My Line stand out for you as a single?

Whenever we played it live it seemed to be a crowd favourite, and people would tell me they had the chorus stuck in their head the next day. It also has this blend of feel-good vibes with more melancholic lyrics which I think is cool. 

What is the story behind My Line?

At the time I had a few restless nights where I got stuck in a loop of thinking about my past and wondering how things could have turned out if I had made better decisions in parts of my life. I think it’s something a lot of people do, and it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of “what if’s”, but channelling those emotions into a song was a nice way to climb out.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single?

I really like the middle 8/bridge section. The way it builds and then drops into the final chorus is really satisfying. I also like the line “my dad was probably right, he’s always right”. It plays into those moments where your parents warn you about something or someone, and how frustrating it can be when they’re right about it. 

Who did you record/produce My Line with and where? 

The first draft of My Line was written in my home studio and came together really quickly. I kind of just threw it together and then put it on the shelf for a while and then came back to it later and spent a while changing the feel and arrangement.

We recorded the song at Loho Studio in Christchurch, with Josh Logan producing/engineering and Thomas Isbister laying down some drums and co-producing. The two of them really helped bring the song to life. Apart from the vocals and a couple of guitar overdubs the whole thing was recorded live, which I thought was really cool and captured the energy in the room. 

What would you like listeners to take away from the song?

I guess the message is to accept your regrets and learn from them. You can’t change the past but you can grow from it.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

Usually, I’ll make a demo for songs that I think are good options, and then show it to some people I trust and see what connects with them best. I think it’s important to find people who will be really honest with you and who aren’t afraid to tell you they don’t like something.

Who else is in your team?

For the most part, we’ve handled this first release ourselves. I have a friend Reuben Gray who has been helping out acting as our manager. He worked for an indie label in Australia before coming back to NZ, and has been helping me stay on top of everything. I tend to get carried away in the music side of things and neglect the business so it’s nice having someone keep me in check.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

I also play bass in a band called The Knews. It’s my brother Cullen’s project and I think he’s got some wicked songs that you should definitely check out. 

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside My Line.

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others out there?

This is the first single so I haven’t applied for any funding yet. I have with my previous bands but the advice I’d give is to be as prepared as possible. There’s so much amazing music coming out of NZ and NZOA only has so much to give. They’ll be looking to see if you’ll make good use of the funding, so have a good plan ready to go and carry it out as best you can whether you get it or not.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’m a sucker for Tiny Desk concerts and there’s a podcast called Sodajerker On Songwriting which is really cool. They talk to different songwriters and have them tell their stories which I find really interesting.

Who did you make the video with?

The video was shot and edited by Adam Hogan and directed by Soane Jones Pamatangi. Adam is a part of Loho Studio and was around when we were recording the track. We met up a couple of times to brainstorm ideas and then shot the video over a couple of days. It was a great experience and those guys were awesome to work with.

Any last words?

Thanks to everybody who has listened/watched/shared/liked/ commented on My Line. It’s been amazing to see the support we’ve had and I look forward to putting out more music!