About a year ago, a group of four Welsh teenagers uploaded “Cave Song” to their Soundcloud account. Little did they know at the time, that track would earn them a major label deal at Virgin EMI Records and carry them across the world, playing about 6,000 miles away from home where thousands of Japanese fans knew every word.
“It’s mad-when you’re playing a gig in Wales and people sing the song back, that’s great, but when you go to a completely different country that probably can’t really speak English that well and they sing the songs back, it’s insane,” explains guitarist Tom McCarthy. “It was six months after our first ever official gig under the name Pretty Vicious.”
Opening for British rock legends such as Noel Gallagher, Johnny Marr and the Manic Street Preachers—the latter at Cardiff Castle in front of an estimated 10,000-the band’s rapid rise over the past year is no mistake. Drawing comparisons to early Manics and Arctic Monkeys at their most furious, Pretty Vicious’ songs sound like the lovechild of “Headshrinker” by Oasis and “Ride” by the Vines-heavy, yet anthemic.
After listening to the band’s singles such as “National Plastics” and “Are You Ready for Me?” it’s no surprise that the group is cultivating quite the live reputation. Pretty Vicious played about a hundred shows in the past year, including high profile sets at Reading and Leeds and Glastonbury, where the band headlined the BBC Introducing stage. To put it in perspective, HAIM were eighth on the BBC Introducing bill in 2013, the year their debut album was released.
Being a great live act is of utmost importance for Pretty Vicious, who is made up of guitarist and lead singer Brad Griffiths, the aforementioned guitarist Thomas McCarthy, bassist Jarvis Morgan and drummer Elliot Jones. Although all members of the band are between 17 and 19 years old, they use their age to their advantage as Jarvis Morgan mentioned, “it’s a benefit to being young-we don’t tire as easily.” Lead vocalist Brad Griffiths added, “We gig harder than them, we tour harder than them.”
Though their meteoric rise began with a simple click of the mouse on Soundcloud, the four teenagers from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales feel most at home onstage. Guitarist Tom McCarthy, in describing the anticipatory feeling of walking onto the Glastonbury stage, explained, “The 10 minutes before you go onstage feels like four days-it’s the longest 10 minutes of your life-and as soon as you come off, you wish you were back on.” With so many rising bands choosing to hone their craft in their bedroom rather than in grimy venues, Pretty Vicious doesn’t mind if you call them old-fashioned; “if you’re onstage and you don’t enjoy playing, then you shouldn’t be in a band,” Brad Griffiths bluntly stated.
While the Welsh band gained steam throughout the UK in 2015, they’ve set their sights on America for this year, looking to continue their success on this side of the pond. The band was slated to play CMJ this past October but ultimately had to cancel due to visa issues. Playing an American tour is a dream for these four rockers, even if they can’t even legally drink here yet.
But age doesn’t seem to matter for most British musicians anyways. Two of the UK’s best exports of the last few years, Laura Marling and Jake Bugg, both released their debut albums at age 18 and had been touring and releasing music for about a year beforehand. Still, the band has experienced some issues with ageism, though it has only provided them with more motivation. “People don’t expect what we actually come up with,” according to Jarvis Morgan, describing the average concertgoer’s mindset before the band hits the stage.
Speaking of debut albums, however, Pretty Vicious’ first record isn’t far off, as the band hopes to release it ahead of the festival season. With about 40 songs written for the album, Brad Griffiths can’t wait until release day: “All we want to do is get all of our songs out there as soon as possible.”
The record should follow pretty closely to what we’ve heard already from pre-album singles such as “Cave Song” and “National Plastics” as well as the rollicking live tune “Are You Entertained.” According to Elliot Jones, “it’s going to be a split between massively raw songs and sing-along songs.” Some of the songs have been floating around for years—a scary thought when you realize that songs this good were written when they were each only 13 years old.
It’s clear that Pretty Vicious, a band from humble beginnings in a rough town of less than 60,000 people, has checked nearly every box on the “next big thing” checklist. They have the songs, anthemic and heavy, as well as a youthful zeal that feels like a breath of fresh air. Pretty Vicious is a band that’s just suddenly realizing how powerful their music truly is; with every scream and guitar screech, they’re one step closer to replicating the arena rock success of their forefathers Oasis or more recently, the Vaccines.
While 2014 gave us Royal Blood and 2015 served up Wolf Alice, Pretty Vicious look to be next in line for the coveted “Next Great British Guitar Band” label for 2016. If thousands of Japanese fans were already singing the choruses of “Cave Song” and “National Plastics,” it’s almost a lock that American fans will join suit this year. They may play small venues on their first American tour later this year, but make sure to catch them now, as soon enough they’ll be playing much bigger rooms. Thousands of British fans have already bought into the Pretty Vicious hype; it’s just a matter of time before we do the same on this side of the Atlantic.