Interview Pretty Sick: “This album doesn’t try to hide anything”

Channelling the grizzled catharsis of “90s grunge, Sabrina Fuentes and her band have crossed the Atlantic and come out fighting.

“I feel like this album in particular is what young me wanted to do the whole time. It’s those direct influences of Hole and Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana, and a little bit of The Velvet Underground and The Doors and the stuff I grew up really loving - that’s what this album is to me, to the point where I’m almost like, shit:” laughs Sabrina Fuentes, “I’ve been working my way up to these influences for so many years, now what?!”

Though still in her early twenties, Sabrina has already clocked up a decade writing under the moniker of Pretty Sick. The project started aged 13 in New York and, via various incarnations of the line up, is currently based in London, where the singer-guitarist moved to study four years ago. Despite NYC’s storied history of guitar bands, she explains that it’s only been since her transatlantic relocation that things have truly started to click into place. “New York’s a really hard city to play music in because it’s so expensive. I think the move here is what made me feel like I could be a full-time musician because in New York that didn’t seem like an option,” she nods. “Moving here is what made me feel like this is actually real. It’s something I always dreamed of and didn’t think I was necessarily going to find.”

Signing to Dirty Hit for the release, this month’s debut LP “Makes Me Sick, Makes Me Smile’ lands as a raw exploration into the darker recesses of Sabrina’s mind, fuelled by ragged vocals and fuzzy melody, and produced by alt-rock legend Paul Kolderie - the man behind the desk of, among countless others, Hole’s “Live Through This’ and Radiohead’s “Pablo Honey’. The unadorned, ugly-beautiful nature of the record is there from its track titles - “Drunk’, “Sober’, “Dirty’ - outwards. Citing that “with each release, a bit of a philosophy goes along with it”, Fuentes labels “Makes Me Sick:’ as “about overcoming the parts of you that are holding yourself back”.

“It’s like a “you did this to yourself’ mindset - you got yourself here and you’re gonna have to get yourself out and you can’t blame anybody else,” she nods. “Whereas when I was younger, I felt a bit more woe is me, my life is so hard. Now it’s like, the call is coming from inside the house:”

If the call on Pretty Sick’s debut is sometimes a 999 emergency, then it’s one that’s thankfully unlikely to be life-threatening. Though frustration and angst run rife, there are also moments of prettiness and big grungey melodic kicks to be found that should see the band find a happy home when they join Beabadoobee on the road this autumn. If you’re looking for a new band to let it all out to, Pretty Sick have all the ingredients lined up for a cathartic purge. “As an artist, it’s often easy to say half of what you mean and then imply something else, or say what you mean but over a really happy song, but this doesn’t try to hide anything,” Sabrina says. “It’s just really laying it all out there, cut and dried, as straightforward as possible.”

“Makes Me Sick, Makes Me Smile’ is out 30th September via Dirty Hit.

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As featured in the September 2022 issue of DIY, out now.

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