411 Music Interview: Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless
When I was told that we had an interview to do with Taylor Momsen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here was a girl who was all over sites like PerezHilton being portrayed in a negative light, but who starred in one of my wife’s favourite shows (Gossip Girl) and was the lead singer of a pretty kick-ass rock band, The Pretty Reckless. What would she be like to chat with? Was she going to be pretentiously emo, full of herself, above the media?
None of the above. In the 15 minutes we chatted Taylor came across as a genuine girl with a deep, true love for music. Nowhere was that more evident that when I asked her the time-honoured question about her musical influences: The Beatles, Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd and Oasis being among those named. Taylor also co-wrote all of the songs on the band’s upcoming album Light Me Up, which will be out in the UK on September 30, with bandmate Ben Phillips. “I couldn’t imagine not being involved in the music,” she explained. “All the songs are me, they all have a layering and complexity to them.” I asked her who she would most like to collaborate with in terms of a duet. “Most of them are dead!” she pointed out, before identifying Dave Grohl as her top choice. When you hear her voice, it’s evident why she would say that. My suggestion of a collaboration with Gossip Girl co-star Leighton Meester was met with a less positive response. “Yeah, not gonna happen.”
When preparing for the interview I had the chance to check out a couple of the band’s songs and have been singing “Zombie” and “Make Me Wanna Die” for the past 8 days. Still a teenager, Taylor’s voice hits you from out of nowhere and belies her age and her physique. Taylor was very appreciative when I told her that, but didn’t really think she vocally resembled anyone. “I’m Taylor, I’m just me,” she said.
And that she is. Her unique personality and willingness to just be herself in a media environment that pounces on anything unusual has earned her some frowns from the likes of PerezHilton. Does that bother her? “I don’t even own a computer! But’s it’s funny, seeing how upset people get. I’m just being me, why is that such a big deal?” How little does she care? Her Twitter profile picture is one posted on Perez meant to poke fun at her for resembling Ozzy Osbourne.
One of the things that gets reported on a lot is Taylor’s comments about Miley Cyrus. In a recent interview Taylor was once again compared to Disney’s teen queen, which prompted this reaction:
“I’m not looking to be Miley f*cking Cyrus. I don’t care about the fame. I do it because I love music. I like making records and if people like them, then we’ll go along for the ride.”
I asked Taylor if there was a feud with Miley. “I don’t even know Miley Cyrus. There’s just no comparison between us, you know. I’m a rocker, she’s a pop star. We’re entirely different things and there’s a big difference between us. I have nothing against her, I don’t even know her. I just don’t listen to her stuff. I don’t give a shit. It’s ridiculous that Disney is as relevant as it is today even with adults. Where is the real music? What happened to Zeppelin, and people who play their own instruments? There’s always going to be pop but it’s not real music, it’s not me.”
With her prominent role on Gossip Girl and now a rock band to boot, Taylor has a high profile with girls her age. Does she see herself as a role model? “I don’t wanna be a role model,” she says. “Hopefully, people will listen to my music and feel something, and be themselves. The music will talk to people. Just be yourself.” Sounds like a role model to me.
The Pretty Reckless are currently taking part in the 2010 Warped Tour with a whole host of bands in a different city almost every night. Although Taylor herself hasn’t had much chance to check out her tour-mates due to press commitments, she’s enjoying herself. “I just love playing,” she said. “I’m having a blast.” She cited Montreal and Toronto as her favourite stops on the tour, which made me wish I could have made those shows even more. One thing was clear when discussing the tour: Taylor loves music. She spoke several times about the bands she was missing: Fear, Dillinger Escape Plan and so on. She was even bummed that at today’s show in Philly she only got to play for half an hour. Essentially, she sounded like a girl living her dream.
The band has so much more going on. A three-track EP is available now, featuring “Make Me Wanna Die,” “My Medicine” and “Goin’ Down.” A fourth track, “Zombie,” is available if you pick the EP up at a Warped Tour or Hot Topic store. “Make Me Wanna Die” is also on the soundtrack for the movie Kick-Ass, and it does in fact kick ass. A music video for the track is coming soon…or is it? “It’s tied up in legal right now,” Taylor explained. “It’s not my favourite cut but it’s still good.” The phrase “tied up in legal” combined with the band previously describing the video as “hell” and “debauchery” prompted me to ask if maybe there was some controversial stuff in there. “Let’s just say it’s tied up in legal and leave it at that,” Taylor joked. It is now on my must-see list.
On a similarly lighthearted note, we discussed Taylor’s tip jar shoes, which really are a sight to behold. Quite apart from the 6-inch heels, the soles are transparent and would be hollow, if not for the money that people had shoved into them. No, seriously. “That’s my backup plan, in case this whole music thing doesn’t work out,” Taylor laughed. Then, after a comment from someone in the background, she added “Or I could go become a stripper.” Apparently, random people come up to her and put money under her feet. Brilliant.
To wrap up the interview, I asked Taylor why we should come out and see her on the tour. “We care about the music,” she explained. “It’s about playing. It’s just a rock show. You can’t really see those any more. So come out, have fun.” Personally, I’d advise you to do just that.