Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z. Blah blah blah. They’re just lazy categories that we’re placed into before we even know our A, B, Cs.
But that’s the thing about the world’s youngest generation today. We can’t be put into boxes, mass-organised and labelled. We are forward-thinking and open-minded. Individuals. Daring to be different. And PRETTYMUCH couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.
“There’s a kind of like new unspoken era that has come upon us where the younger generation is constantly going to be more intelligent than the generation that you are.” starts Austin Porter, “I found that out through my little brother. It trains you to see how they can do so much less but actually know so much more.” As a five-piece group aged twenty and younger, Austin, with Nick Mara, Brandon Arreaga, Edwin Horonet and Zion Kuwonu, are doing things their way, music and otherwise.
“There’s new rules, more or less.” Edwin tells me, and they give warning that they’re not about to let this opportunity slip beneath them. “I think the best position we’re in, being in this position, is that now people are looking at us, we have a voice now. Everyone has a voice but it’s a matter of how you use the voice and because we’re in the public eye, I feel like we have the power to make a lot of things happen and things change politically and in the environment.” The boys reference their friends; Logic and Alessia Cara as part of the young generation making waves for generations to come. Taking it upon themselves to make a difference or at the very least, listening and championing those taking it in their stride.
Talking over a Skype audio call one late UK evening and mid-day LA, the boy’s voices excitably babble into one. They’re high off a rehearsal and the adrenaline has kicked in; they’ve earned it however, as boy bands go at the moment they’re pretty much invincible. Put together by the mighty Simon Cowell, since February they’ve risen from Instagram stars to full blown pop stars.
Describing themselves as “a hundred thousand percent believers of fate,” these five finding each other was no accident. Not only have they quickly become “brothers” (Edwin is the tea-maker of the family; “a little milk, a little sugar”), but everything about them clicks together from those soulful five-way harmonies to the synchronised chic dance routines. Even the style; with inspiration coming from Pharrell to Tyler, The Creator to Big Sean, somehow it goes together like cupid let loose in a thrift shop.
“I believe that everything is set in stone and that every single path is already like set, no matter how you change it, that is how it was supposed to happen. If you tripped on the steps, that was supposed to happen, it’s in your plan years and years ago.” Edwin tells me, as Austin declares a belief in karma, both good and bad. If anybody has reason to believe, it’s Brandon, who explains, “It’s on the concept that if you tripped on the steps, it would have taken you longer to get outside to your car and if you were earlier you may have had an accident or whatever.
“Even for me like, I missed the first audition for this group. It had to have been planned somehow that they decided to do one more search because then they found me in Dallas.”
Each member of PRETTYMUCH holds their own diverse role in the group, and even during these early stages, it’s clear that if the stars hadn’t aligned just as they had, everything would be a lot different. Even if they subtly made Austin leave his sweatpants at the rehearsal room doors – “I was that kid,” he laughs.
Their debut single, ‘Would You Mind’ introduced them as the newest kids on the block. As light as a bubble of gum and ‘90s flavoured, the track showcases the honeyed vocals of the boys and the chasing soaring harmonies.Whilst the adrenaline of their new single, ‘Teacher’, a modern day RnB love song doses up a healthy helping of swagger and is lined with just the right amount of naughty. Girls are obviously, the main theme.
“I was always a really shy guy but I would do what I could to try and impress girls and that meant making a prat out of myself.” Edwin admits, as the other boys laugh but agree. Yet, Austin explains, that being on stage and songwriting, “builds up your confidence and you can be more passionate and I guess that shines through with everything.” Fresh out of school, being in the group has allowed the boys to figure out who they are and who they want to be. “At this point we’ve definitely embraced ourselves, whereas before, I wasn’t sure who I was as a person.
“But now I feel like I have a good understanding of myself even though I’m still growing.”
The sounds of great boy bands past and present have fluttered their way into the early mix of PRETTYMUCH. Whether it’s the synchronised street dance moves or the hip-hop melodies, the lush fast-flowing delivery and that dashing yet cheeky charm, PRETTYMUCH take the irresistible elements of nostalgic gold and add a contemporary spin. “At the end of the day, we just want to be the best versions of ourselves.”
Remembering listening to Backstreet Boys and N’Sync from their mum’s CDs in the car, the boys remember thinking that the groups had an air of cool to them. But Brandon recalls; “When I got older, you feel like in middle school or whatever, you have to hold a coolness to you so you can’t show what you really like out of fear of being called a wuss or whatever.” he says honestly, “I hated on boy bands as a dude, guys just follow in pace and obviously they get jealous because all the girls go crazy over guys in boy bands.”
Yet they all agree that now they have “a lot of respect for those guys.” Explaining, “Regardless if you like the music or not, you can’t deny the talent. You can’t deny that they were liked for a reason. Their talent shone through. Yeah they were probably good looking and had the full package, but you can’t deny that.” Sentiments aside, they add laughing, “You recognise what’s real. When you see a guy who can get a lot of girls, you have to recognise that and respect it!”
Boy bands have always had a particular power when it comes to connecting people; love them or hate them. In a time where connection has never been so easy to fabricate, PRETTYMUCH are keen to “help the younger generation get back into social interaction and less online on social media.” Brandon explains an idea he has where, “basically I’d want to start a club where if you had a weird thing that you liked, you could find more people that do that somehow, and go and meet them somewhere and have real life friends instead of online friends.” Exclaiming, “that’s the wilderness kid in me,” the former boy-scout says sadly, “You can talk online for hours but you can’t play football with that person, or go bike riding or whatever.” Already, PRETTYMUCH have a positive army behind them and as they begin to play more shows, the fans are beginning to meet in person after hours of online discussion. “It’s cool for us to see, it makes me happy that we’re bringing people together.” adds Nick.
Limits for boy bands don’t have to necessarily exist, and the opportunities are stratospheric, but that isn’t just the agenda for this group. “I think if everything goes the way that we hope so, we could become the biggest boy band that we can become.
“There’s no reason why that shouldn’t happen because we’re putting the work in, and this is just us. We push each other to be better, and we’re always driving to be the best – from smaller decisions to bigger decisions.”
The pop world doesn’t always have time for a new boy band, but right here, and right now, it definitely does. PRETTYMUCH have entered right on cue. Fresh faced, wide eyed and switched on in every possible way. Get behind them now, before they’re fully ruling the roost.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan