Pretty Girls Make Graves - Biography
By Scott Feemster
Pretty Girls Make Graves were a Seattle-based punk/post-punk band with art-rock leanings that existed from 2001 until 2007. The group was formed by members who had an impressive pedigree in other bands previously, so right from the start, the band gained a following and built up a reputation for their powerful live shows and their impressive recorded output until their break-up.
Named after a Smiths song, (which was, in turn, named after a line taken from Jack Kerouac's novel Dharma Bums), Pretty Girls Make Graves (PGMG) were formed by former Murder City Devils bassist Derek Fudesco, his former bandmate in the band Death Wish Kids and Area 51, vocalist Andrea Zollo, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Nathan Thelen and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Nick Dewitt, both from Bee Hive Vaults, and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Jay Clark, ex of Kill Sadie. The group came together quickly in 2001, and almost immediately started playing gigs and touring. The group released a debut 4-song EP, self-titled Pretty Girls Make Graves, on the Dim Mak label in 2002. Right out of the gate, the band's mix of punk energy with emotional vocals and art-rock stylings around the edges made them stand out from the pack of other post-punk bands in their league. Through touring and word-of-mouth, (and from the members previous band's followers), the group quickly built up a fan base. Their debut album, Good Health was released in 2002 on the Lookout label, and its combination of punk-influenced aggression mixed with lush melodies and Zollo's vocals led critics to compare the band to such groups as Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill, Modest Mouse, and Gang Of Four, to name just a few.
The group followed up the release of their debut album with touring in both North America and Europe, and in 2003, jumped from Lookout Records to the bigger indie label Matador. A four song EP, titled This Is Our Emergency (Matador), was released in the summer of 2003, followed soon after by the band's second album, The New Romance (Matador). Rather than suffering from the infamous sophomore slump, Pretty Girls Make Graves made a record that was even better than their debut, and expanded their grasp both sonically and emotionally. The guitars are held back a bit, as are Zollo's vocals, but the songs on The New Romance are just as powerful as anything the band had done up to that point. The album received glowing praise from critics, and further established the band as an up-from-the-indies success story. The group was asked to tour with such bands as Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and Death Cab for Cutie, and spent the better part of two years on the road. One stop on the tour was the 2004 edition of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2004. After the band returned back to Seattle, guitarist Nathan Thelen announced that he was going to leave the band, and was in turn replaced by keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Leona Marrs, formerly of the band HintHint. With Marrs on board, and with producer Colin Stewart, the group crafted their next album, Elan Vital (Matador), released in early 2006. While their second album showed a remarkable amount of growth over their first album, the band took another leap forward with Elan Vital. Everything from churning punk-fueled anthems to indie-electronic ballads were fair game for PGMG, and the band managed to stitch together their varied influences and sounds into a virtually seamless package. It seemed the road was wide open for Pretty Girls Make Graves to move to whatever level of career they wanted, but, surprisingly, it was announced that drummer Nick Dewitt was leaving the band in early 2007. The rest of the band made the decision not to continue on without Dewitt, so after a last round of touring in the spring of 2007, Pretty Girls Make Graves split up. Guitarist Jay Clark went on to form the group Jaguar Love with former members of the Blood Brothers. Nick Dewitt has been working on a solo electronic project called Dutch Dub, and also plays in the band Night Canopy. Derek Fudesco formed the band The Cave Singers with Marty Lund, formerly of Cobra High, and Pete Quirk, formerly of HintHint. Nathan Thelen formed the group Moonrats together with drummer Jason Echeverria and keyboardist Aska Matsumiya. Andrea Zollo switched to drums and plays with the band Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death. Leona Marrs returned to her former band, HintHint.