The Pretty Reckless could have been a vanity band led by a previously famous member. When guitarist Ben Phillips met future lead singer Taylor Momsen in 2008, she was a fourteen-year-old up-and-coming actress known for roles in the 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the television show Gossip Girls.
But she had been around music from an early age, and had always made it. “My father was a huge rock-and-roll fan, and my attention was always focused on that,” Momsen says.
When they met, Phillips says, he was mostly struck by her precocious music talent. “She just had one of those charismatic voices, and her writing was the part that interested me the most,” Phillips says. “She was one of the first people I met who wrote her own songs and could do them in a way that worked. I hadn't met a lot of people like that, and we were all on the same page, so it was kind of symbiotic and quick and kismet.”
The Pretty Reckless formed in 2009, and although critics were lukewarm about the group's 2010 debut EP, 2010’s Light Me Up fared far better. Rock and roll was coming back into vogue, and the Pretty Reckless, with roots in hard rock and classic rock, seemed to tap into the music zeitgeist.
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“When there are terms like 'throwback' or 'classic rock,' some people think it's wrong,” Phillips says. “With the renaissance of the ’60s in rock and roll, [those bands] were so good. If anyone wants to compare us to that, I have absolutely no problem with that.”
But the band is trying to bust through labels. Its 2016 album Who You Selling For is refreshingly diverse and sophisticated, but also raw and earnest.
“If art is done well, it should be timeless,” Phillips says. “We're going for timeless. Whether or not we've achieved that, I don't know. The good thing about the word ‘classic’ is that it kind of means timeless. That's why I don't find that insulting at all.”
The Pretty Reckless will perform with Holy White Hounds and Them Evils, on Monday, November 28, at the Ogden Theatre. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 7:45 p.m. show. Tickets are $33, 16+.