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  • Flex Staff

Pretty O.P. Talks Toxic Relationships, Songwriting, and Indie-Pop Opera

Indie-rock group Pretty O.P. are back with their latest single, “Look Who’s Laughing Now,” a catchy and highly self-aware conversation on the layers of a toxic relationship. It seems like the Baltimore, Maryland natives have mastered the art of the breakup song while maintaining their signature melodies, energetic guitars, and inclination for innovative sounds (yes, those are sleigh bells you’re hearing!).

We sat down with the group to discuss the track and their time together so far.

Credit: Zach Silverberg - PHG Productions

FLEX: What is the story behind the track?

Pretty O.P. : “Look Who's Laughing Now” is partly a song about recompense, partly a song about reflection. We wanted it to discuss the mixed feelings one would have toward a vindictive relationship. The chorus supports the more surface level feelings of justification one feels as the ‘tables turn,’ while the verse and bridge outline the protagonist's deeper feelings of melancholy toward the outcome generated by the relationship’s toxicity. Ultimately the vindication talked about leaves the protagonist with only a fleeting sense of satisfaction as they separate themselves from the experience.

F: What was the process like creating the track?

P: The song was conceived by Derek, Keenan, and Spencer Mac as a tune the brothers would play during jam sessions that took place after school in their parents basement.

“I remember coming up with the bassline for the chorus and bringing it to Derek and Spen before Derek wrote the verse and pre-chorus parts,” Keenan recalls. “The bridge was another section Spen and I built from a bassline I had on an old recorder we’d use to record rough demos on.”

During the Wash and Dry sessions the track received a fresh coat of paint as the boys overdubbed layers of synthesizers, guitar, and trumpet to create the brilliant atmosphere heard in the recording.

“We spent a lot of time discussing the form of the song and how to transition into the bridge section,” says Derek. “I really love what we came up with. A lot of those big synths in the bridge were Keen’s idea. He and Spencer worked very hard at perfecting the rhythm tracks. I had this guitar melody in the outro of a demo I had recorded years earlier that just didn’t translate to the final mix well. We liked the melody but guitar wasn’t the instrument for it. We played around with a lot of ideas before Keen experimented with the trumpet samples. He sent me a mix one day and as soon as I heard it the part finally made sense. I asked him, ‘When did you record those trumpet parts?’ but the entire thing was reproduced from leftover trumpet samples we recorded in previous sessions. It’s really amazing how technology can manipulate sound.”

F: How was Pretty O.P. formed?

P: Pretty O.P. was originally founded by Derek, and close friends Travis Cohen, and Jake Stark. With the addition of Keenan Mac, the group recorded and produced their self-titled album at their home studio in Baltimore County MD. After the release of the album the Mac brothers decided to continue with the project, now shifting attention to recording 24 tracks the boys wrote while growing up together. In its current iteration Pretty O.P. is a collaborative recording project spearheaded by the Mac brothers. Recording and production is handled by Derek and Keenan, with Derek being the primary lyricist.

According to Derek, “At times the relationship between Keen and myself can be tumultuous, especially when we have conflicting views on how a track should be produced. In the early days arguments were very intense, but we’ve both gotten better at voicing our opinions constructively. You know how it can be with close family relationships. Spence does a great job as mediator, but Keen and I are only a year apart so I guess there’s a tendency to butt heads when working together. However sometimes you need someone to just tell you, ‘Nah that’s not a good idea,’ or ‘Don’t play it or sing it like that,’ and while it can be hard to hear, I think it’s the kind of criticism that leads to a more refined project.”

F: Do you have any upcoming projects we can look forward to?

P: We have a ton of new music in the works that we’re really excited about. Right now we’re focusing our efforts on releasing and promoting songs from our double-album Wash & Dry. We plan to continue putting out tracks from those sessions as we finish up recording and mixing our next album. Derek is always writing music so there’s a lot for us to work with. He’s even begun composing themes for separate concept albums, so it sounds like production on what he describes as “an indie-pop opera” will likely be on the horizon for us.

“Look Who’s Laughing Now” is out today on all streaming platforms.

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