Voodoo Music + Arts Experience Interview: Jonathan Pretus of The Breton Sound

tbs2016_photo-by_sandra-oclaire

Voodoo Arts + Music Experience brings together a number of artists from all over to perform, celebrate music and be a part of the festivities. Every year on Halloween weekend, music lover, movers and shakers experience a festival unlike any other in the historic city of New Orleans. The festival doesn’t only draw in artists from across the globe, they also bring in a vibrant set of local talent as well.

The Breton Sound is a rock band based out New Orleans and are a part of this year’s Voodoo Artist + Music Experience lineup. Their music captures the essence of the city and its historic vibes. We interviewed Jonathan Pretus, who’s the lead singer and guitarist of The Breton Sound. He told us more about their upcoming ep, what the New Orleans music scene is like and more.

TYF: The Breton Sound was co-founded by Jonathan Pretus (singer/guitarist) and Stephen Turner (guitarist). Can you tell us a little bit about how you two met and started the band?

Jonathan Pretus: Stephen and I met in college at LSU. We bonded over a mutual love of gin and Gatorade, and turning off the power in our dorm. We played in a cover band for a bit in college, but our musical interests were so different, we never tried writing together. After a few years in very different bands, and some good old fashioned maturation, we gave writing together a shot, and it went really well. When I decided to leave my last band (Cowboy Mouth), he and I talked and decided we wanted to give this thing a shot together.

TYF: For music listeners who aren’t familiar with your sound, how would you describe the tone and vibe of The Breton Sound’s music?

Pretus: Loud, big, fun, anthemic, blow the roof off rock and roll. If Weezer, Foo Fighters, Oasis and Jimmy Eat World made a baby with Van Halen, that’d be us. With a lot of dads.

TYF: You guys are wrapping up your fourth EP which will release in 2017. What can fans expect from this upcoming EP?

Pretus: The upcoming EP is actually kind of a relaunch for us. We looked at our last two EPs at songs we felt like we didn’t really do justice on, and after having played them together for a good while now with this line up, decided to redo them. It’s really a way of reintroducing the band, and putting our best foot forward, and giving these songs the work we feel the deserved.

TYF: What is your writing process like?

Pretus: Each time is a little different, it varies a lot. We’ve had songs appear out of thin air while just fooling around at rehearsal. Sometimes Stephen brings in a really long instrumental piece based around a riff, and page of prose, and we spend weeks cutting it down, shaping it up, and building it into a rock song that fits what we do.

More often than not though, I’ll bang around ideas for a while, until I start to get a more fully formed idea. I grew up a drummer before I started playing guitar, so I tend to have a drum part in mind. I’ll do a demo at home, playing all the parts, just to get it out of my system.

Then I’ll send it to the guys and let them tear it apart and come up with their own interpretation. That’s where the sound of our band clicks. My demos just sound like me. But once everyone gets their hands on it, and we blend it up and spit it out, it becomes The Breton Sound.

TYF: I also read that you guys are planning on releasing a follow-up sometime in 2017. Can you give us any hints as to what the mood or vibe will be for that EP?

Pretus: It’s true! We’re already a couple of tracks into recording the follow up ep. So far, it’s the heaviest thing we’ve done. It’s just big and bold, fast and loud. I think the writing is the best we’ve done so far, and the melodies are the strongest yet. I still feel like I want to write and sing songs that are made to reach the person in the top row of an arena or stadium, with their lighter out, screaming their lungs out, and singing something that means something. I feel like these newer songs are hitting that mark. We also want songs that you feel like care old friends before you get to the second chorus, songs you want to hit “repeat” on the minute they’re done, and I think we’re getting there.

TYF: You guys have played at a number of different shows and venues, what’s your favorite part about performing?

Pretus: I think there’s two parts that make performing great. One, that I think doesn’t get addressed enough, is when you get to a point on stage, as a band, where you don’t need to speak or talk about what you’re going to do. Everyone’s just in sync on a different page, and it’s this unspoken language, and it’s just a high that has no comparison, and it happens whether you’re playing to 20 people or 20,000.

The other part is connecting with a crowd. When a crowd is feeding off your energy, and giving it back in that symbiotic way, it brings everything to another level. There’s nothing better than someone singing a song back to you that you wrote, your feelings, your emotions, your life. Knowing someone else connects with it is just incredible.

TYF: Since you guys are New Orleans natives, how does it feel to be a part of the Voodoo Music + Art Experience line up?

Pretus: It’s an honor because there’s not a ton of locally-based acts, so to be one of the few is really a good feeling. It’s always a fun festival, because the vibe in New Orleans is just so celebratory. And it’s a great community where you know everyone so you constantly run into old and new friends.

TYF: What’s the music scene like in New Orleans?

Pretus: It’s always been strong. There’s so many amazing players here, you’ve got to keep on your A game at all times. There’s not a lot of rock bands here. Sometimes we feel like we’re on an island to ourselves, but there’s a nice solace in knowing that, yeah, we could do really well here if we added horns, or wrote funkier songs, or went down that more “typical” New Orleans route that everyone here loves. But we’re really proud of the fact that we’ve stuck to our guns and do what we want and play what we want and don’t really notice or care what others think of it. That’s an intrinsically New Orleans thing, the whole “dance like nobody’s watching” idea, cutting loose. And we do that in our own way.

TYF: Do you guys have any pre-concert rituals that you like to do before going on stage?

Pretus: Joe smokes and stretches. Stephen does some guitar exercises to get his fingers warmed up, John watches really annoying videos on YouTube and does some rudiments. I make silly noises with my mouth and sing some scales to warm up the pipes, do some jumping jack type stuff to get my blood pumping. We all get in a little circle before and try to assess whatever kind of show it is or what kind of crowd were walking into, psych ourselves up, and end it with a super secret band chant that I, sadly, can’t tell you.

TYF: Lastly, besides performing, what are you most looking forward to at Voodoo Music + Arts Experience?

Pretus: It’s always just a great vibe and you get to see friends who are on and off stage. The foods always great too. I really want to see Sean Lennon and Lea Claypool do their thing, and I know Stephens’s really excited to see Tool. Mutemath is great live too. I’m really just excited to get to hangout with the guys on a nice weekend. We don’t hate each other enough yet to not have fun when we’re together, so that’s a nice thing.

You can learn more about The Breton Sound on their website as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages.

 

Camille lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. You will most likely find her wandering around local bookstores, going to a concert or enjoying the sights of the city by the bay. This Captain America fangirl enjoys attending book events, re-watching her favorite Disney movies and obsessing over the latest entertainment news. You can find her on Twitter @itscamille_ann.