Every era has its boyband — like a timestamp on pop culture, they’re a reflection of the times. All-singing, all-dancing group PRETTYMUCH represent the era of approachability. Their currency is personality and their appeal comes from accessibility. Made up of Austin Porter, Nick Mara, Edwin Honoret, Brandon Arreaga and Zion Kuwonu, their loyal fanbase — called “BEANZ” — can feel connected to any member on any social media platform regardless of time zone or location.
Although nods to iconic bands that came before them like Boyz II Men, *NSYNC and One Direction are frequently thrown around. Their closest comparison would not be any band we’ve seen in the last two decades. As is the millennial way, PRETTYMUCH has taken the conventional boy band blueprint and flipped it. There is no cookie-cutter image charade. The attraction lies in their authenticity. They curse and freely express their quirks. Through the prying eyes of social media insincerity is easily spotted — it’s clear that the boys share an organic bond.
From their dynamic energy, vibrant style and painted nails, the band is hard to miss. Assembled by none other than music mogul Simon Cowell in 2016, every member is a natural performer glistening with star quality. The PRETTYMUCH sound is uplifting, feel-good and cannot be boxed into one genre. Influenced by stars like Justin Bieber, Usher and Bruno Mars they fuse anthemic Pop hooks with harmonic R&B breakdowns and Hip-Hop inspired production. Growing into young men away from their families, they have each other. They share a home in Los Angeles and it’s where they create. They proudly take the reins on the direction of their music with improv studio set-ups in their home so they can write whenever inspiration strikes. The boys even co-produced and co-wrote much of their latest EP Phases.
PRETTYMUCH is a refreshing antidote to the boy band dry spell that has plagued the Western Pop scene in recent years. PRETTYMUCH does not sell its audience a studio-engineered fantasy of perfection. Their relatability makes their impact larger than their talent and will be the fuel to their legacy. Upon the release of their melodic trap-influenced track “Lying,” Schön! talks to the boys about their love for London crowds, their unexpected audition for Simon Cowell and how living together provides a creative haven.
Where did each of you grow up?
Edwin: I grew up in The Bronx. It was really cool because it taught me a lot about different cultures. I think a lot of my creativity derives from the culture I grew up in.
Brandon: I grew up in Corinth, Texas. It was definitely more sports-driven since Texas is so big on sports, but all of my friends were super supportive of me pursuing a more creative path.
Zion: I grew up in Ottawa, Canada. It was a cool place to grow up for sure. I played hockey of course.
Austin: I grew up in North Carolina, Charlotte to be exact. I had so much space to really exaggerate the imagination I had.
Nick: I was born in New York but grew up in New Jersey. I’m a big family person and all of my family lived really close.
What was the soundtrack to your childhood? Was there a particular artist who inspired you to make music?
Z: Bob Marley for sure, my parents always had his music playing at home.
A: James Taylor’s greatest hits was one repeat and influenced my musical taste so much.
B: Justin Bieber was a huge inspiration and kinda what made me be like “oh this could be a cool career.”
How did you go from being fans of artists to becoming artists yourselves?
Z: Honestly, I wasn’t really trying but I had some friends making music. [They] needed someone to sing a part of their song and they asked me to sing it. They were playing it to everyone in school and girls found out I could sing and were talking to me about it. I was like “hm, I guess I will try this music thing out.”
N: Before anything, I was a dancer and slowly made my way into singing because I looked at other artists that did both and would think “that could be me.”
B: I started doing acting and modelling jobs at like 11 and all the money I got from those jobs I used towards getting equipment for my home studio and kept working on my own stuff every day.
E: Making music and perfecting my voice was something I did in my own spare time. When I realised how much I loved to sing I started singing on YouTube and making videos for fun.
A: I started dancing and then one day someone suggested I go into the studio and it all just went from there.
Did you always know you wanted to pursue music?
B: Absolutely. I think I knew from a young age that music was what I was meant to do.
A: I always had a big-picture plan for my life and music was 100% a part of it.
Z: I didn’t really have an idea that it could be a “job” until I saw Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never documentary and I was like “I wanna do that!”
N: I knew I wanted to perform, be on stage, make people happy and have a positive effect on them. Once I found out this was my path I ran with it and never looked back.
E: I had no path to focus on. I just knew I wanted to be the best at whatever I was doing. But subconsciously that drive to be the best was affecting my music ability in the best way and I’ve just been so blessed.
Can you tell us how PRETTYMUCH came together?
E: It all kind of happened out of the blue for all of us. We were doing our own thing making music and then one day someone from Syco Music reached out to come audition for a showcase. So we all flew to New York and had no idea until we walked in that we were actually auditioning for Simon Cowell. They put us all together after that and moved us to L.A. The rest is history!
Does living together help your music?
Z: It definitely helps us all be on the same wavelength all the time. Like, when one of us is going through something we all know about it and experience it together and we can bounce ideas off each other all the time.
E: Plus, we got like three studios in the house so we can just go and put something together whenever we get inspired.
A: Living with these guys all the time just means we never stop working. Like, everything we do just goes straight into the music.
Where do you find inspiration for your songwriting?
B: I would say that most of our inspiration comes from whatever we’re going through. We’re experiencing so much together, having fans and all the responsibility that comes with that. At the same time we’re navigating all the normal 19-year-old stuff like relationships, friendships, but also being away from our families. So we draw inspiration from all of that stuff.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote together?
B: We had been in and out of the studio and one day we were in with Savan Kotecha and started writing our song “Open Arms.” It was the first time we really helped in writing a song and we just felt in the room that we had something great. We called our manager and told him to come to the studio ASAP so we could play it for him.
N: Yeah and now that’s one of the fans favourite songs and is always one that they sing along to, put their phone lights on, it’s really special.
What do you feel sets you apart from other popular bands of the past decade?
A: I think the way we stay true to ourselves and convey our experiences through our music is unique. Everything you hear from us comes from us and our real lives, which is why we’re able to connect with so many people in my opinion.
E: I also think the fact that we all genuinely like each other and we are all really good friends sets us apart for sure. We are brothers.
You have a super loyal fanbase. Does it ever get overwhelming that so many strangers are that invested in you?
A: I wouldn’t say it’s overwhelming. It can be a little crazy with social media sometimes, but at the end of the day, our fans are everything. We get to live our dreams because of them.
Z: Yeah, like having fans follow us on Instagram and Twitter makes them feel like they know us, which is dope ‘cause we love them and want to know them as well. At the same time, you do kind of have to figure out how to keep a line between what you share and what you keep private.
How do you cope with Internet fame and stay grounded?
E: We keep each other grounded, honestly. I think we all feel really grateful to be in this position and so we don’t let it get to our heads too much.
N: Yeah, also our families. I talk to my mom every day, which always keeps my head straight
.B: We still have a long way to go to really get to where we wanna be in the end. We want PRETTYMUCH to keep growing and reaching more people. So we have to keep each other in check in order to get there.
What can we find you doing when you’re not making music or rehearsing?
B: It’s all about music, man. Like if I’m not in the studio I’m thinking about music, listening to music, or writing.
A: I’m always creating. Creative expression is the most important thing to me. So if it’s not music, I’m painting, or making designs on the computer or doodling.
Z: You can always catch me with my dog, Simba, if I’m not making music.
Who would be your dream PRETTYMUCH collaborator?
E: I think it would be incredible to work with Tyler, The Creator. I really admire the way he produces, writes and creates everything. He pushes boundaries with everything he does.
Z: Of course it would also be really dope to work with Justin Bieber. I grew up with him being like the biggest superstar for people my age and he still is. That collab would be SICK.
Who has been a key mentor in your journey so far?
E: Our choreographer Ian Eastwood is such a good mentor because he is so creative and appreciates what it means to be creative!
N: My key mentor would be my mum and my two brothers. Although I look up to many artists and people in my field of work, I still look at what my brothers and my mum have done in times of adversity and how they inspired me to keep moving forward no matter what lies in the way.
B: Honestly, living with the guys the past three years it’s like we’ve all been our own mentors for each other. I feel like I’ve become who I am with the group.
What’s one thing you wish you’d known when you started your journey as a band?
E: Honestly, I wouldn’t change anything about our journey. We have grown up together so much, and you can see and hear that in our music. I think that adds to the authenticity we have.
B: Yeah, the time we’ve had to work through everything together has been wild but it’s got us to where we are today.
How was your time in London? What were the crowds like at your show?
N: London was crazy! It was so much fun, we always love going back to London, it never disappoints.
Z: Yeah, the fan love was amazing. I loved seeing how far our music has travelled and the fact that people around the world can vibe with us. Seeing people in another country singing every word of our songs was pretty crazy.
What’s your favourite thing about touring?
E: Definitely getting to meet our fans. Being on tour and having fans literally surround our van screaming was one of the most surreal moments of my life.
N: Yeah, just like seeing people come to our shows and sing all the words is so amazing and means so much to us. It inspires us to keep going and keep working.
B: And we are just so excited to share our PRETTYMUCH community around the country. We’ve worked so hard on this tour and put so much into it so we just want people to enjoy it and have fun at our shows.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s just discovering your music?
B: I think our sound is a combination of a modern boy band sound with a lot of influence from R&B & Hip-Hop. I think we are trying to bring something new to what people conventionally think of as a “boy band.”
E: We wanna break away from the typical Pop thing that people associate with boy bands. We want people to listen to our songs in 10, 20 years and not think of us as just another Pop boy band.
Z: We don’t want to be put in a box with our music. We want to be able to experiment with different sounds and styles where we feel like it.
What’s your favourite track on your latest EP Phases?
A: “4U“ is my jam!
B: I would have to say “Gone 2 Long“ because of how personal it is to me. It was my first track that I wrote and produced, so that was a really big deal.
Z: “Temporary Heart“ just hits different.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
B: Oh yeah, we are always working on something! We just did the music and creative for the entire tour, and we have some new music we are working on finishing and putting out really soon!
E: We have a really dope project we are working on that we should be able to share with fans soon! It will be unexpected!
Lastly, what’s next for you?
A: Our U.S. tour and just creating more and more music. We have some music we are working on that we are super excited to share with fans this year.
N: And hopefully, we can bring this tour back to London and do a show over there again!
Z: At the end of the day, we just want to work to be better than we were yesterday.
Check out PRETTYMUCH’s latest single ‘Lying’ out now.
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by
photography. Francisco Gomez de Villaboa
fashion. Jessica Punter
talents. Austin, Brandon, Edwin, Zion + Nick @ PRETTYMUCH
hair. Konstantinos Vrettakos using Oribe and Bumble and bumble.
make up. Elle McMahon
art direction. Jaime Moreno
words. Shama Nasinde
photography assistant. Pedro Fernandez
fashion assistant. Kelly Gamache
location. The Spurstowe Arms London