pretty sick
[Photo by: Erika Kamano]

Indie troupe Pretty Sick do more than live up to their name with the new single “Bet My Blood.”

The New York act have been developing their sound for almost a decade with hopelessly yearning lyrics and aggressive rhythms. Their videos land somewhere between 1990s Sonic Youth and 2015 Title Fight. Paired with haunting vocals and some of the best guitar tones ever produced, it’s impossible to not feel consumed by Pretty Sick.

In the band’s latest video, which comes only a month after the release of the angsty single Devil In Me,” singer-songwriter Sabrina Fuentes plays the role of head nurse. In addition to doling out questionable diagnoses, the nurses are seen spilling out various multicolored pills and squirting intimidatingly large syringes in the air. The group appear in the video only occasionally, popping up in subliminal frames.

The track opens to deep, heavy riffs—the kind that can only be expected from a group with two bassists. Pretty Sick match their unorthodox instrumentation with authenticity in every song, and “Bet My Blood” is no exception.

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Patients in the visual exhibit various signs of longing, such as inflamed ovaries—a symptom of being “too horny,” according to the video. The climax occurs at the end, where aggressively volatile screams overlay a scene of a flatlining, heartbroken youth. Frames bounce back and forth between nurses trying to operate an AED and a fluttering paper mache heart, adding a chaotic aesthetic to an already chaotic motif.

Pretty Sick’s lyrics match their relatable videos. Fuentes points a knowing finger while singing, “I’ll bet the red hot sun/That you will run.” After rejecting a romantic advance from a patient with literal butterflies in his stomach, the singer shakes her head in visible disapproval. Watching the video almost makes a person feel like they are the frustrated friend giving out romantic advice.

Many of Pretty Sick’s videos are characteristically lo-fi, DIY montages with an underlying theme. “Bet My Blood” maintains that same energy but takes a different approach. Here, the production is more refined and less subliminal, contrasting with the visual for a song such as “Superstar.” Even so, there’s still the same characteristically nihilistic art direction. In other words, it’s evident that a lot of time was spent making the visual, but it’s also apparent they had a lot of fun while doing it.

Still, Pretty Sick’s music can seem more cathartic than fun at times. “I’m not that emotional of a person when you’re talking to me face to face,” Fuentes says to Office. “So I think music is really where that youthfulness comes out for me.”

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That youthfulness is timeless. While Fuentes’ style and instrumentation certainly speak to a Gen Z audience, old-school fans might think of Hole and other ’90s grunge bands.

“I grew up listening to Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Hole, Pixies, basically all that grunge stuff,” Fuentes says to Office. “But as I got older, I got more into indie stuff, garage rock, punk and post-punk.”

Fuentes started Pretty Sick as a solo act in the Northeastern DIY scene when she was 13. Now her eclectic band comprise musicians from a host of backgrounds, including bassist Orazio Argentero, former jazz-drummer Austin Williamson (Onyx Collective) and guitarist Wade Oates (The Virgins).

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The artist speaks highly of her bandmates. “Everybody brings so much,” Fuentes told Nylon. “It’s such a collaborative process, and it would be so different without a member. They all have such a smart sensibility when it comes to music that really makes it so fun and so exciting to work with them all the time.”

Last October, the band signed to Dirty Hit records, making them labelmates with indie giants such as the 1975. While their instrumentation couldn’t be any more different, their scope of influence is remarkably similar. Just as Matt Healy served as the face of a new generation of indie lovers in the U.K., Fuentes is poised to become the face of young grunge in the Northeastern U.S. Pretty Sick also share the label with Rina Sawayama, who released a song with Elton John in April.

It seems the lead singer stays busy no matter the circumstances. Since 2015, she’s modeled for Converse, Opening Ceremony and the Heron Prestonhelmed campaign for Calvin Klein. On top of writing a new EP and recording videos amid a pandemic, Fuentes also studies music at Goldsmiths, University of London. For most people on Earth, it might be too much to balance, but maybe not for an artist who was playing the same venues as Jeff Rosenstock by the time she was 16.

Pretty Sick’s newest EP, Comedown, is scheduled to release June 17, less than a year after their genre-bending album Deep Divine.

What do you think of the new single “Bet My Blood”? Let us know in the comments below!