After years playing in male-dominated Boston rock and punk bands, six vet women rockers decided to link up and start their own band. From the roots of what was originally a Joan Jett cover band came Petty Morals, a six-piece girl powered ode to '60s pop and '80s synth rock.
After a consistent presence in the local scene, the group got the push they deserved with an appearance (and finalist) in this year's edition of the Boston Rock 'n Roll Rumble. Their new second EP, "Cherry Ice Pop" — with more synths, less guitars and just as much spunk as their debut demo last year — is simply the next step in bringin' disco-inspired rock back.
We spoke with lead singer Tai Heatley ahead of their EP release show tonight on songwriting, how Petty Morals has developed and what it's like playing in an all-girl rock band.
Locally Amped: How did Petty Morals begin?
Tai Heatley: Some of the girls in the band -- [Lauren] LoWreck, the drummer, and Chrissy [V.] the bass player -- started this Joan Jett cover band. It was the type of music that they didn't really play often but they loved it and they decided that they wanted to start an all female rock 'n roll band. So, they started that and then they were asking their friends. They asked me if I wanted to sing. And then we asked a couple of our other friends to play guitar.
Locally Amped: You guys began as a cover band. Does Petty Morals still break out any covers live?
Tai Heatley: Oh yeah. We're actually known for playing a lot of fun covers. We were in the Rock 'n Roll Rumble and one of the covers that we played there was "Neutron Dance" by The Pointer Sisters. Also, we cover "Metro" by Berlin. We just recently covered "Everybody" by The Backstreet Boys. So, yeah we like to change it up.
Locally Amped: Did you listen to very much synth rock or punk growing up?
Tai Heatley: For myself, I can say that I listened to all sorts of music. I definitely listened to punk. I was very into Prince — and I still am into Prince. I was into P. Funk. I loved dancing and I loved pop music, but I also loved being rebellious and having a punk attitude. I know that some of the girls in my band grew up listening to punk. We get a lot of our influences from all of that type of music.
Locally Amped: So you've been in a couple of bands before in the Boston scene. How has performing with Petty Morals been different?
Tai Heatley: Obviously Petty Morals is all female. The huge different for me is I can come to practice and I can talk about jelly beans and you know -- my hair, how I'm feeling that day -- and not get looked at strangely. Not have some guys roll their eyes at me or just like laugh at me. We get along really well and I think that comes across when we perform.
Locally Amped: So, Petty Morals just released their second EP. Were you guys trying to do something different than the last year's "Lemonade" EP?
Tai Heatley: No, I don't think so. We actually started recording some of the songs back when we recorded the "Lemonade" EP — about seven or eight songs at once, but we decided to split them up into different EPs. This one has a little more of a pop, dancier vibe in it. The first one had a lot more guitar on it. Because it did have a lot more poppier songs, we decided to call it "Cherry Ice Pop."
Locally Amped: Is songwriting a collaborative process?
Tai Heatley: We're fortunate to have a lot of great songwriters in the group. Chrissy V. is an amazing songwriter. Our bass player [Ivahna Rock] is an amazing songwriter. I write songs as well. We come up with songs on our own, bring it to the group and Petty Moral-ize it.
Locally Amped: What does Petty Moral-izing entail?
Tai Heatley: Obviously, the songs, when they come to us, they're in very raw form. We just put our own twist on it -- it will be a little rock, it will be bouncy. It will just take a life of its own once six girls get their hands on it.
Locally Amped: I'm sure. Do you ever get any odd responses from saying that you're in a band called Petty Morals?
Tai Heatley: Well, not really, but it's confused a lot of people. We've been called Pretty Morals a lot. Some people know what the reference is from. It's actually something that Keith Richards said to the cops at one point, to the judge, when they had him on trial and he used it in a sentence. [Something like] he's not worried about petty morals. We heard that and were like, that's perfect. That's us. Petty Morals.
Catch Petty Morals live tonight at 8 p.m. at Church of Boston for their record release party. Also performing are fellow Boston rockers Tigerman WOAH, When Particles Collide and Miss Geo.