In-between piles of crab legs and an argument over who is the best on-screen Spider-Man, the guys of PrettyMuch reveal that they have big plans for 2020. The first step is their just-released four-track project, INTL:EP. On each song, the American-Canadian boy band partners with a different artist from another market: Latin American boy band CNCO (“Me Necesita”), Brazilian singer Luísa Sonza (“The Weekend”), K-pop group NCT Dream (“Up to You”), and Filipino star Iñigo Pascual (“Love”).
“We loved the idea of bringing people together,” Texas-raised member Brandon Arreaga says. “We also wanted to scale up a bit.”
Following the success of his previous group One Direction, Simon Cowell put PrettyMuch together in 2016. Prior to the group’s conception, the five teenagers weren’t really sure their music dreams were feasible.
“I was always shy as a kid and was forced by my music teacher to try out for jazz choir,” says Ottawa-born Zion Kuwonu. He was a student athlete who eventually decided to make a Vine account where he would post covers.
Meanwhile, in the Bronx, Edwin Honoret started to post his own covers to Youtube. Austin Porter, Nick Mara and Arreaga had similar stories, trying to find small pockets within their normal teenage lives to explore musical dreams that they weren’t sure would be realistic.
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“Literally right after I graduated [high school] this opportunity fell in my lap,” the New Jersey-raised Mara recalls. He had been debating whether or not to go to college when Cowell’s team reached out.
PrettyMuch soon moved into a house in Los Angeles together, where they still reside. They embarked on a “bootcamp” in their early months, training their voices and bodies while creating content for their personal pages so they can build followings. By the time they played their first show at a Pandora event, they had a solid hundred fans. Now, with three EPs and countless singles under their belts, they sell out shows on their headlining theatre tours.
“The more we go the more we learn how we gel with each other, like our strengths and our weaknesses,” Honoret explains. “You don’t realize how much hanging out and being friends reflects on the music. That’s why it feels so natural and effortless.”
Now a few years in, the boys are still adjusting to life away from home. For some of them, the Los Angeles house is the first place they have lived outside of the place where they grew up. Their families are starting to move closer to them in California, and touring is starting to feel like a cozier excursion. In peak teen idol fashion, however, they believe the excited fans makes it all feel like a purposeful upheaval of their old lives.
“I always have the appreciation of running into fans [accidentally], like when we’re getting food before a show,” Porter comments, specifically noting a time a fan asked him about his favorite anime when she spotted him in a pizzeria. “You get to have a genuine conversation and start to see more of the same faces. It makes it all worth it.”
Before even releasing a debut album, PrettyMuch has been determined to take the reigns of their own sound. Now that they’ve swapped musical tastes — which ranges from James Taylor to Bob Marley — they’re beginning to establish their personal and group identities. Arreaga, who had begun creating his own bedroom studio when he was 13-years-old, has started producing some of their songs and does so on two of the INTL:EP tracks. The boys, who are now between the ages of 19 and 22, are starting to think of projects beyond the music; Porter suggests a summer camp-type excursion for fans, based off a tweet he had seen, while Arreaga looks to Tyler, the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Festival for inspiration.
“There are people who thank us for bringing their friend group together,” Mara cites.
Like with the INTL:EP, the next step for PrettyMuch is to reach more markets. Arreaga adds that he even wants to learn more languages, like Spanish and Japanese, so he can communicate with people across the world as their fanbase grows.
“We’re driving,” Arreaga adds, “so we can’t fall asleep at the wheel.”