MUSIC PROFILE | PRE NUP

Pre Nup members Josiah and Sara Jean Hughes' online presence is as prolific as it is hilarious. Of the Calgary pop-punk power couple's many highlights, a recent tweet from Sara Jean celebrating Taraji P. Henson's red carpet roasting of Ryan Seacrest was liked a whopping 86 thousand times, including co-signs from Vanity Fair and Roxane Gay. Considering the niche market on photoshopped screamo memes, Josiah's double-digit approval rate is respectable in its own right— Commendably, Josiah has also turned a failed 33 1/3 pitch on Blink-182's Dude Ranch into the ongoing, unnecessarily extensive Blink-155 podcast.

There was also that time the pair hosted Colin Hanks when the actor tweeted that he was in town looking for a place to watch a True Detective finale. Hollywood's not 100 per cent on Pre Nup, though, as Judd Apatow just blocked Josiah on his socials. A film editor and critic at Exclaim! (full disclosure, the author previously worked with Josiah daily), Hughes has a few theories as to how this happened.

"Sara was away at a work conference, so I was alone on the couch with Twitter, which is sometimes very dangerous. I was tweeting that the Garry Shandling doc [The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling] was too long," guitarist/vocalist Josiah explains to ION, adding that the Apatow-produced film on the comedy legend was "four-and-a-half hours of raw praise." No stranger to being banished from people's timelines, he adds,  "the list of people who've blocked me has gotten so long."

While you'll soon be able to hold a physical copy of Oh Well, Pre Nup's full-length debut, the record unabashedly dials straight into digital age malaise. Melancholy jangling and a rough-around-the-edges pummel of drums underscores the self-loathing of "Internet Arguments," an aural crying emoji that contemplates  the price of picking fights online ("Oh no, what have I done/I started a war just for fun").  "People get so upset and hurt about social media stuff, and it's so meaningless. But, also, our entire lives are online," Josiah observes, adding with a dose of jokey pathos, "The line between IRL and URL is gone."

Pre Nup often walks the line between tragedy and comedy. The band evolved out of drummer Sara Jean and Josiah's previous project, Grown-Ups, and was initially conceived as a collaboration with another married couple—that idea was thrown out once the latter pair filed for divorce. Instead, the Hughes' are joined by bassist Chris Dadge (Lab Coast) and fellow former Grown-Up Darrell Hartsook on guitar. While this latest venture smoothes down the sandpaper shout Josiah used for Grown-Ups in favour of a nerdier croon, the songwriter's goals to go gentle with Pre Nup were axed almost immediately. Case in point, while Josiah considers "The Grudge" to be the best piece of music he's delivered to date, it underwent massive rewrites after Sara Jean called out a saccharine riff for sounding like "DVD menu music."

"He wanted it to be like, I don't know, more twee. Belle and Sebastian stuff," Sara Jean reveals of Josiah's initial vision for the group, adding of why she prefers to push the tempo, "I literally hate drumming slow so much. Honestly, I'm just too impatient to do it."

Oh Well's ten songs are over and done with in just over twenty minutes, but the album is a lush and punky soundscape. Check the fast and fluid arpeggio affixed to "Imposter," the blend of strummed acoustics and Elvis Costello & the Attractions-grade organ running through "On the Nose", or the Kiwi Pop glaze of the aforementioned, "The Grudge". Lyrically, the latter is the anchor of an especially inward-looking LP, with Josiah and Sara Jean harmonizing about the plague of pettiness and being "bitter for bitter's sake"

"I think my lyrics have always been self-effacing in a way, but this time around I was really analyzing myself and deconstructing my ego," Pre Nup's frontman notes. "In the process of recording the album, I quit drinking too. I feel like a lot of this, it's me saying goodbye to the shitty person that I was in my 20s, and saying goodbye to the cocky guy that thinks he's better than everyone."

Though he was willing to put himself out there in his lyrics, Josiah was concerned about the cringiness of being so vulnerable— Sara Jean gets credit for proofing each piece, highlighting what was corny and what was honest.  The drummer explains: "I don't mind if someone's being earnest. Being earnest doesn't mean 'embarrassment chills'. There is a fine line."

While there's still smarm to the Hughes' online activity, Oh Well closer "Life in Hell" suggests a self-awareness is keeping these artists in check. "[Life in Hell]'s almost a subtweet at people who I see complaining too much, but again, it's also directed at myself," the guitarist says. "You spend your teens dreaming that you can work in music, or work in the arts, and then as soon as you get there, everyone is just whining about it all the time."

As admitted in-song, there's a privilege to working in the arts, whether that's playing shows as Pre Nup, Josiah penning reviews for a living, Dadge touring the world as a member of Chad VanGaalen's backup band, or independent moviemaker Sara Jean taking her latest three-minute short, Trope, around the film circuit. Even with that block from Apatow, Pre Nup's "Life in Hell" seems pretty good.

Pre Nup's Oh Well sees release through Debt Offensive/Jigsaw Records on May 4.

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