We’re so pretty
“It’s raw, it’s rock, it’s dirty, and it’s pretty,” says Lisa McCuiston, lead singer and guitarist for the aptly named three-piece rock band, Dirty Pretty. Accompanied by Gia Torcaso on bass and Kris Stocik on drums, McCuiston belts out heartsick lyrics over stripped down, classic rock instrumentation.
McCuiston and Torcaso have been playing together in Reno for four years. Three of those years were spent as two parts of the five-piece blues band, Bluestone. The duo grew bored with the 12-bar blues formula, though, and when Bluestone disbanded, they decided to start a new band and create music that is more “in your face.”
“We were feeling like we wanted to move toward a more aggressive, more rock sound,” McCuiston, 30, says.
Kris Stocik, 26, is a talented drummer whom McCuiston and Torcaso met through the auditioning process. With him on board, Dirty Pretty formed in June 2006.
The music itself brings to mind bands like Bad Company or early Aerosmith. McCuiston’s voice, the band’s “secret weapon,” according to Torcaso, has remarkable range. She runs the vocal gamut from tender and melodic to full-throated, Joplin-esque wailing on almost every song.
“We’re a lot louder than you would think,” McCuiston says. “A lot of people see us and think that it’s going to be this soft and sweet music. It’s not. It’s loud, and it’s aggressive.”
“We can do acoustic, and we can play around with that sound,” Torcaso, 27, says. “But we prefer to melt their faces.”
To appreciate the Dirty Pretty experience, one has to attend a show where the band can truly cut loose. McCuiston’s vocals alone have blown-out amps, making her proclamation, “I don’t hold back as a singer,” seem a little understated.
Their sound is classic rock ‘n’ roll, but their blues background is distinguishable. Torcaso’s haunting bass lines along with lyrics that meander from hopeful to sad to bitter and angry evoke the more visceral, emotional qualities of blues. This representation of a broader spectrum of emotion is something that seems to be lacking in popular, contemporary rock ‘n’ roll.
The members of Dirty Pretty reject any distinct feminist agenda, viewing themselves not as a female rock band but just as a straight-up rock band that “just happens to be fronted by a woman.” There is no sense, however, in ignoring the obvious.
“You just don’t see enough women in rock ‘n’ roll right now,” says McCuiston. “It’s sad.”
The songwriting for Dirty Pretty is collaborative. Torcaso’s writing is in the folk singer/songwriter vein, drawing on influences like Ani DiFranco and Joni Mitchell. McCuiston says she “rocktifies” the songs, taking them “from Joni Mitchell to Joan Jett.” Despite the impressive angst, Torcaso maintains that, “all of our songs are love songs: love-hate, love-love, love lost.”
The trio has been working on a demo and expects to have it completed within a few weeks. Still under a year old, they are happy with the amount of support they’ve been able to earn in a short amount of time. The turnout for a recent series of shows was substantial, and the band noticed that people had connected with the music, and many even sang along.
“I’m really proud of this.” McCuiston says. “I’m really excited.”