Pretty Sick Gets Streetwise

Pretty Sick Gets Streetwise

By Tobias HessMay 02, 2024

“Cities are like people and people always change/ The only home I ever knew was the sound of my name” sings Pretty Sick (Sabrina Fuentes) with a sardonic deadpan on her new song, “Streetwise.” The lead single off her forthcoming EP of the same name, “Streetwise” teases Fuentes’ next artistic chapter. After building a solid fan base from years spent playing shows on the New York and London DIY circuit and releasing two lauded records on UK label, Dirty Hit, Fuentes is expanding her sound. On Streetwise, Fuentes teams up with Drain Gang affiliate, Woesum, who accents her now-signature fuzzy sound with surprising digital textures: the quiet drive of a synth arp, the soft, right hook of an electronic percussion hit. Even with these flourishes, the song still centers Fuentes’ lyrics, which are at once obstinate and joyful. “Just wanted to rock/ Just wanted to have fun/ Got the whole crowd asking are you gonna play dumb?” she asks, ending the song in a rhetorical sigh.

"Streetwise" is paired with a video, shot by Jason Isip, that bristles with the song’s comical confrontation. In it, Fuentes looks directly at the camera, relenting, almost like contemporary Hillary Duff. The video is intercut with bleary, neon shots of Tokyo, London, Miami and New York that give it a universal quality. The “city” the song discusses is not so specific as it is attitudinal. To be streetwise is a state of being, and Fuentes embodies it.

PAPER caught up with Fuentes before the launch of her new song and video to chat influences, city living and the process behind Streetwise’s riotous video.

Your work has long been rooted in the sounds of grunge and '90s alt-rock. "Streetwise" feels like a stylistic transformation, as you begin merging those sounds with a more digitized production style. What can you share about this sonic transition?

I realized I spend more time at raves and in clubs than in live music venues so I figured I should follow that natural transition or try to bridge the two so they could coexist.

Woesum produced this new song. Tell me about the process working with him.

I loved working with Woesum so much. Prior to working with him, I'd only ever recorded with a full band in the room and pre-written songs. Writing lyrics to beats he makes really opens up a whole new world of songwriting to me. He’s so talented and great at directing the artists he works with.

The video for "Streetwise" is super fun. I love that it evokes early 2000s music videos that are very direct and confessional. I also love the social and free floating feeling with you and your friends. What was it like shooting this video?

I shot the performance scenes in one day with Jason Isip and the rest of the footage of partying is just from a toy camera I got in Japan. The box’s only English label was “Baby's first camera,” and it’s shaped like a blue cat. The footage of parties and friends are all from our time touring in Tokyo, London, Miami and New York. The video is really candid and just an honest representation of our time on the road. It kind of reminds me of our first video for "Telephone" so i think it bridges the worlds of our older music and new music well in that way. We always stay true to ourselves.

What does being "streetwise" mean to you?

It's just how all city kids are. Smarts that can't be taught in a school and can only be learned by growing up too fast and having too much fun.

You sing on "Streetwise" “City is a playground, and I want to explore.” I know you’ve lived in both NYC and London. Where are your favorite spots to explore in both cities?

I like mudlarking on the Thames in London and the subway tunnels in NYC.

Photography: Polina Boyko