Pretty Sick Releases Debut Album “Makes Me Sick Makes Me Smile”

V sat down with Sabrina Fuentes, the vocalist behind the indie-rock band, to discuss their latest project—brimming with ‘90s-esque grunge intensity and emotionally-resonant lyrics

Sabrina Fuentes of grunge, indie-rock band Pretty Sick has finally penned the most highly-anticipated chapter of her ongoing narrative, with the band’s debut album Makes Me Sick Makes Me Smile. The self-assured vocalist sat down with V ahead of the long-awaited project, which has been years in the making since Fuentes formed the band almost a decade ago. It’s no surprise that the intrepid artist stuck to her passion, as she reflects, “Music definitely feels like my calling.” 

Joined by guitarist Orazio Argentero and drummer Ava Kaufman, the native New Yorker insists that although the band has finally reached a milestone worth celebrating, their story has yet to climax just yet. Fuentes is constantly evolving, ebbing and flowing with the world around her, and their music will continue to reflect this inevitable growth. Although the group is known for their edgy, gritty sound, evocative of ‘90s punk nostalgia, they can also be uniquely identified by their ability to honor duality. Even the band’s name suggests that every emotion and every moment can be understood in a multitude of ways, something Fuentes is becoming more and more familiar with as she emotionally matures. 

“As I’ve grown up, I’ve known what to let go of and learned what is best for me,” the musician reflects. This debut album deals with the cathartic process of releasing those emotions, taking a step back, and being grateful for every chapter of the story—the good and the bad. Fuentes’ only hope, in exchange for putting her delicate inner workings on the line, is that others will resonate with the message and find solace in the same way she has.

Read more below, as Fuentes discusses the ups and downs of New York City living, her musical and emotional progression, and the story behind Makes Me Sick Makes Me Smile.

V MAGAZINE: I know you’re from New York and this definitely manifests in your carefree style. Do you think that where you come from also informs your music? 

SABRINA FUENTES: New York is for sure one of my main muses when writing and a lot of this album is about my connection to the city and living between New York and London. 

V: You are a badass lead to your band, but you also have modeled in the past and you’re very politically active. How do you manage to balance all those different parts of your life? 

SF: Music comes first. Everything else that I do, I think of them more as things I do just because I enjoy them. So it’s easy to balance it all because everything else is just what I like to do in my free time. That time will go toward either helping friends out on shoots or talking about things that I’m passionate about.

V: I feel like, in a way, a lot of these things connect, especially when you’re a creative. There is a natural overlap without even realizing it. What finally made you take the leap of faith to fully pursue music and what was your relationship with music like growing up?

SF: I’ve always known I wanted to do music and it’s something that has always been important to me. As life went on, I fell into modeling and fashion and all other kinds of stuff. I wasn’t performing that much, but I was still writing a lot. I was getting so much enjoyment from just writing for myself that I wasn’t even thinking about putting it out for a long time. I would play shows sometimes, but eventually, most of my bandmates went to college and I didn’t have a band anymore so I focused more on modeling. 

And then when I was probably around 16 years old, I visited my friend Mason at work and she was like, “Hey, whatever happened to your music? Are you gonna play any shows anytime soon?” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t know, probably not.” I thought, “I guess I’ll just wait until high school is over.” And she said, “No, don’t do that. You should definitely pursue music more.” She encouraged me and she asked me to show her what I’ve been working on privately. From there, she and other friends from New York nurtured me creatively. And then, slowly, it became the focus. I pretty much fell out of modeling. Now, I barely model unless I’m asked to and music is my whole life. It’s what I wake up and think about every morning. And the last thing I think about before I go to bed. 

V: I love the idea that just a little support from the people that you cared about pushed you to feel like you were confident to do your thing. I know you said that you live, breathe, and eat music now. But before that, you were very involved in fashion and modeling. Do you feel that fashion continues to play a role in your musical persona even after choosing to evolve past that? 

SF: Fashion will always be such a big part of my life because so many people I love are so involved with fashion, either as photographers, designers, or stylists. So I think fashion will always have a hand in what I do. But outside of that, it is something that I have come to a bit of a crossroads with because I guess I’m just having a shift in my own personal style. I’m kind of questioning what my identity is in terms of that. I feel that I’ve dressed the same my whole life. I have such a cartoon character uniform look so I’m trying to decide what the next step is there. But that’s also super fun to explore.

V: And that’s something that will always grow and evolve with you, especially as you fine-tune your music sonically. The band’s sound is very grunge-punk; it reminds me of past eras. Is there anyone that you looked to as inspiration as you discovered your own sound?

SF: This upcoming album is the album I’ve always wanted to make my whole life. It’s fun but emotional and screamy with tender moments. So I think this album in particular is definitely informed by the stuff I grew up listening to, like Nirvana, Hole, Smashing Pumpkins, Elliot Smith, and Beck. I mean, there are so many that it’s hard to even think about. But those were definitely my biggest influences growing up. And then I think there are always touches of other stuff from other genres because I really do love other types of music as well. I listen to a lot of music from the fifties and sixties. I listen to a lot of electronic, experimental, and even South American and Caribbean music as well. So it’s definitely a big hodgepodge of all of the things that I grew up loving and have continued to absorb and fall in love with over the years. 

V: What emotions were you able to work through during this album creation process? 

SF: I dealt with a lot of the hurt and the uncertainty that I faced growing up and just tending to old wounds that really needed a lot of time to heal. It felt really good to close a chapter on certain parts of my life. Especially my later teen years, probably 15 to 19. It felt nice to receive closure there. I lived such a hectic, chaotic life—and I still do—but I just felt kind of trapped. Looking at this album, I feel quite proud and accomplished, on a musicianship level, but also as a person. It’s nice to look back and see that I was able to make something that I’m proud of, out of all these moments of pain or confusion from my early adulthood. 

V: I want to talk more about what the album is about and what it means to you. I know a lot of it has to do with that constant, frantic relationship with New York. What do you feel that you learned about protecting your energy and being selective about who you surround yourself with while creating this album? 

SF: I think what I learned most about protecting my energy is just not to let things cloud your vision and to try to see things as clearly as possible. I think maybe I am too much of an optimist when it comes to New York because I habitually see the good in people who do not really deserve to be seen in that light. So being somewhere else, like London, where you have more space to yourself and you have a bit more clarity and you’re not constantly bombarded by so many different emotions—it gives you the space to slow down and look at the situations you’re in and think about whether or not they really serve you. Or if the people around you are really a true friend or not. I’ve just become a bit more selective about how I’ll spend my time and who I’ll spend my time with. So when I do have moments that I get to spend with other people a bit more privately or that I spend with myself, they’re more important. 

V: What are you most proud of with this upcoming album? 

SF: The goal that I set out for with this album was to try and make something coherent in terms of sound and story. I think we got pretty close to that goal. So that’s what I’m most proud of. I hope everybody else thinks the same. 

V: And speaking of that, what do you hope people take away from the album? And, on top of that, you mentioned this cohesive story. What is the story that you hope people leave with after they listen to it? 

SF: I hope people take away some sort of emotional familiarity from the album. For me, that’s what rock and roll is really about, and what music as a whole is really about—being able to hear something and feel like somebody else has been through what you’re going through. And feeling less alone from it. So I think that’s always what the goal is when putting music out for other people to hear. But I guess the story that I’m trying to tell—well it’s not finished—but it is one of being able to look around you and learn from past experiences. It’s about trying to make a better future for yourself, even if that’s going to take some hard decisions and hard work. It’s definitely an ongoing story.

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