This divisive world could stand a few more songs like “It’s About Love”—even if its message is about as simple as it gets. “I’m a simple guy,” says Jody Stephens, the last living connection to massively influential commercial underachievers Big Star. “I tried to be more complicated about it, but it didn’t work.”
“It’s About Love” can be found on 2019’s Zed For Zulu, the second album from Those Pretty Wrongs, Stephens’ ongoing collaboration with Los Angeles-based roots-rock fixture Luther Russell. Premiering here, the song’s playfully surreal animated video was created in France by WOOM Studio’s Cyril Pooley Jean.
“The whole thing was done by green screen,” says Stephens. “Me in Memphis and Luther in Pasadena.”
A remarkably youthful 69 with creative energy to spare, Stephens still works out of the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis. Though he’s known Russell for decades, he seriously connected with him in 2012 for a series of promotional performances around the release of the Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me documentary. Borrowing from a line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 41, Those Pretty Wrongs quickly began a long-distance creative partnership that has led to two albums, with another on the way. For 2016’s Those Pretty Wrongs, the two used much of the vintage Big Star gear, including Stephens’ drums from Radio City and Third and Chris Bell’s acoustic and electric guitars from #1 Record. In keeping with the old-school vibe, everything was tracked to two-inch tape at Ardent.
“We only have a week in the studio together when Luther flies out, so we don’t have time to overthink things,” Stephens says of the creative process they’ve honed over the years.
Thanks to a new partnership with Brent Rademaker (GospelbeacH, Beachwood Sparks) and his Curation Records, Those Pretty Wrongs and Zed For Zulu are being re-issued as a double album in February. (You can pre-order it here.) Meanwhile, Stephens is finishing up a new LP at Ardent.
“It’s certainly not a dramatic departure from the last albums—it’s still sounds like Those Pretty Wrongs,” he says. “With the pandemic, we had nothing better to do than start writing again. Sometimes boredom is a good thing.”