At a time when Australian rock meant pub rock and every other band sounded like Cold Chisel, Died Pretty were something of an anomaly. Influenced more by the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, and the Doors than they were by early Icehouse, Died Pretty spent most of the '80s and '90s struggling for recognition and finding it only in Europe. Diminutive singer Ron Peno channeled Iggy Pop and Jim Morrison in equal measure, whirling dangerously while on-stage. After his band the 31st broke up, he formed Died Pretty with keyboardist Frank Brunetti, guitarist Brett Myers, and a series of bass players and drummers including Radio Birdman's Rob Younger. Finally they settled on bass player Jonathan Lickliter and drummer Colin Barwick, both of whom had been members of Brisbane band the End along with Myers.
While playing around Sydney venues like the Trade Union Club they were spotted by John Needham, founder of the indie label Citadel Records, who offered to manage them and release some of their songs. After several singles and the EP Next to Nothing, all of which made the local alternative charts, the rhythm section changed once again. Mark Lock (formerly of the Phantom Agents) and Chris Welsh (who had played drums with Peno in his old band the 31st) joined them for the recording of their first album, Free Dirt, which was released in 1986. A European tour followed, and they signed to British label Beggars Banquet for their overseas distribution. As a result, their second album, 1988's Lost, made it into the Italian charts. In Australia, the album was released on Blue Mosque, a collaboration between Citadel Records and major label Festival.
Frank Brunetti and then Mark Lock left the band during the period of intense overseas touring that followed Lost's release and were replaced by John Hoey and Steve Clark on keyboard and drums respectively. While in Los Angeles, they recorded 1990s Every Brilliant Day. It was their fourth album, Doughboy Hollow, recorded back in Sydney, that finally gave them the popularity in Australia that they had enjoyed in Europe. After years of only making the alternative charts they entered the Top 20 of the mainstream album sales charts and were nominated for an ARIA award for best independent album (as well as best independent album cover ). Unfortunately, their label had failed to press enough copies of the album and there were also problems with overseas distribution, preventing it from being the runaway success for them it could have been. Died Pretty signed to Sony soon after the Doughboy Hollow fiasco.
Robert Warren became the band's new bass player for their two albums with Sony, 1993's Trace and 1995's Sold. Both albums did well by their standards but not by Sony's. A senior figure at Sony had also been disappointed by the band during a live showcase, and they were dropped from the label's roster in 1996 and returned to Citadel Records. The two albums from this period would be the last of their career. These albums, Using My Gills as a Road Map and Everyday Dream, marked a move away from rocky post-punk and towards Kraftwerk-style electronica. After a best-of collection released in 1999, Out of the Unknown, the band broke up.
In 2008 Died Pretty reunited to perform their most popular album, Doughboy Hollow, in its entirety as part of All Tomorrow's Parties' Don't Look Back series of concerts to coincide with its re-release. ~ Jody Macgregor