Boyband PRETTYMUCH — which Simon Cowell put together in the wake of One Direction’s break-up — are showing the world they’re growing up with their aptly named EP Phases.
Chatting exclusively with PEOPLE, Austin Porter explains how he and everyone else in the band — Brandon Arreaga, 19, Edwin Honoret, 20, Nick Mara, 21, Zion Kuwonu, 19 — co-wrote and co-produced it while living in the same house.
“Brandon would be working on production and then one of us would hop in and write with him, and then Edwin would be writing something and another of us would hop in — all of us would chip in,” the singer, 21, says.
He adds that this EP is different from any music they’ve previously released: “It’s matured a lot, because all of us are growing up,” Porter says.
Not only is the group now dancing to their own tunes, they’re also singing about the heartbreak and strained relationships in their own lives, as well as the people closest to them.
Take the lead single “Phases”: “Edwin’s friend was going through something and he was talking to her. She mentioned how she felt she’d found the right boy but not at the right time, and she had to go through different phases to get there. He was like, ‘Maybe I should write a song about this.’ It was all very real-life.”
But the band doesn’t just sing about tough situations — they’re also on a mission to change them.
For example, cancer hits close to home for Porter, who tells PEOPLE his girlfriend’s mom was recently diagnosed and that he’s lost a number of people in his life to the disease. But his love of painting led him to an idea: “It hit me when I had like over 80 canvases at my house that were done,” he explains. “I was like ‘I don’t know where to hang these anymore.’ Then I [thought], maybe I should do an art gallery and do it for charity — that would be sick.’”
PRETTYMUCH loved the idea: they organized a gallery and auction night in Los Angeles, displaying artwork that they’d all made, and played the new EP at the venue.
To their delight, they raised over $5,000 for City of Hope Cancer Treatment and Research Center in Southern California.
Fire marshals may have shut the event down, but that only made Porter more determined to do the auction again, bigger and better than before.
He tells PEOPLE that they’re going to find a new spot — even if they have to find a few loopholes — but no matter what, “we’re definitely going to do it again.”
Don’t worry if you can’t make it though: you can still catch them on their summer North American FOMO Tour, kicking off July 11 in Texas.
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