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Duo Zach Pietrini & Mckenna Bray Used The Pandemic To Create Their First EP 'Modern Love'

Erin Bagatta
Zach Pietrini came up with the idea to use traditional American style tattoo art to set the vibes on the cover of 'Modern Love.'

Before the pandemic began, Lake Effect featured a variety of in-studio performances from local musicians and artists. As some theaters and venues are starting to welcome back live performances with some limitations, we’ll still be featuring artists in a series we call Pandemic Performers.

Milwaukee-based artist Zach Pietrini and Memphis-based artist Mckenna Bray started their musical partnership planning a joint tour. While together in Nashville, they booked time together in a recording studio to try and record a song together. Quickly, Pietrini says they realized how easily they worked together when recording music and wanted to keep going.

Andrew Feller
Milwaukee-based artist Zach Pietrini (left) and Memphis-based artist Mckenna Bray (right).

“We’re both kind of go-getters, we’re both people who respond, I think, pretty well to just digging in and working hard,” says Pietrini.

The pandemic forced them apart shortly after the recording session and canceled their long-held plans for a tour, but the duo decided to continue working together virtually and have now created a joint five song EP called Modern Love.

“We really enjoyed the process so much that we just kept writing,” he says.

Bray says they both have different strengths when it comes to songwriting but that they fit well together. “Zach is so strong in lyric and can write poetry every single day and write a song like it’s so easy for him, but melody is my strength,” she says.

The word love is centered in this project, not only in the title of the EP but also in the first track titled “Young Love." Pietrini describes it as “love song EP." Bray says they didn’t start out with the idea to only write love songs but as they continued to write together, they kept returning to the genre.

“We ended up creating this EP that, I think, talks about the complexities of love,” she says. “The highs, the lows, and just a fun, intense and like soft way — it captures all of it.”

While each song can be categorized as a love song, the EP features a wide variety of sounds from softer acoustic to full rock anthem.

“Ends In Fire” gives Bray the reigns as the lead vocalist as she belts over electric guitar riffs. An experience, she says, she’s always wanted.

“They were just shredding the electric guitar and I was like, ‘This is so fun, I’ve always wanted to do this.' It’s like I let loose, like we had no rules, we had no idea of what we wanted it to sound like, we just went in and went crazy with it,” she says.

Pietrini says working with Bray gave him something to look forward to each week during the isolation of the pandemic. He says despite the hardship, he has been grateful to spend a year focusing on aspects of his artistry like writing while creating Modern Love.

“Just having something that kept things moving and not feeling like, ‘Well great I just missed out on a whole year of my career,'” Pietrini says. “It definitely shifts the tambor of the conversation to like, ‘No, I get to have a whole year to just write.'”

Watch Pietrini and Bray perform the Modern Love live on YouTube.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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