Here’s an interview that was supposed to be published but wasn’t. Whee!
New York’s The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are distinct by their ability to totally transcend their influences. The husky, dreamy pop fury of their self-titled debut calls to mind any number of fuzzy twee and poppy shoegaze stalwarts as you’d care to trip over on your way to the NPL, but does that mean we have to continually view their music in comparison to their predecessors? Lord, no! Theirs is an energy and vim as powerful as anyone else’s, and theirs is a genuine, demonstrable enthusiasm owned by so few. More than that, the LP is a bracing thrash of positivity, an arm on the shoulder of your younger self telling you that it’s fine to feel like that. A comforting challenge, if you will.
To prove this, we got in contact with three out of four (it ain’t bad) of these pop-swilling diadems of restlessness on the head of post-pubescent insecurities and spoke about the demon of perceived over-influence (apparently not that bad), Madonnathons and the mental image of David Gedge dressed as a bear.
What do you think about the comparisons you continually receive to shoegaze, twee and C-86 bands? Is it frustrating at all to be continually mentioned alongside the same artists?
Kip: We are a pop band. To us, it’s super flattering any time people compare us to something they feel positive about. It’s completely natural to try to compartmentalize and define music, but of course it’s not exactly how we see ourselves. We certainly wouldn’t say we’re C-86 (at the time I was about 6 and listening to Prince), and shoegaze doesn’t totally make sense as I only use about 3 guitar pedals (all of them distortion). But If “nu-twee-gaze-noise” is how people want to talk about pop, who are we to deny them the joys of hyphenation.
Alex: Yeah I think compartmentalization is a natural thing. Everyone’s guilty of it, it’s not annoying or anything. Also, we like all those bands, it’s not like we’re cringing when people mention us alongside Jesus & Mary Chain, even if that’s not what we’re explicitly going for.
Peggy: I definitely really like all the bands that we get comparisons to. But we didn’t sit down consciously and decide that we were going to sound like any of those bands. I guess I consider it very flattering in a way, and a sign of success that we managed to start a band that sounds like a combination of all my favorite bands.
Are you sick of answering questions about your genre and influences? People sometimes seem unable to focus on anything else with a band that has the sonic appearance of other, more established acts…
Kip: We’re just excited people want to talk to us. I grew up listening to Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Yo la Tengo, as well as American punk and hardcore. Nirvana was especially influential, as they championed lesser known bands like The Vaselines and Beat Happening. I don’t think a lot of 15 year olds in America would have otherwise gotten into that stuff without Kurt Cobain really using his celebrity to turn people our age onto it.
Alex: I think it’s interesting to see what people hear and why. I think it’s more interesting, usually, to hear what music makes people feel, though, rather than what 20-year-old bands use the same chord progression.
Peggy: Yeah. What Alex said! Sometimes I just want to scream out, it’s pop music! The kind of music I like listening to are tunes that get stuck in my head, with lyrics I can relate to. I love the Brian Jonestown Massacre, even though the influences might be really obvious. It’s about the songs. And I think personality always shines through.
What strikes me most about your album is the energy. The musical language isn’t always as important in a record like this – what’s more prescient is how convincingly you fight your corner and how defiantly you express yourself. What motivated the songs to be this way?
Kip: We 100 percent love what we do so much. I guess (and I hope) it shows. We feel so grateful for the opportunity to play music together and are genuinely thrilled and surprised that people feel as passionately about our band as we do.
Alex: I think it comes from being genuine and having as much fun as possible. I like that – “fighting your corner.” We just wanna play these songs as big and loud as possible.
Peggy: I always have fun playing the songs, and we have fun together as a band. I think it comes through in the music.
In the UK, we’re occasionally punished by a television show called ‘Don’t Forget The Lyrics’, in which Shane Richie (an English idiot) goads hapless members of the public into singing karaoke in front of the nation, the main objective being to remember certain lyrics without the subtitles to win money. The expressions on contestants’ faces when they have no idea of the song and claw desperately at half-melodies is frequently upsetting to watch. What would your ideal musical game show format be?
Kip: I think that speaks to a certain truth that for most listeners, lyrics don’t necessarily leave much of an impact. That is pretty much the opposite of how we feel– lyrics are so important and really make or break bands for me. Some of my favorite bands– like My Favorite, distinguish themselves from the countless, generic peers by the level of care and the emotional resonance of their lyrics. For me to fall in love with a band, it is as much to do with lyrics and music.
As for game shows, well– I’m a big fan of Wheel of Fortune, so perhaps if there was some sort of musical version of that. Or maybe, I would just like to go on Wheel of Fortune someday and meet Vanna White…
Alex: I think our ideal game show would be ’90s coming-of-age sitcom trivia. Maybe to make it music related it could be based on all the indie music guest appearances like R.E.M. on Pete & Pete and Julianna Hatfield on My So-Called Life? Clearly this is a half-baked idea, haha.
More tomorrow! Have a listen to the band here (as if you haven’t already, you MORON).