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The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Interview Pt.2

Part 2, YEAH!

the pains of being pure at heart

Let’s go back awhile – you formed for your keyboardist’s birthday party, right? Do you intend to play at all forthcoming band birthday celebrations?

Kip: Well, we have, for the most part. I remember Alex’s birthday party in our first year, and we threw this big house party at the place I was living and A Sunny Day in Glasgow and Pants Yell came and played with us, and it was one of the most fun times ever. This year, there were noise issues around Kurt’s birthday party that prevented us from playing– but the party ended up getting noise violations from the police anyway, so our restraint was pretty much pointless.

This year, Peggy is curating a birthday show at cake shop and I think she’s trying to get Linton from the legendary Aislers Set to perform.

Alex: Yeah we always try to make band birthdays into some sort of popstravaganza.

Peggy: If not, I at least like to have a birthday party that involves lots of dancing to jock jams.

What music did you hear as a child? Do you think it had any effect on the music you create now?

Kip: Prince and David Bowie, mostly. I really love glam rock, though I suppose we don’t seem like a glam rock band. I love T. Rex and New York Dolls too, though I think I didn’t hear them until I was well out of my single digits.

My mom used to always sing me medieval ballads about lovers dying of broken hearts– I remember that very, very clearly, and that’s maybe why we’re so emo…

Alex: I listened to pop and rock radio growing up. My parents would play the Beatles all the time and I just got insanely sick of it. It took me until late college to even think about listening to the Beatles again. Starting around 15, I got into punk and hardcore and started going to local shows. That was really my gateway into non-commercial music and I never looked back.

Peggy: I really loved Madonna.  I used to watch the 24-hour Madonnathons on MTV and it’d be kind of embarrassing whenever my mom walked in and Madonna would be like, humping a chair and grabbing her crotch.  I also was a die-hard Debbie Gibson fan.  That was my first concert.  I owned Electric Youth perfume, and hand-embroidered her name on the back of a jean jacket I had.  I guess even at a young age, I had a really obsessive relationship with music.

“You’re my sister, and this love is fucking right!” – That’s a pretty shocking lyric, isn’t it? What prompted that song?

Kip: The use of “sister” is figurative. It’s a gesture of solidarity, of closeness of same-ness– not of physical relation. 

Do you enjoy the balance of sweet melodies and challenging subject matter? It’s a really good twee trick that keeps on getting renewed by acts like yourselves.

Kip: Is Nirvana twee? They did the same thing. It would be pretty sickening to write pretty songs with pretty words about how pretty everything is. It would be even worse to do the opposite– our songs are honest, and never strive for anything other than to be true and unafraid.

It’s sad when bands try to “polite” their way to the top by singing in universal, easily digestible language about the most generic situations that could possibly apply vaguely to everyone– but truly to no one.

Let us be not that.

What are your live shows like? Even noisier than the record?

Kip: We try to play really loud– I think people may expect a picnic on stage and it’s definitely not that…

Alex: Yeah it’s not really jangly or twinkly or anything, it’s big, big guitars. Also, Kurt might play harder than any drummer I’ve ever met.

Peggy: We’re louder than people expect.

You recently went on tour with The Wedding Present. One time, my brother got him to dress up as a bear (no joke, I’ve got a picture!). Did you manage anything similar?

Kip: David Gedge is wonderful, and a truly sincere and talented songwriter. I think I nabbed his BBC visitors pass as a souvenir, but he doesn’t seem like the sort of person to play practical jokes on or ask to perform as a clown at your cousin’s birthday party. I would like to see that picture, though….

“You’ve lost your love of fish, too much hibernation”

Alex: It was all I could do to muster up the balls to talk to the guy, let alone ask him to dress up in a bear suit, haha. I’m not sure I have the creativity or bad-ass streak it takes to be a true prankster. Gedge was an awesome guy and the Weddoes were really, really nice and accommodating to us.

Finally, Kevin Shields comes up to you and says “I’ve fired those other losers. Wanna join my band?” Do you leave The Pains behind? Do you become My Bloody Pains Of Being Pure At Heart? What do you do?!

Kip: I’d tell him “No thanks.” I’d much rather be in The Pains of Being Pure at Heart!!!

Alex: For real – Pains or bust!

Peggy: Yeah.  I’d still wanna bro-down with Kevin Shields though.

Who wouldn’t, Peggy? Who wouldn’t? Maybe he’ll read this and add you to the ever-excelling line-up for the MBV ATP in December. PM sure hopes so. Until December, reader, you should listen to The Pains here.

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The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart Interview Pt.1

Here’s an interview that was supposed to be published but wasn’t. Whee!

the pains of being pure at heart

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).

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How’s Your Week? – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

This week, PM catches up with Kip from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. See what we thought of their debut record here (it’s aces, anyhow), then see what Kip & co. have been up to…

the pains of being pure at heart

In a word, how’s your week?

Fun!

What did you get up to last night and how was it?

Peggy and I went to Daddy’s (a bar in Brooklyn) and had a great time. We saw a lot of friends and drank a lot of drinks. One of the guys from Cause co-MOTION was DJing and I met this guy who had just gotten out of a relationship of 5 years and was sad. But we sang along to all of Teenage Fanclub’s The Concept – I think we were a little wasted… but it was really fun.

What’s for dinner tonight and who’s cooking it?

I’ll probably make tomato soup and saltine crackers – I’m totally addicted, and have been eating this every day for the last week.

What have you listened to today and did you like it?

I listened to Tough Alliance’s New Violence and Gentle Touch’s Once You Used To and liked them both.

What’s your favourite/least favourite thing that’s happened this week?

I really liked going out last night – I saw so many friends. But tomorrow is Kurt’s (drums) birthday party, and I feel like that’s going to be insanely amazing! I can’t wait!

(Kip answered these questions on Jan 22nd)

Is there any cuter image than members of The Pains confiding newly sad with a sing-along of an entire Teenage Fanclub classic? Nope, sir. Have a listen to The Pains at their MySpace.

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The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – S/T

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – S/T (Fortuna POP!)

the pains of being pure at heart

So let’s summarise. Your band sounds like a million other bands, and not just because of the feel if it like so many cack-hand writers care to approximate, but because actual, practical, musical reasons. Your boy-girl vocals are octave spaced and reasonably low in the mix, your guitars are overdriven to the point of near-oblivion, and your songs are about boys and girls messing things up and annoying each other and growing up and stuff. A list of similar bands is useless at this point, click on any other review of this self-titled debut and you’ll find what you’re after.

What’s different about The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart? All these tedious soundalike issues exist, but what of the band allows us to ignore them? Innate sing-along charm, for one. Fucking sensible and functional songs, for another. Their sound oozes an ease and elegance that can only come with unstudied glory and their considerable inexperience. Take single Come Saturday. It’s just the simplest song you could write, but the band’s brilliant energy turns it into a shining, bold and attractive collection of well-balanced melodies and louche heartbreak. Gentle tweaks to the formula such as ebullient overdrive and the sudden emergence of fuzzy bass in the second verse ensure total freshness for the duration, but it’s the verve you’ll remember more than anything else.

Elsewhere, there are any number of simple pleasures that do the exact same thing. The staccato homophony of high register guitar chords and thumping toms on Young Adult Friction are utter exhilaration, the gentleness of the guitar strokes on the righteous This Love Is Fucking Right!, there’s plenty to rave about. While the buoyancy and the energy doesn’t extend to every single second (how could it?), The Pains prove that their youth and simultaneous knowledge of their ancestry are enough to make the most straight-forward and digestible of pop records. Not a note is wasted, not a tune possessive of more ennui than it should be milked for. Pure economy. Perhaps the only worry is that a second album will jade them, rob them of their spirit, but that’s not for now.

So your band, then. It sounds like a million other bands. But so too do those million other bands. Count yourselves among their ranks and continue on.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is released on February 9th – more information here! You can read this review here at The Quietus, too.

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