Gisteravond stond de band The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart in Trouw, Amsterdam. Jimmy had een interview met deze Amerikaanse indiepop band. Lees het interview hier!
First things first, how did all of you meet? Through music or did you know eachother before forming the band?
Kip: Alex, Peggy and I were all friends. We’d hang out a lot, go to shows and talk about music and bands pretty incessantly. I had written some songs and asked if they wanted to play them with me. At first it was pretty terrible sounding– we had a drum machine and practiced in my living room and my other roommates would walk by and shake their head and seemed rather perplexed by our attempts at music. Little by little we improved and played our first show at Peggy birthday party with our friends The Manhattan Love Suicides and Titus Andronicus.
A few months later, we realized we had gotten about as far as we could with our limited drum machine programming knowledge, and we invited my then roommate Kurt Feldman (the primary songwriter and guitarist of the now defunct The Depreciation Guild) to play drums. He had a really intuitive understanding of the sound we were going for and almost immediately all our songs felt more alive, more vital than they ever had before. He also helped with writing some of the newer songs for the first record – songs like “Stay Alive” were simply a result of us playing along to this one drum beat he did (we called it “The Manchester Beat”) for about 9 minutes.
Other songs like “Everything With You” and “Come Saturday” really changed their character as a result of his propulsive drumming – what started off as fairly nondescript jangle pop took on a far more aggressive and impassioned dynamic as a result of his drumming and musical input. I can’t really understate how much we improved, both recorded and live, as a result of his joining the group.
How did you guys come up with the name “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart”? Any other options you considered (embarrassing ones perhaps)?
Kip: The name was taken from the title of a short story a friend of mine in Portland, Oregon wrote. I had been in a previous band and wanted to call one of our songs “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart” – but my old bandmates didn’t think that was a good name for a song. I suppose naming an entire band that was my somewhat perverse (though entirely benign) revenge.
Let’s talk about your music. The instruments on your latest album sound more worked out and the production less shoegaze-y than on the first album. Did anything change in the studio? Are you guys happy with this change, or do you barely notice it yourselves? Do you guys see it as the evolution of your music?
Kip: I think it’s a very organic and natural movement of our sound. Whatever our first record sounded like, it wasn’t the intention that it conveyed anything of a “Shoegaze” style – we were going for something much more vivid and immediate. So much is made of the naturalness of a band’s first record, so who am I to destroy that myth? But really, our first record sounded the best we could make it sound, owing in large part to the excellent mixing of Archie Moore (Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine) and our very rudimentary understanding of the recording process.
We were almost more excited about kind of sound possessed by the songs that ended up on “Belong,” but were physically incapable of capturing that at the time of the recording of LP1. That we progressed enough to record them in the manner that we did speaks to the experience of touring almost non-stop for two years following the release of our first album and becoming a bit more confident and competent as musicians (but not to the point that it obscured our prioritization of songwriting).
Your biggest musical influences growing up?
Kip: I liked a lot of things and different ages. Certainly some great pop punk like Weston “A Real Life Story of Teenage Rebellion” and Plow United’s s/t LP on Creep Records were pretty constant soundtracks for driving around with my friends. As we got a bit older, we started listening to Sonic Youth and Pavement, also a lot of post hardcore bands like The Promise Ring, Mineral, Chisel, Braid and Sarge (“The Glass Intact” is a big personal favorite of mine).
But I also liked my mom’s old tapes, especially David Bowie and the “best of” The Velvet Underground, and certainly classic rock wasn’t anathema to me, despite the trappings of “suburban punk” and indie with which I more readily identified. I still love The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty. I’m not such an iconoclast that I can’t recognize great songs, regardless of their being entrenched in the mainstream. And at least with the stones, I do believe that in their day, they were as brilliant a rock and roll band – maybe the very definition of rock and roll band that you could imagine, both defining and ending the genre. Certainly The Stooges, New York Dolls and Ramones are also luminaries in that regard – that brilliantly sweat stained, decadent vision of rock slipping into an unselfconscious punk. Yet for all their brilliance, one must acknowledge it was routed in a decidedly male, cock-centric presentation, and not the end all and be all of what music can and should be. Too often, the romanticization of real “rock” prioritizes a myth of some sweaty man in tight trousers – that’s awesome and all, but there’s more to life than that.
Outside of tour, what’s a typical day like for you guys? Did it change much from before you started making a living off of music (if this is the case)?
Kip: We tour fairly consistently, so I’m not sure if there’s ever much routine to get into from being home. I like to hang out with my friends, mostly, as that’s the bit of new york I miss more than anything.
What do you guys think about people who download music (illegally)? Do you consider it stealing, or rather a form of free promotion?
Kip: We’re fine with it, as it allows more people to experience our music. The world won’t end, but labels and record stores will. People give great lip service to preserving those institutions (at least the “indie” variants), but the reality is that an artist selling as directly to a consumer as possible is what punk rock and indie rock fought for – and now their/our victory is fairly certain. The alternative labels and distributors, stores and, to a lesser extent, venues that were set up in opposition to the mainstream labels and retailers that wouldn’t grant access to these less commercial artists will be the final casualty, their usefulness exhausted when the thing they fought collapses.
It’s sad, because of the generation I belong to, I have a sentimental attachment to the idea of indie record stores, indie labels, and not just the value system, but the alternative brick and mortar world that was created [physical zines, clubs, college radio, etc.]. It lived as a sort of “shadow-culture” highlighting and satirizing the failings and delusions of the mainstream pop/rock machine – yet it’s own delusion, that its own institutions will exist beyond the thing it opposed is now fairly manifest.
The only labels that will survive are the ones who don’t wish to make money. The advantage of being on someone’s hobby label is that they don’t need to make any profit from you to exist – they simply do it as a labor of love without the commercial pressures and motivations of their larger counterparts. For the last 20 years our US label, Slumberland, was able to exist simply because it didn’t HAVE to exist. There was no one that needed to get paid, no quarterly sales to report or maintain, no need to even release anything consistently, as the owner and sole employee was one person who derived his livelihood from a typical day job.
Let’s get some questions out there to get to know you guys better as a person. Is anyone in the band a movie buff? What’s you guys’ favorite movie and why?
Kip: My favorite film is “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Why? Well, a co-ed idealistic band that has limited musical and intellectual ability goes on to unite the world in peace and partying.
If you could have one last meal before you died, what would it be?
Any guilty pleasures (music-wise or other)?
Kip: The one company we’d likely agree to license our music to would be Haribo. Sure we’d feel a bit guilty (after that big dustup over our perceived refusal to soundtrack cell phone ads and acquiesce to the much ballyhooed but morally suspect post-sellout age), but I at least would take pleasure knowing that my music was promoting a product, Haribo Gummi Candy, that I find morally perfect.
Favorite candy and why?
Kip: Haribo. There are near infinite varieties, especially in Europe. No other candy could possibly diversify its offerings to such an extent and still maintain a consistent standard of confectionary perfection.
And last but not least, how do you guys see the future for The Pains of Being Pure At Heart?
Kip: I imagine our music will reach its cultural zenith when the bonus track from our third greatest hits collection, “We Are the World, We Are the Children, and We Will Grow to Hate Your Generation” is performed at the World Cup, Super Bowl and Olympics by an international children’s choir, dressed in the traditional garb of their countries of origin. If we happen to die before this actually happens, I’m going to just assume it will.