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Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Interview

  by Rachel Williams

published: 11 / 1 / 2009

Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Interview


New York-based indie fuzzy pop group the Pains of Being Pure at Heart recently released their self-titled debut album on Fortuna Pop and toured Britain for the second time. Rachel Williams meets with them in London to chat about touring with the Wedding Present and the influences on their music

There has no doubt been a buzz surrounding the fuzzy pop of New York-based quartet, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, since they arrived in the UK to promote their recently released eponymous debut album. Tonight, the Lexington in London is their last stop before they head back to the States. It’s obvious that they have enjoyed every minute as guitarist and vocalist Kip keeps re-iterating to the crowd that they wish they could stay longer. At other dates on this tour the Pains were asked to support C86 and indie-pop legends the Wedding Present - an overwhelmingly exciting opportunity for any aspiring indie-pop band. But this evening they are amongst a bill of their British label Fortuna Pop's favourites including the Manhattan Love Suicides. Their set, however, does not fail to impress. The atmosphere is electrically charged as everyone waits in anticipation. The venue is almost bursting with excited popsters who jump-up and down in frenzied fanaticism. Despite their shy exterior and seemingly reserved nerdy-ness this band are undoubtedly cool; keyboardist and vocalist Peggy grins sheepishly at the audience throughout and Kip’s slightly awkward-yet-undeniably-excited front man role contributes to their endearing indie-pop chic. Amongst their set is the intriguingly-titled 'Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan', which receives brilliant reception, as well as their most recent single ‘Everything with You’ that gets everyone dreamily dancing with all of its prettiness. The band finish up with the self titled ‘Pains of Being Pure at Heart’ which gets the crowd chanting along enthusiastically; "We will never die, no, no we will never die." This band is truly uplifting and inspirational and leaves a lasting impression that is lovingly kept. Death is really not an option. Before the gig began I was lucky enough to be able to catch up with the band’s Kip, Peggy and bassist Alex to talk to them about touring the UK and with the Wedding Present and how indie-pop has influenced their style. PB : How did the band form initially? K : We were all friends and Peggy’s birthday party was coming up and we decided to write some songs for the party for our friends. P : We were going to play with our friends’ band. K: It was a fun party – not that we remember very much of it! PB : You’re a fairly new band. What do you feel the response to your music has been like ? A : Yeah! It exceeded my expectations. It’s been really exciting and fun! We didn’t go into it thinking we were going to rule the world or anything so each good thing that happens is a bonus. K : I feel like the positive reception is beyond anything - supporting the Wedding Present was beyond any realm we imagined; its almost like a cake made entirely out of icing. People talk about frosting on the cake. It’s like a cup cake with a mountain of frosting. It’s sickeningly sweet! PB : On the subject of the Wedding Present, how did it feel to tour with one of the most legendary indie-pop bands? K : It was kind of unbelievable at first that we even got asked. It was very, very exciting to do. The pleasant surprise was how willing and receptive the Wedding Present fans were to us. Wedding Present fans are fans of music. They’ve been Wedding Present fans for a very long time and they are really open to hearing any kind of music. So I think we were a good pair. Each group makes loud, noisy pop music! P: It’s also nice to see a band from the C86 scene who still have a career. There are so many bands that put out one single – they're amazing! The fact they’ve continued and put out so many good albums - it’s really inspirational. That they’ve made a career out of what they’ve done - it’s really respectable. It was so endearing to see such die hard fans. PB : You have been described as attempting to keep the spirit of 80s pop/ C86 scene alive. Is this an intentional attempt ? K : Um, no I think we all love bands from that era but we did not grow up in that era. We grew up listening to early 90s bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth – guitar bands and we discovered that sound as we got older. I think it would be egotistical to say that we were keeping alive a scene we were never part of. It’s a real honour to be compared to that sound because I’ve grown to love it a lot but our influences came just as much from 90s - Teenage Fanclub, Nirvana, Rocket Ship. It’s just as American as it is British. In the 80s they were making great pop music. It was very accessible; rooted to a DIY aesthetic but beyond that there was also great pop music that was made in 1991, 1998, 2008 - that ethos reaches beyond that one era. A : I kind of like what that era says though. Indie-pop is the most interesting, fun, type of music – well at least to me! PB : Who has influenced you the most ? P: The Smashing Pumpkins! K: I love the Pastels! Meeting Steven Pastel on this tour was probably the single highlight, not just of tour, but of my time on earth. There’s a charmingness to that band; a group of friends that came together and wrote noisy music that they were all into. To me their music is was what pop music should and could be. PB : Have you been to the UK before? A: We were here in February but this time was a lot different. The first time we put it together ourselves - It was so much fun I wouldn’t have traded it for anything but playing in Dublin with the Wedding Present in a huge hall was something else. PB : Have you enjoyed touring in Britain so far? Which has been your favourite stop-off so far? P : I fell in love with Glasgow. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I was walking around miserable and cold and I was still having the best day of my life. I was thinking ‘I am so happy right now’. It was dreary but dreamy at the same time and the architecture was really beautiful and everybody was so nice and cool. But everyone has been so nice to us everywhere! That’s one of the main things I’ve noticed is that everyone has been so nice. K : The warmth and reception we have had has been really touching. So many people have shared an interest in the same music as us and have welcomed us to stay. People have asked us to stay in their house and made us toast in the morning! PB : Do you think there are any major differences between the US and UK indie-pop scenes ? Do you think the response has been different here in the UK than in the US ? How do the music fans differ from the US over here ? A : I think people in the UK who have an interest in indie music have more of a basic understanding of the history of indie pop bands. And they will see us and have an immediate idea of what we sound like whereas in the US it’s much more of a cult scene. It’s more accepted that it has a history here. The Wedding Present is a really good example. They’re as popular as indie band can get but in the US they are not as big a deal. It’s been really interesting to come here. K : People have more of an idea of musical history over here, whereas in America they may not know where a band’s influences have come from and you can’t talk to so many people about it. P : People in America separate it all. People have a better idea over here how it fits together. K : I don’t think it’s a necessity to understand the history but I think its fun to talk about. People here have such interesting stories to tell. P : There is such a small group of people in NY that are into that PB : How did you discover indie-pop ? Who was the first band that you listened to ? K : It came from just being a music nerd in general and wanting to hear as many types of music as possible and burying deeper and deeper until you get to the Teenage Fanclub and Jesus and Mary Chain and then just keep going and going. It’s a never ending nerd spiral of goodness. P : I was really into Sonic Youth and similarly Kurt Cobain and I feel like they were the fledgling bands that stimulated me to find out about rock stars. I also like Riot Grrrl bands – listening to Bikini Kill led to Tigertrap and Heavenly. They were like a gateway. K : It’s like a whole weird tangled web! PB : You have been compared to the like of early My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Sonic youth and other iconic fuzz-pop bands, how do you feel about these comparisons? Do you think they are fair comparisons? K : We love being compared to all of that, especially Sonic Youth! We used to listen to them all the time. I think the Jesus and Mary Chain are one of the most amazing bands ever but I feel they have a much darker sound than we do – we’re not as cool as they are. It’s flattering that people compare our music but I don’t think we really are. P : We’re always really flattered. PB : What do you think of the opinion that ‘there is no good music out there anymore’? K : There’s so much amazing music out there. I hate it when people say there’s no good music out there anymore. There are bands just waiting to be heard; every era has them and I believe its just a matter of finding them. A : It's just lazy. If you care and you love it you’ll find it. K : Now you can go on the internet it's made it all the more exciting. P : It's made music much more accessible but I miss mix tapes though. But I think its because it was part of my coming of age. E-mail is so boring! PB : Are there any UK bands that have influenced you? K : The Manhattan Love Suicides! We really bonded over their record. It was really influential in our early formation. It’s a contemporary influence but it’s important to say that influences don’t always come from records made 20 years ago. A : It was inspiring in a very literal way. It was like this band really makes us want to be a band. K: Apart from that bands like the Vaselines and the Teenage Fanclub… PB : Thank you.

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Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Interview

Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Interview

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Interview (2011)
Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Interview
New York-based indie pop band the Pains of Being Pure at Heart's vocalist and songwriter Kip Berman speaks to Dominic Simpson about 'Belong', his groundbreaking group's second album

live reviews

Sound Control, Manchester, 10/6/2011
Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Sound Control, Manchester, 10/6/2011
Dixie Ernill watches New York band the Pains of Being Pure at Heart play a fantastic set of furious indie pop at the Sound Control in Manchester
Heaven, London, 29/7/2010

digital downloads


Come Saturday (2009)
Perfect noisy pop on new vinyl and download only single from the Fortuna POP's label's runaway success of the years, New York-based C-86 act, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Come Saturday (2008)

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