You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The pains of being compared to My Bloody Valentine: Interview with Kip Berman

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have been lumped in with a bunch of bands, mostly shoegaze and noise, either by influence or geography, despite not sounding exactly like any of them. They don't have the seriousness of early shoegaze or the rarefied sounds of Brooklyn cohorts Vivian Girls or Crystal Stilts. Their influences are clear, but not overwhelming, and this manages to make them, unlike most blogged-about bands, difficult to hate. I mean seriously, if you hate competent pop songwriting, let's face it, you're just a bad person.

Pains' guitarist, vocalist and songwriter was on tour a few weeks ago, but paused to answer some questions on the old wi-fi.

CS: Do you ever get tired of the My Bloody Valentine comparisons, or do you take it as compliment?

KB: I think anytime we get compared to bands people like, it's flattering. It might not always be accurate, but it's definitely cool.

CS: You guys are obviously influenced by a lot of '80s and '90s shoegaze, but in my opinion you have a real talent for melody that goes above and beyond what we've seen before. So think you guys should be credited with inventing a new genre, what do you think?

KB: I think we're "pop." I love pop because the possibilities are limitless-- there are always new artists pushing it in ways partially familiar, yet original. I like that the genre is so open to interpretation, that there's really no need for another one to describe who we are.

CS: You mixed your album in Baltimore with Archie Moore of Velocity Girls and Black Tambourine. This must have been cool, since I know you admire him a lot. How did you get the chance to work with him, and what was it like?

KB: It was definitely cool, as Archie was probably the most perfect fit for working on this album. We drew a lot of influence from bands he was really familiar with (as he was in Black Tambourine and Velocity Girl), and he was so helpful in shaping the sound in a way that was not super lo-fi, but also not too slick. He helped us sound like us, which is really all we wanted.

CS: Do you have any not-so-obvious influences that might surprise us?

KB: It's hard to distinguish influence from music I like. I listen to a lot of stuff that probably doesn't sound exactly like pains... Suede is one of my all time favorites, as well as older bands like New York Dolls, Blondie and The Ramones.

CS: You guys are going on tour in Europe in a couple of months. How do fans respond to you there? Where are you most looking forward to playing?

KB: We've never been to continental Europe before, so it'll be really exciting to see how things go. I'm really excited to go to Glasgow-- so many of my favorite bands are from there, that it'll be a real honor to play. I mean, Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels, The Vaselines, Orange Juice, Belle and Sebastian, Aztec Camera, The Wake-- i think that's going to be so cool.

CS: For a band who's only been together since 2007, you've had some pretty cool successes. Did you think when you formed that not long after you'd be playing on Last Call with Carson Daly?

KB: No way-- how could anyone expect something like that? Everything's been super surreal and awesome, and it's just cool because we get to experience all these incredible things, while we're still just a band that formed to play a birthday party. I mean, there were no deals with the devil involved...

CS: What about the future? Do you spend a lot of time looking ahead and making plans, or do you try to take things as they come?

KB: I think the key to everything has been just doing what feels right. If something feels cheezy or weird, we don't do it, but it's mostly important that everyone is having a good time. I think you can tell when bands aren't...

CS: You were friends for quite awhile before you started playing as a band. How has the success of the band changed your friendships? Does each member have a specific role in the band? Has it challenged them or made them stronger?

KB: It seems like everything is pretty much exactly the same... and that's a good thing.

CS: Similarly, how collaborative are your songwriting/recording processes? What's the dynamic when you work together?

KB: Well, most of the ideas for the songs i come up with on my own, but what makes them pains songs is us all working together on them. I think the songs become a lot stronger when Kurt or Alex or Peggy add their parts and ideas.

CS: Have you lived here all your lives, or are you from different places? What brought you to New York and to each other?

KB: I grew up in the suburbs and went to school in Portland, OR. I moved to New York because my best friend was moving here and i didn't want to make a new best friend.

CS: How do you think being in a band in New York is different from being in a band anywhere else? Better? Worse?

KB: It's wonderful to be a band in New York, but i believe great music can come from anywhere. I lived in Portland, OR for a long time, and the music scene there was every bit as vibrant, creative and wonderful as it is here.

CS: You play with and/or are friends with a few local bands that all started around the same time and are similar to you in a lot of ways (and different in others), like Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts, etc. Do you think this could be considered a kind of new musical scene or movement in New York right now, or would you prefer not to think about it that way?

KB: Well, personally i really like Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, caUSE co-MOTION a lot. They are all tremendous bands and if people want to associate us with them, that's cool.

Our music sounds a bitt different (and those bands sound different from one another as well), but i think it's rooted in a lot of the same concepts.

CS: What are your musical backgrounds? How did the family influence play into it? Do any of you have formal training?

KB: Well, my Grandpa is a former professional Viola player, and i took violin/viola lessons growing up. But I'm not sure if that has any impact on our music, as there aren't any string parts.

The most important lesson i learned from him is to not be afraid to appreciate beautiful music. He was never afraid to express how emotional great music could make him feel. Even though classical music is a lot different than the sort of music we play, that realization that it was ok to love a beautiful piece/song or feel moved by a powerful passage always stuck with me.

CS: Any hidden talents, musical or otherwise?

KB: I'm not sure if appreciating Beavis and Butthead while eating nachos is a talent, but it's pretty fun.

CS: When you first started, did anyone ever assume you were an emo band, because of the name?

KB: We sort of are an emo band.

CS: Is it true that the name comes from a short story Kip's friend wrote? I'd be really curious to know what it was about.

KB: It was a children's story, actually. It's moral was that the time spent traveling and having adventures with your friends when you're young is more important than any worldly accomplishment.

CS: As of August, 2007, you guys were practicing in Peggy's office. Is this still the case, or have you moved on? Personally, I think if you're that lucky to have such a cool boss you should keep taking advantage of it.

KB: Sadly, ever since we added real drums, it made practices at Peggy's office impossible.

Our current practice space is scheduled to be demolished this summer, so if you know of any spots in Brooklyn, let us know.

Pains on MySpace

The Tenure Itch - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Everything With You - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

1 comment:

Unknown said...

nice, claire. thanks for the link; i'm updating my website soon (as soon as i have cover art) and i'll stick you up there.
how do you find the time?

melissa f