Friday, May 16, 2014

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Interview and Concert Preview - Club Cafe - May 18, 2014

Kip Berman - Pains of Being Pure at Heart - photo cred. Shervin Lainez

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart play Club Cafe this Sunday. Their new album, Days of Abandon, was just released this month on Yebo Music. It's a much different affair than their previous two releases. Their most recent album, 2011's Belong, was produced by longtime collaborators Alan Moulder and Flood. Flood is best known for his work with U2, and Moulder helped pioneer the shoegaze sound popularized by bands like Ride and My Bloody Valentine. The two also worked together with the Smashing Pumpkins, something evident in the heavy sonic distortion of Belong.

“I didn’t want to make Belonger,” Berman says on the POBPAH website. “[Days of Abandon] was a chance to step back from that universal style of songwriting to something that was far more personal, more in keeping with my original ideals. I wanted the music to be joyful and full of light, even if the subjects were often dark."

Here's the official video for the track "Simple and Sure," off of the new album:

Kip Berman answered some questions for us in anticipation of the band's show Sunday at Club Cafe, their first in Pittsburgh in 5 years. Tickets are available via Ticketweb for just $12. Hurry: it might sell out before the doors open at 7. Fear of Men open.

Pittsburgh Music Report: First of all, how has the reception been for your new LP?  What has been the response from your fans on tour so far?

Kip Berman: It's been amazing to play these songs live and see people really get into them. We've lived with them so long - I wrote "Masokissed" 3 years ago - that it's nice they finally exist in the world.

PMR: Was there an exact moment in time you decided you wanted to step back from the shoegaze sound that helped to define your first two albums, or was it a gradual decision that just sort of happened as the album took shape?

Kip: I've never thought of ourselves as a shoegaze band, we write pop songs. That's all I've been trying to do since we started. People want to hyphenate "pop" with "lo-fi," "indie," "dream" or whatever - but to me, we simply write POP songs-- and they're usually about 3 minutes long and about how I feel. I admire bands like Literature, Makthaverskan, Fear of Men that don't seem too pre-occupied with genre or trend, but just write really great songs over and over again.

PMR: Was it a hard habit to break, the use of distortion pedals and everything? I don't think it's a huge departure in sound - you still let loose a little on some of the songs, like "Until the Sun Explodes" - but were there moments when you were recording the new album that you had to consciously dial down the distortion? (Having a producer who worked with My Bloody Valentine probably didn't help!)

Kip: The equation of "letting loose" with "distortion" is not how I see it. If anything, Belong was too self-serious and heavy handed - and Days of Abandon is a lot more uninhibited and natural. I wanted to reject the idea that "the best indie rock should sound like the best indie rock." You can do anything with music you want - but simply thinking that Wowee Zowee is how life should be is so dishearteningly conservative. I love Wowee Zowee - it's a great record, but it's time for our generation to do something that's ours, and not just a recapitulation of "classic indie" to please the nostalgia buttons of music critics in their mid 30s. Even Stephen Malkmus has moved on...

PMR: "Beautiful You" seems like the centerpiece that album is anchored around. Was that one of the first songs to take shape?

Kip: "Masokissed" was the first song I wrote for the record, back in the spring of 2011. "Beautiful You" I thought would just be a b-side, as it was so long I feared it might disrupt the album in a bad way. But when we were lining up the songs we would record, there was something really satisfying in the unending ending, especially as the first 3 songs on the record are so compact.

PMR: Were there any particular bands you were listening to a lot of during the recording process? I hear a lot of that 80s-style jangle pop on the album, especially tracks like "Kelly" and "Eurydice."

Kip: I was listening to a lot of El Records stuff (Bad Dream Fancy Dress, Always, etc.) Jonathan Richman, Margo Guryan, Felt, as well as newer bands like Fear of Men, Catwalk and The Drums.

PMR: As far as I can tell, you guys have never played Pittsburgh before! All I can find is a cancelled 2011 date that was scheduled for right after you played Lollapalooza. Do you remember what happened with that gig, and can you tell us what you have planned for what looks like your first stop through the city?

Kip: We played at the Garfield Art Space in 2009 with Mi Ami. There was a fellow who said Nirvana played there. As for 2011, there was a scheduling conflict with a date we had agreed to with The Kills, it was a booking error on our end.

PMR: Finally, has anyone given Alan Moulder or Flood a copy of the new album? Are they pleased with how your sound has evolved?

Kip: Hahaha, I don't know. They live in London, maybe we'll get to see them when we're over later this summer. Hopefully they'll be polite about it, "Yeah, your new record... it's really... care for a drink and some more Pumpkins stories?" Yes please, thanks.

-- B. Conway



    1. Hugh once again proves he is the original cool.