The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Interview
“A teenager in love with Christ and Heroin”?, “Strange teenager, you'll never know, death at 19”??, “In a dark room we can do just as we like, you're my Sister and this love is fucking right”??? Oh Lordy!..and you thought The Pains of Being Pure At Heart were cuddly? With lyrics like those there must surely be a Norwegian Death Metaller hiding under those harmonies! Well there's only one way to find out, I'm booking a one way ticket to the hometown of Pain's brains Kip Berman. [Thinks] Maybe I should pack my “Crucifix, Bible 'n' Garlic” travel set though, just to be safe.
Welcome POBPAH! For the record could you please state your name, your weapon of choice (erm, instrument), and for fun, your favourite word.
Kip, Guitar and "Epic".
Even though you only formed in 2007, things are moving fast and there's a massive groundswell of interest in the band already. Are you ready for the 'toppermost of the poppermost'?
Is Top of the Pops still a TV show? I'm sure we can schedule it in between The Grind and Yo! MTV Raps...
You're on tour and you're spanking Europe like a terrible infant as we speak. What have the European audiences been like? Any Spinal Tap moments we can now make better with the healing power of communal laughter?
Is child abuse popular in Europe? There was crowd surfing in Manchester, which was pretty cool.
You recently played SXSW. A lot. You actually played an insane amount of gigs - ten shows over three days!? What was that like and what time of day was the wildest?
It was like Hard Day's Night where we were running down the street with our guitars trying to get to the show on time. It was really cool and fun - especially getting to see / meet other bands we really were into. I saw Girls in a church, and it was amazing.
People who've heard the album often mention its life affirming feel. Can pop music lift people's souls during such grim times? Was Bryan Ferry right, should we actually just “dance away the heartache”?
I think we all know that Bryan Ferry was never ever wrong. Ever. Oh, except about Fox hunting...
You're from New York. People in Blighty (well, OK, me) think of NY as being like Woody Allen's NY during daylight and Scorsese's NY at night. What characteristics do you think of as “uniquely New York”? (Please make it glamorous, I have so few illusions left unshattered since The Santa Incident).
It's cool. Joey Ramone and I play Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo and joke about how Toad Stool looks like Johnny.
You recently made your TV debut on Last Call with Carson Daly. Hell that's a way to make an entrance, that show is watched by bloomin' millions. Nervous? Surreal? Victorious?
My Grandparents stayed up to watch it (it comes on at about 1 AM) and that's quite the accomplishment as they usually go to bed around 9:30.
A lot of smart money is being put on the album riding aloft the 'end of year best album polls' (I've got a fiver on it so 'Go POBPAH!'). What CDs have floated your boat this year?
I always love Crystal Stilts (technically that came out in 2008) and I am super looking forward to new albums by Girls and Vivian Girls. Oh, and while I loved the Shrag album / singles collection, their new songs sound even better and I can't wait for it. Comet Gain's singles/rarities collection Broken Record Prayers was amazing. It has You Can Hide Your Love Forever, which, while possibly untrue, is a beautiful song.
Pure At Heart? You can't fool me, I know about rockstars' debauchery. Luckily I'm basically a Priest so please confess any recent sins and I'll like forgive you and stuff (“but don't do it again!”, etc).
My room is really messy.
You've registered one of the great uses of the word “Fuck” in a songtitle with This Love Is Fucking Right, it's up there with Eels' It's A Motherfucker and SFA's Man Don't Give A Fuck. Have there been occasions yet when you've had to sing “Frickin” or “Flippin'” instead? Special OAP matinées? Church Fête? School disco?
Of course, we would never compromise our artistry... not like those Radioheads! Just kidding - I actually like the version of Creep with "so very special" in it better. Maybe my Grandma is of similar mind, as she still doesn't understand the need for "such language" and chides me occasionally for said track.
I once had dinner with Bobby Gillespie. OK we weren't technically at the same table but we were in the same room, eating and laughing like old pals. Just separately. Although he did spend a suspiciously long time in the toilets. Now you've 'access all areas' have you chin-wagged with any other pop legends?
We talked to Jarvis on the radio once, visited Stephen Pastel's record shop in Glasgow and chatted with Amelia Fletcher when we played in London. I don't think it gets any better than that. Oh, and Tim Burgess was exceptionally nice to us by inviting us to play at Isle of Wight. He's a sweet, very genuine guy, for sure.
Our readers may never be popstars and get chased by groupies wanting to touch their pants. They most likely work in smoky factories before walking home in the rain and spending another evening silently sobbing infront of the TV. Can you tell us some crap things about being a popstar so we can feel a little better with our humdrum lives?
Er, we're not really popstars, but there really is nothing bad in the world when you get to play music with your friends all the time. I can't see why anyone would complain... but some people do.
You've pretty interesting creative ventures outside the band. Can you tell us the most rewarding aspects of this 'Clark Kent' side of your lives?
Oh, speaking of Clark Kent, Peggy (Pains' keyboardist / singer) got me some Superman underwear recently. Sadly, I lost my job as requesting "near-infinite time-off to tour” seemed a bit much in the midst of a recession...
My first job was at a perfume factory down on the assembly line. It was like descending into the inner circle of hell and I physically smelt sickly sweet 24/7. What's the worst job you've had and did you get to tell your boss to “shove it, I'm gonna be a star”?
I worked in a call center recharging people's prepaid calling cards. That made me pretty sad...
POBPAH is very much a record about youth. The lyrics are a warm hug for misfits everywhere, “the black hole kids”. Are you talking to yourself as well as 'the kids'? If you could flip reverse the space time continuum thingy and revisit your younger self what would you tell him?
I talk to myself a lot. Maybe I need to make some friends... I guess I would tell my younger self not to worry about how bad I am at Science and Math class, because it probably won't really matter.
As a tearaway teen I “accidentally” drank two bottles of Sherry and filled an entire bath with sick. Luckily it wasn't my bath. Do you have any ker-azy tales from your youth you can share?
I basically spent a lot of time at the local diner with my two best friends drinking bottomless cups of coffee, discussing anarchy and trying to be more punk. It didn't work too well.
Occasionally, we'd meet up with the local goths at the park after dark and listen to KMFDM. But I didn't really like KMFDM. We'd drive around a lot listening to Sonic Youth tapes and wondering when stuff would be cool.
Some of the lyrics are pretty dark, but the music positively glows. Is this a conscious dichotomy between tone of lyrics and music and what puts a big, goofy, smile on your faces in “real life”?
I try to avoid dichotomies as I'd like to both have and eat my cake. As for goofy smiles, the television show Peep Show is a favorite of all of ours.
Now my youth is fading along with my rockstar dreams, I'm going “all-in” on this writing lark. As a band who value the power of a sharpened quill can you tell us what inspires you to write and any tips for budding wordsmiths?
We just write about stuff that happens to us. We're not all that creative, really...
I read you plan to spend your royalties on confectionery like Haribo and weird crisps. I'm a classicist myself, Hula Hoops in the red packet everytime. Any new snack discoveries you'd recommend to our salivating readers?
Honestly, the diversity of Gummi candy in Europe is insane. It's really like nothing I've ever seen before. I got these Haribo Bananas in Greece, and they tasted really banana-y. The myriad of English crisp flavors is already widely known, but still is shocking for us to experience.
We have flavors like Nacho Cheese, Cool Ranch and Barbecue. But you guys have things like Rosemary Chicken. I mean, seriously!? That's not a crisp, that's an actual well-balanced meal. Amazing and Willy Wonka-esque.
Finally, do you have a parting message for our readers? Maybe something that will fire a spark in their imagination and inspire a new revolution?
The suburbs are OK.
And on that note, I wave adieu to the good ship Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Walking away I feel satisfied they are not actually Satanic and, although I felt a few stings from that razorsharp wit, I'm even more convinced we have a contender, hey, maybe a winner.
The album The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is out now and the band play The Garage in London on August 4th. Go check them out.