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Noise and Feelings: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Evoking the delirious melodrama of teenage emotions, New York indie-pop darlings The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart write songs reminiscent of the dreamy guitar fuzz bands of the late eighties and nineties. While these influences are as evident as they are diverse, the quartet appeal far beyond the sub-cultural confines of their predecessors in their ability to epitomise everything that’s great about indie-pop. Following the release of their debut self titled album and their Higher Than The Stars EP, Side Street, Sydney had the pleasure of speaking with lead singer and guitarist Kip Berman in anticipation for the bands upcoming Australian tour.

What were the circumstances behind meeting and deciding to play together as The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart?
Alex, Peggy and I were all friends and spent time hanging out obsessing over music and going to shows. Peggy and I would nerd out over early Slumberland Records stuff (Rocketship, Black Tambourine), Scottish indiepop (Teenage Fanclub, Vaselines) and The Manhattan Love Suicides (a now defunct Leeds fuzzpop band). Alex was into more garage/punk stuff, though there was a lot of overlap - we were all into Sunny Sundae Smile-era My Bloody Valentine. I think we'd listen to "Paint a Rainbow" several times a day, to be honest.
Kurt came to our early shows and was really into the songs we were playing. In retrospect, it’s pretty surprising as we were about as inept musically as a band could possibly be. Still, he was into it, and we soon all became friends.

Seeing as this is the first album you recorded together, did a group process or dynamic emerge by the time you finished?
Kurt is "band leader," Peggy is "always right" and Alex is probably the most easy to get along with and perpetually optimistic. I'm the guy who's always worried we're going to be late. I know, not very rock and roll...

Touring internationally, does getting out of a geographically and culturally particular environment open up how the band performs and connects with one another?
In a basic way it's forced us to get better. When we first started touring extensively, it was still pretty raw (to put it politely). We're not some well-oiled stadium rock machine and don't aspire to that, but we've tried to be the best we can be.
While we don't write on the road, the experience of playing live almost everyday has helped shape the songs we're writing for the next album. They're songs we literally can't wait to play live, which is different to songs that you have to figure out how to play live.

In terms of the scale of your shows since the album's release, how have things changed for you?
We're pretty grateful that it took a long time for people to notice us, as it allowed us to get better without unrealistic expectations. I think a lot of bands get attention before they're really musically ready for it.
To answer the question of scale simply, the shows have gotten bigger but in a gradual kind of organic way. It's not like we were playing to 50 people one week and playing to 1,000+ the next. It's been so gradual that while we certainly notice it, it doesn't feel artificial. Though it does feel pretty unreal.

Do you think the Internet has granted you more or less control over your music and how it's released?
The Internet has been crucial in allowing our music to be heard without the need for a huge label or a marketing budget. So much is made of new media but we believe in an older notion of what it means to be in a band and having to prove yourself every night to new people. You're only as good as your last show and you can't just sit at home and hope to be successful.

What do you think it is about The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart that interested your label Slumberland Records?
We rip off all the other bands on their label. It's easier [for them] to put out our record than to sue us for copyright infringement.

Does it become tiresome being compared to other bands?
It's flattering because the bands we’re compared to are iconic bands that we like a lot, however sometimes I don't agree with the them and there are lots of comparisons that we'd never make.
I'm not a huge fan of bands that have interviews talking about how they're "misunderstood" or "tired of being pigeonholed" or whatever. Our intent is irrelevant. We only mean as much as people think we do.

Do you feel any need to live up to or actively challenge expectations? Do you feel any expectations?
This sounds cliché, but the expectations we have for ourselves are our primary concern. We believe in the importance of the album and creating a consistent piece of music. Since we only have one LP, well... it probably seems like we like noisy pop songs about feelings. Come to think of it, we do like noisy pop songs about feelings, so...
While we love indie-pop, there is much that we find decadent and naive about the genre. Life is not bicycle rides, cupcakes and handholding. Or at least my life isn't. We just try to express the things we feel and the things we think are true. If we can become the band we want to be, I don't think other people will be disappointed.

Finally, where does the band name originate?
A friend of mine from Portland wrote an unpublished children’s story with that title. Thematically it's pretty spot on with us, as it's about learning that the most important things in life are the adventures you have with your friends when you're young, not power or title or anything else.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are playing their noisy pop songs about feelings this Sunday the 21st of February alongside Bachelorette and Sydney's own Canvas Kites. Tickets are $38.40 and available at all Moshtix outlets.

words: Jacinda Fermanis


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