The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
USA Tour
March – June 2009
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

With influences including The Pastels, the Ramones, Black Tambourine, Teenage Fanclub, Dear Nora, Rocketship, Kurt Cobain and My Bloody Valentine – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s dreamy music does exactly what it says on the tin. In that by simply thinking of the band’s name, their twinkling sound – which is coated with a retro glaze and crackles with energy – will come all by itself. It could even be likened to being submerged in a tuneful, blissed-out flotation tank, suffused with calming, trebly and sweet-as-candy C86 melodies, sumptuous, soft and syrupy boy / girl vocals + sizeable scoops of warm lo-fi distorted shoegaze fuzz, all trickled with beatific jangly guitars. Shades of colour that will seduce your ears and gently creep into your consciousness. In fact, early advocate’s Skatterbrain proclaimed: “These are perfect noisy pop songs, with gorgeous harmonies floating above the ringing guitar washes.”

Calling NYC home – currently a hot-bed for new musical talent – the quartet formed in 2007 (initially for a one-off gig, for co-vocalist and keyboard player Peggy’s Birthday at a warehouse party in Brooklyn) and consists of Kip Berman (guitar / vox), Peggy Wang (keys / vox), Alex Nadius (bass) and Kurt Feldman (drums). Who after initially dropping a CDR, followed by an EP and a handful of limited edition 7”s, have just put out their eponymous debut long player through Slumberland Records in the US, and Fortuna Pop! in the UK.

Glowing reviews of the album so far, have included…

“The record is one of those records that takes absolutely no time to fall in love with. From the opening notes of the lead track Contender, you know you are listening to something powerful, catchy and brilliant. It's not so much that they just write great pop songs, it's that they feel like they are opening their veins and bleeding on the paper each time they write lyrics and it all comes through with an eerily sunny sound... this band is the real deal.” POP TARTS SUCK TOASTED

“If dreamy, ’80s-sounding indie pop is your thing, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have your number in a big way. Close your eyes and this local quartet will whisk you away to a magical land of Smiths posters and John Hughes montages.” TIME OUT NEW YORK“Like riding your bicycle to your friends house after you've finished your homework.” THE FADER

“Very few bands manage to transport their wild spirit and the legacy of their trailblazing heroes into something this special.” FIRE ESCAPE TALKING

“Their very name sounds like a manifesto, a statement of intent, a pledge to be true to the idea of being, well, true, honest and untarnished by adult concerns.” THE GUARDIAN

Echoing this sentiment, is Kip’s own idealised take on the sincerity of the group’s lexicon and stylised revisionism, which they now have down to a T: “Our music is filled with feeling, both positive and dark. Massive love, nuclear heartbreak, feeling so alone in nowhere towns, romantic friendship, wasted summers, rebellion, nothing to do, doing it all the time. I guess we’re perpetual teenagers.” Similarly, the story behind their name, is that it’s taken from an unpublished short story called The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, which was written by one of Kip’s friends. “Although it was never published, its sentiment and message – that being young and having your friends around you are the most important things in your life – is a concept we see with the band… and bands that are comprised of friends just sound better!” Kip has mused.

Having supported The Wedding Present in the UK (also meeting many of their other musical heroes whilst over here), the group could even be thought of as Anglophiles with a misty-eyed nostalgia, as of their trip, Peggy enthused: “I kind of felt like all my dreams were coming true. I mean, I definitely romanticise England and the bands that came out of there in The ‘80s.” However, Kip will go to great pains to tell you how early ‘90s alt.rock and pop from the USA, is of equal importance to them: “I think we all love bands from The ‘80s, but we did not grow up in that era – 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 just as American as it is British.”

After writing to Fortuna POP!, Sean very kindly arranged for Kip and Peggy to complete a Q&A for me from across the pond. And as one of The Big Apple’s latest and greatest exports, don’t be surprised if The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and their tidal wave of sonic fizz bombs, soon become the apple of your eye…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.You’re probably aware that in the UK, a lot of bands have formed by meeting through the NME’s ‘Classified Ads’ pages. But if The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were just starting out and seeking an additional musician – or even gigs – how would you describe yourselves and your sound to really grab a reader’s attention?
Peggy: “I hope this doesn't sound snobby, but I just don't think we would ever resort to this. We wouldn't add another musician unless the right person came along and it felt right. We went 8 months without a drummer until Kurt came along.”
Kip: “Yeah, I totally agree with Peggy. Our band is our friends – you can't find friends in ‘Classified Ads’.”

2.What attributes (creative and otherwise) do you most admire in each other?

Peggy: “Alex is really positive. He's the kind of person you would never feel self-conscious around. Kip is really self-deprecating in the right way, so that it comes across as charming and not pathetic. Kurt has a little-kid enthusiasm that's endearing.”
Kip: “Peggy is right on about Alex – he's the most positive, nicest person ever. Kurt is really amazing at persevering in video games, long after I would just toss down the controller and say it's impossible. He's also super good at getting snacks late at night, and that's something I really, really value. I really admire Peggy's "always right-ness" and excellent oversized sweaters.”

3.Your songs are very melodic and dreamy, but from all of your favourite music, which melodies instantly spring to mind?

Peggy: “I like the melody in Cherish by Madonna. That song is dreamy.”
Kip: “Dancing Queen by Abba – I wish A Teenager in Love sounded that amazing...”

4.For you personally, what have been some of the most important albums from the last 50 years, and if you had to pick a favourite Decade for music, which one would it be?

Peggy: “I didn't grow up on older bands – my parents listened to Chinese Opera, not rock or pop music. So, the stuff I discovered on my own was all ‘90s bands, so I guess I'd say The ‘90s. It's A Shame About Ray by The Lemonheads, Holiday by The Magnetic Fields, Last Splash by The Breeders and Blind by The Sundays.”
Kip: “I really love glam rock a lot. I know it has nothing to do with our album, but any of Bowie's early to mid-70s stuff is always great, as is T.Rex, NY Dolls etc. But I tend not to romanticise the past. I'm pretty hopeful that right now is a great time for music.”

5.On a similar note, and in reference to one of the ‘Top Five Lists’ in the novel / film, High Fidelity, from your personal record collection, what would you choose as your ‘Five Best Side One Track Ones’?
Pale Frail Lovely One – Outrageous Cherry
You Can Hide Your Love Forever – Comet Gain
I'll Still Be There – The Razorcuts
Fuck The Rules – Kicking Giant
Life Is Just Beginning – The Creation
We Dance – Pavement
Changes – David Bowie
Hangover Square – Mr. Wright
Another Night In – Tindersticks
The State I Am In – Belle & Sebastian

6.Do you think that you write in reaction to other bands and current musical trends / stay true to yourselves?
Peggy: “I've been playing in guitar-based pop bands since I was 13. This is the kind of band I would have loved in high school and onwards. Maybe when I'm 45 and a soccer mom, I'll be going through a smooth jazz phase, but all my life, this has been my favorite kind of music. So no, I don't think we write our songs based on current trends. That being said, we like lots of different kinds of music, some of which are new, some of which are old, and of course, those influences find their way into our songs.”

7.Jack Kerouac’s writing motto was 'First Thought, Best Thought' – is this something that you would agree with / or that you apply to your words?
Kip: “‘First Thought, Best Thought’ – but see what Peggy says...”

8.Do you have any hobbies outside of the band?
Peggy: “Umm, I just got a bedazzler. So maybe applying rhinestones to old sweatshirts could be considered a hobby.”

Kip: “I really like pinball. I spent most of my time in school playing a game called Medieval Madness.”

9.Morrissey believes that “Music Awards should be banned, as musicians should be confident enough in their own abilities without the constant need for reassurance.” What are your feelings on this?

Peggy: “Maybe in a perfect world, but growing up in America, everything's about pageantry. I've won awards before (in high school) and it was nice to be recognised for something, especially since I wasn't cool or popular.”

10.Have you ever seen a live band that you didn’t know anything about, but were completely blown away by and just had to find out more information on?
Kip: “Titus Andronicus came out of nowhere and just overwhelmed me with how good they were / are.”
Peggy: “This happens pretty rarely for me, not because I'm snobby, but because it's hard for me to really enjoy a live show if I don't already know and like the songs. But maybe I would say this happened for me when I saw a band from Michigan called Pas/Cal. I danced so hard.”

11.How do you find life on the road / touring?

Peggy: “I love it. I like long drives and it's an adrenaline rush to play each and every show.”
Kip: “I love it too – if we could play a show every single day, that would be so amazing and wonderful.”

12.For the past decade or so, Hip-Hop and R&B have dominated The US Music Industry. But do you think there’s a much greater demand for Alternative Rock and Indie Music in America, than people living outside of the country actually realise?

Peggy: “Well, the scale for indie music is so different from Hip-Hop and R&B. Getting 1000 plays a day on your MySpace page is pretty huge for an indie band, but that's chump change for Kanye West or Beyonce. I do think that indie music is seeping into mainstream music, what with bands like Fleet Foxes appearing on SNL and Animal Collective ranking on The Billboard Charts. With the Internet, music can reach such a broader audience and underground music doesn't have to stay underground. I think people are craving authenticity, and not just rebellious teens or college radio kids.”
Kip: “Yeah, I think there's plenty of room for everyone. Growing up, I remember my friends were into punk and indie stuff, but also Hip-Hop. It's not like they're exclusive tastes and it's actually rad that people can enjoy all kinds of music. I'd say Top 40 Hip-Hop Radio is way better than Top 40 Rock Radio. I mean, no offence to the Nickelbacks of the world, but I'd much rather hear Beyonce's new single.”

13.What are your biggest hopes for your debut album, and for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart long-term?

Peggy: “It's been out a week and we've already exceeded any hopes that I had for the debut album. But I hope we can keep the momentum going, so that we can keep touring and playing for people who love our songs. Once you build a real fanbase, people will keep coming back to you even after you might not be ‘The Cool New Thing’ anymore.”
Kip: “Yeah, we're so grateful for all the people coming to our shows – it's just incredible to leave your home town and see people that are so excited, because we're so excited to get a chance to do this. Seriously, it's like the nicest possible thing and has totally exceeded all our expectations.”

14.If you had to choose one artist or band to be inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, who would it be and why?

Peggy: “Stephin Merritt… he's one of the great American songwriters of our time.”
Kip: “Ditto.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
Peggy: “French Fries. Savoury over sweet always!”
Kip: “French Fries all the way!”

A very special thanks to Kip + Peggy, and to Sean @ Fortuna Pop! for all of their time and help.

“I'm with you and there's nothing left to do
Tell me it's true
…And the stars are crashing through
I want everything with you”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?