Esteemed Brooklyn quartet The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are about to release a new single called “Heart in the Heartbreak”. For more info: http://www.thepainsofbeingpureatheart.com/
The Pains singer Kip kindly agreed to answer a few questions…
Kip: “We're in Vancouver, Canada - the vibes are extremely good, owing to the beautiful mountains and glowing, lovely Canadians all around.”
Are there any bands, albums or films that always cheer you up?
Kip: “David Bowie's "Hunky Dory," Weezer's "Blue Album," Smashing Pumpkins' "Siamese Dream," and Supergrass' "Life on Other Planets" or "I Should Coco" usually do the trick. Also, when T. Rex is on, you can't feel bad. It's against the rules.”
How are The Pains getting on? Is everybody in the band happy at the moment?
“Kip: Yeah! We all get along really well. We didn't become a band because we answered classified ads looking for "musicians" - we were just friends first, and that dynamic is pretty crucial in terms of everyone just genuinely enjoying each other's company in the extreme close-confines of touring in a van for extended periods of time. I totally recommend starting a band with people based on if you get along, more than if they can play. You can always learn to play later, but with all the things you go through, it's good to be with people you genuinely love.”
Do songwriters work best when then heart has been broken or their dog has died?
“I feel all that stuff about torment + art doesn't really apply to us - especially the "art" part. We just write pop songs about feelings. Hopefully they are catchy feelings.”
A lot of how people perceive "artists" is routed in 19th century Romantic notions of the artist as aloof, isolated from society and unconcerned with material gain for her/his work-- but some of the greatest art ever made was made by people being hired by "The Man"(Kings, The Pope) to write a symphony or paint a cathedral. Is that really any worse than some band sound tracking a candy commercial?
We haven't of course, but no one has asked either...
Anyway, it's almost 2011 and there is still this pressure to affect this profound, tempestuous, Byronic persona that seems, at best, an unnatural, dated idea of why people do things like write songs. I mean, I'm just a kid from the suburbs who likes to do it because it's fun. I wear sweatshirts, i don't do Heroin. Writing songs and playing them is all I really want to do, ever.”
Do you have a typical fan or are the audience of your shows quite mixed?
Kip: I think the people that like our music are strange in non superficial ways. People with ideals that are sort of at odds with their reality. I appreciate that sense of conflict. But it's not something that comes across in a distinctive "look" in the audience.
Do you think most people could write interesting lyrics for one decent album but would struggle to make a follow up? (Do you believe that everyone has a good book in them?)
Kip: “I think everyone should have a good book with them. I've just finished "Our Band Could Be Your Life" and was amazed, as always, by how much bands today owe to the true trailblazing indie bands of the 1980s. Bands like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Minor Threat, Beat Happening - if any band complains today about life being hard, they need only read a page of that book before they realize that what is possible today must be understood as the result of incredible body destroying/life affirming dedication, sacrifice and unending hard work that established the infrastructure of what we now take for granted - indie clubs, indie labels, indie distributors, etc.
As for "following up" our first record... I just think that there's no pressure on us. It's not like our last record was Nevermind, Ziggy Stardust or Never Mind the Bullocks. It was a self titled indiepop record on Slumberland/Fortuna Pop about sex, drugs and cardigans.”
Can pop success spoil things, have you had any unwanted presures because of your increasing fame?
Kip: “I think "fame" is an idea that is reserved for people like Lady Gaga, Kanye, Jay-Z and all that. We're not the sort of band that anyone outside of weird music obsessives (like ourselves) has ever heard of, much less knows something about as people. The only time anyone has ever "recognized" me, I happened to be in a gay bar. It seemed pretty fitting.”
Who do you love most in the world?
Kip: “My family, especially my Mom. Even when I was a really big loser, working in a call centre recharging people's prepaid calling cards and not really having any ambition in life other than playing music with my friends, she always believed in me. Now I am a medium sized loser, so I think she's very proud.”
What are your favourite boys and girls names?
Kip: “Am I going to be a father soon? That would be... surprising.”
Who are you jealous of?
Kip: “No one, really. We are doing the thing we love and the fact that we get to do it is the best thing ever. So many better bands than ours that we loved growing up never even got to do half the things we've done so far, so we feel really grateful that people like our songs, come to our shows and let us exist.”
Of all the cities you've visited which was the most special?
Kip: “New York City, it's home! But really, it's not a joke when we say that all the places we get to see, people we meet and shows we've gotten to play so far have been special. It's sort of a running joke, so I don't say it out loud to my bandmates anymore, but I'd always say, "I could totally see myself living here" almost everywhere we've gone.”
Do you have a note book on you all the time just in case you're struck by an idea for a song?
Kip: “Nah, I figure if anything is actually good I'll remember it. If I forget it, it probably wasn't that memorable.”
Do you believe in Homeopathy?
Kip: “We love homos!”
How much time have you got for Jesse Jackson? Do you see him as one of the good guys?
Kip: “I would be honoured to shake his hand.”
What bands made you want to be in a band and do you think you're making music that's as good as their music?
Kip: “Our music is much worse than the music that inspired us to make music. I mean, we'll never be as cool as the Pastels or Nirvana - but It's also not a culture of one-upsmanship with us. The bands that inspired us never prided themselves on being these super massive famous bands, but instead just doing what they wanted to do, and being aware that probably not a lot of people would ever care. The Aislers Set, My Favorite, Orange Juice, Black Tambourine, Yo la Tengo, The Ramones, Teenage Fanclub, The Exploding Hearts - I could go on for a really long time.
We have always striven to be different than the "bigger is better"sort of bands out there. We don't measure quality of what we do based on playing bigger shows or being in more magazines or any of that. Our ethics, our aesthetic is weird and sort of resistant to the machinery of "rise-through-the-ranks, now you're stars" indie. We care far more about how much our music matters to the sort of people for whom music matters a bit too much. Those were the people we were growing up, and we just want to be the band we would have loved when we sat around diners all night eating french fries, drinking coffee and talking forever about the bands we loved."