I’m sure that you are all aware of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart by now – their debut album has received rave reviews across the board and they are one of the hottest bands for 2009. Anyway, these guys gave a hell of a performance yesterday in Athens and I was lucky enough to interview them for Pop+Rock music magazine. Here’s what frontman Kip Berman had to say.
You have picked quite a long – yet original – name for your band. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart doesn’t fit to the typical “open a dictionary, close your eyes, flip through the pages and point your finger” story. How did you end up with that name and do you think that people may unfairly judge you at first just because of that?
Kip: The name came from a short children’s story written by a friend of mine. Its moral is that the most important things in life aren’t achievements or money or power, but the time you spend traveling and having adventures with your friends when you’re young.
I remember reading that you threw a birthday party for Peggy and hosted bands so you could sneak into the line-up yourself for your first gig. Rather cheeky but it did work! How did it feel exposing yourself to an audience for the first time?
Kip: That’s true. It was totally cool, because it was all our friends. It was just a really fun party and a great way to play our first show. It’s so much better than showing up to some bar on “new band night’ or whatever…
Success has come pretty quickly for you. Your debut album came out just a few months ago and yet it is already generating quite a bit of buzz on the web and from music press. What is your reaction to all this hype? Did it come as a big surprise or you could sense that things were going to blow up?
Kip: We were a band for a couple of years before anyone even knew we existed, so it’s definitely not an “overnight” sort of thing. We’re grateful that people have been really into the record and coming out to our shows. We’re fans of lots of bands who never really were appreciated in their time, so we would have been OK if just a couple people (like the kind of people we were when we were 17) were into it.
Your sound has been compared to the likes of many obscure bands from the C86 underground scene, something rather uncustomary for a young band from New York. How did you get into this kind of independent music?
Kip: We grew up mostly with American bands– indie bands and punk/hardcore bands. I think we didn’t really discover the English and Scottish bands that you mention until we were a bit older. One of my favorites is The Pastels. I feel their music is a perfect mix of Johnathan Richman fronting The Velvet Underground– it’s both innocent and dangerous. But we grew up a lot with bands like Nirvana, Sonic Youth and so many of The Matador bands like Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices and Pavement. I also really like glam rock, and T. Rex, Bowie and Suede are some of my favorite bands of all time.
People argue that albeit artists may lose profit by illegal downloads, it is this MP3 sharing that helps to make new bands more easily discoverable and eventually lead to sold-out gigs. Do you agree with this notion?
Kip: Yes. We’re cool with people doing whatever – we’re not Metallica.
So far you have made plenty of tracks available as free downloads on your website. What was your label’s initial reaction to giving away your music for free? Now that you are getting bigger and are ready to hit stardom would they let you do it again?
Kip: Our label(s) are really cool about that sort of thing. Slumberland and Fortuna Pop were both pretty keen to let us do whatever we wanted. I kind of think it’s been for the best, so I don’t see them wanting to stop anytime soon.
Another way to promote music is through TV shows. Many bands have become popular just because their songs were featured in an episode of Lost or CSI. Do you consider this a sell-out or this is just a means to an end in order to reach the biggest audience possible?
Kip: We’re a pop band – it’s totally cool if people want to use our songs in TV or movies or that stuff. I don’t see how that’s a bad thing at all.
How do you find out about new music nowadays? Do you spend most your time in small record stores in true High Fidelity fashion or in cyberspace reading music blogs and downloading MP3s?
Kip: I always think the best way to find out about music is through your friends recommendations – my bandmates know the sort of stuff I like, and are always telling me about cool stuff.
Although most people relate Greece to moussaka rather than indie rock, there are many kids here starting their own bands, hoping to become the next hot new band that emerges from the pack thanks to the Internet. What advice would you give them in order to succeed?
Kip: I’m not sure if it will make you successful or not, but just play music with your friends – the music you make together is way more genuine and awesome than if you seek out “talented musicians” or whatever.
You are on tour now. What are you listening on your tour bus? Have you discovered any new good music recently?
Kip: Well, I think we listened to St. Etienne the other day, and that was really fun and a band called Ultravox. I really like the band Girls a lot- but I don’t have their album yet (it’s not out ’til September), but we are going on tour with them. And I like this band German Measles, who have a song called “Wild Weekend” which is sort of our tour anthem.
What are your future plans? Signing to a major label, doing more touring or heading back to the studio for album No.2?
Kip: I just want to make music.