"This was the record we had to make" - hmv.com talks to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The wonderfully named, graceful, lo-fi indie The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are back with a brand new record named Days Of Abandon. We chatted to singer/guitarist Kip Berman to get the lowdown on the follow-up to the low-key, gentle, lilting indie pop of 2011's Belong...
Days Of Abandon is almost here, how are you feeling ahead of release? Excited? Nervous?
"Relieved. I've lived with this music for so long, seen so many moments when I didn't even think the record would exist. I'm just so glad these songs will live in the world."
When did you start writing the record?
"I remember writing "Masokissed" in 2011 around the time Belong was released. I probably wrote 40 or so songs, 18 of them were worth sorting out at band practice - we recorded 15 and put 10 on the record."
How was recording? Was it a difficult process?
"I am happiest when I make music, so I don't find spending 14 hours a day in a studio with no time off for a month all that difficult - it's exciting, Plus, Andy Savours was the one that really had it hard, as he was engineering and producing and basically doing everything all by himself. Of course there are emotional moments - we're an emotional band. But if the music turns out the right way, it's really worth anything."
You worked with Andy Savours, what kind of producer was he?
"I think we had an initial rapport based on talking on the phone about what we wanted the record to sound like. He's very talented, very bright - and funny. He seemed to "get it" - that we weren't just trying to make another record that sounded like Belong or our self-titled record, but that we wanted to do something defiantly clean. Of course many people confuse "grit" with "authenticity" but that's their problem."
"We wanted the record to sound clean, fresh and vital. Great songs are always the most important thing, not gauzy production gimmicks. I didn't want to deliberately obfuscate a song like 'Masokissed' or 'Kelly'. I wanted to make pop songs that didn't need a hyphenated descriptor before them. Andy understood all that and we really hit it off - I think he'll be my friend for life."
How do you feel this album moves on from Belong?
"We recorded Belong in 2010 at a time when people were still drooling over the idea of "lo-fi" as a genre. It's not a genre, and it doesn't make something good or bad to be "lo-fi." So the sound of Belong was meant as an affront to all that, to tell people we weren't just sitting around crying in our cardigans over Scottish indiepop bands from 1988. Though to be fair, I do love a lot of those bands. Now every band with guitars seems to want to soundtrack some Vh1 "Remember the 90s" montage and it's just as pointless."
"Great songs are what matters, not cynically triggering the nostalgia cues of music critics in their early-to-mid 30s. So yeah, there isn't a lot of distortion on this record-- if that's all you live for, I'm sorry. There are some great bands with awesome songs like No Joy, Beverly or Joanna Gruesome that you should listen to if you don't want to deal with our unrepentant jangle."
The cover was designed by South Korean artist Lee Jinju, who did you find her?
"She was someone whose work I first saw back in 2011 and was immediately taken aback by its power and nuance. I was incredibly grateful she allowed us to use my favorite of her pieces as our album art, as I feel it is representative of the kind of album Days of Abandon is."
What kind of album is this lyrically? What inspired you?
"My friends leaving, and the most meaningful relationship I'd known ending. I felt really alone - and I knew it was my fault, and that's an awful feeling. I'm glad things are ok now. It feels so strange still, to think about that time - but I'm relieved the worst of it is behind me, because I feel excited about life and music for the first time in a while."
"I know this record isn't what many people want it to be - but it was the record we had to make to get over a lot of things."
What were you listening to during the writing and recording of the record?
"I took solace in a lot of El Records, Felt, Margo Guryan and Tom Petty when finishing Belong. There was just so much heavy handed guitar sound on that record (which I think is awesome) that I needed to listen to things that felt the opposite of that for a while."
Do you have a lot of touring lined up for the rest of the year?
"Yes, we're coming to Europe with our friends from the UK "Fear of Men" for about 5 weeks. After that we go to play Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and I think we have some more festival kinds of shows in Europe in August and September. It's very exciting to be able to play these songs for people after being home for so long. I'm really looking forward to it."
Finally, which new bands/artists have caught your eye recently?
"Makthaverskan is absolutely incredible. They're an emphatic, heart meltingly brilliant group from Gothenburg, Sweden. Their new record "II" is stunning. Also, our tour mates Ablebody and Fear of Men have both released excellent new music this year. Ablebody's 7" "After Hours" is super good and channels a nuanced, yet slightly askew pop sound reminiscent of bands like Cleaners From Venus without ever sounding purposely retro."
"Fear of Men are an amazing band we've known for the last couple years and they just released their proper debut record on Kanine called "Loom." They get really really mad if you ever mention The Cranberries around them, even if people are trying to pay a compliment. So yes, they sound like the introspective moments of Bradford Cox and maybe a little bit of The Sundays and The Smiths. Those are all really good things in my book. And maybe they'll admit that "Linger" was a damn good song and no one is saying anything bad, ya know? I mean, everyone compared us to My Bloody Valentine when we started, and while we weren't half as awesome - it was a compliment."
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's new album Days Of Abandon is released on Monday (June 2nd) and is available to pre-order from hmv stores and from our digital store now.