Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interview: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

For the current edition of Hot Press I interviewed Kip Berman, front man of New York's The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Tremendously nice guy, interesting band and their new album  LP Belong is a smashing album and a loving throwback to the '90s. Belong is out now and you can catch POBPAH at The Button Factory on June 1.

With the follow up to their acclaimed debut album The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are threading that fine line between pursuing a bigger sound and alienating their existing fan base. Can they pull it off?  
Words: Bryan O'Hanlon 

Having won over many a hipster’s heart with their slow burning gem of a debut, New York five-piece The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are back with Belong - a fuller, poppier and altogether more immediate album.

Describing it as ‘a big step forward’, frontman Kip Berman notes the presence of renowned production duo Flood and Alan Moulder as a major influence on proceedings.“It’s pretty rare for a band like us to get a chance to work with people like them,” he admits. “They’ve made some of the greatest records of the last 25 years but they were excited about working with us and they helped us achieve the sound we wanted.”

Despite the enlistment of a pair who have worked with the likes of U2 and The Smashing Pumpkins the band remain on a small, indie label, something which Kip believes is ‘a cool contradiction’. Regardless, he’s well aware that certain fans feared the move. “It’s a legitimate concern,” he says. “Suddenly we’re working with these guys who normally make a huge stadium rock sound but once people actually hear the record they’ll see that it still sounds like us. They actually really liked the weirdness of our band!"

Such ‘weirdness’ saw a ream of comparisons surround their emergence in 2009, with everyone from The Smiths to My Bloody Valentine cited in an attempt to classify their sound. Surprisingly, Kip and Co. are not opposed to such pigeon-holing. “We never feel bad about being compared to bands that are awesome”, he says and lists off an impressive encyclopaedic knowledge of their influences. “We didn’t invent music, anyone that goes around thinking that is just stupid. We try to create a sound and a feeling based on the music we grew up loving.”

Though their strikingly earnest name may conjure up desolate images of an outsider looking in, much of the new album is in fact, quite positive. The trashy early ‘90s vibe of the title track comes with a charming lesson in acceptance, while ‘Heart In Your Heartbreak’ shuns self-pity for a tremendously dancey love-lorn tale. With many still bemused by their melancholic title, is Kip aware of this contradiction? “Yes but we try to write about our lives and I think most people’s lives are like that,” he reflects. “There’s upbeat days and days where everything sucks. If we wrote about how we have picnics everyday and fall in love, or vice-versa, well that’s just bullshit, real life is somewhere in between."

If their eponymous debut can be defined as an awkward teenager of a record; full of endearingly jangly indie tunes, then this new instalment is its older brother; a confident, brash and more vocal twenty-something

Despite this, Kip admits they’re anything but sure of themselves and the ironic truth is that, at it’s heart, Belong is very much the sound of a band still finding their feet. “I think it’s natural for us to make this big sounding record and then have doubts,” he admits, noting the balance between progressing and veering into ‘stadium rock territory’. “We’re trying to have it both ways and we might suck but at least we’re going about it the way we want to. Our aspiration isn’t to be the biggest band in the world. We just want to make music that means something to us and means something to people.” 

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