Interview: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Published on June 18th, 2014 | Jonny Abrams
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart recently released their dreamy new album Days of Abandon, so we caught up once again with front man Kip Berman for a bit of a natter…
You’ve got a new band now – what is it like playing with them? Are there any differences sonically from the setup before?
Kip: Christoph has been playing with Pains for the last 5 years, and his twin brother Anton has toured with us in the past in Depreciation Guild. I don’t want to disrespect people that have played with me in the past, as Kurt especially was super inspirational and a great help in creating Days of Abandon – we did all the demos together, and when it comes to Christmas Synths, he is pretty unbeatable.
But I’m really grateful to the twins, Jacob and Jess, for getting in the van and doing this all together. It’s been incredible so far!
You seem to have evolved with every record now, but I think they’re linked by a shared sentiment. What do you think the essence of Pains is?
Kip: Pop songs about feelings.
Is the feel (bit abstract, I know!) you try to portray in your songs based on formative experiences you had with music, and if so what were they?
Kip: I don’t know to what I should ascribe the order of chords I choose or the arrangement of words – it sounds so generic to simply say “life,” but also probably the best I can do to answer such a question.
You said that “in England people get into really strong identity wars”, which I think is definitely true. Do you find that makes for a different show when playing over here?
Kip: I would have thought we’d be like some American bands like The Drums, Haim or Warpaint, where people would hear our music more in the UK than America, but it seems that isn’t the case – possibly because we’ve never been able to release music on a large label, which I think is pretty essential to gaining exposure in the UK (whereas in America, you could almost self-release your stuff and have just as good a chance of doing well).
The UK still has a very “old school” record industry – it may be changing, but slowly. I feel people think of us as this “indie or die” kind of band when that couldn’t be further from the truth. If we could put out our records on Mercury and have pictures of our faces in tube stations we would. We love pop music, I want to be on a major and have songs about “martyrs in garters” playing while people shop for polo shirts – but that might have to wait ’til the next life.
Do you view Pains as a ‘New York’ band?
Your sound is often linked to older bands that existed in the ’80s and the ’90s. Do you think that was a stronger time for music? And to expand on that, what do you think about the state of pop music these-days?
No. I have no love for the past. Most of those bands are tragic because that era didn’t give opportunity to great bands to reach the wider audience that they deserved. There’s no use romanticizing it – I don’t want my life to be like that. I’d much rather be resented for success I don’t deserve.
I saw your new record described as your most mature LP to date. Do you think this is true? Is there a conscious effort to refine with each album?
Kip: Maturity is such a terrible word for pop music. It’s second only to “project” in my list of words that make my skin crawl should I ever see it in relation to Pains. The purpose of pop music isn’t to “progress” – it is to strike at the core of life, the very things that are true to all of us always. No one wants to hear pop songs about nose hair growth or the tempered expectations of a second marriage.
What were the inspirations behind the new record? And is there a song you’re most proud of?
Kip: A lot of things I relied on were suddenly gone. Days of Abandon is not consciously inspired by anything, but when I hear it now it seems to be striving constantly (and at times successfully) not to sound half as heartbroken as it actually is.
As for a favorite track, I like songs that say the most with the least – so maybe “Art Smock”.
I read you studied religion at College and was wondering if you are religious, especially with a song like “A Teenager in Love” in mind…
What’s the best gig you’ve been to, and why?
Kip: It may sound strange or American-centric for people around the world, but on 9/11/2001 I had tickets to see Belle and Sebastian play in Portland. That day felt so surreal, like a distant apocalypse, yet living so far from the center of the chaos it was just disorienting, heartbreaking and incomprehensible.
At the time, Belle and Sebastian was my absolute favorite band, and for some reason being able to go the concert with my friends at night after everything that was on the news and school assembly during the day…it was a great comfort. They opened with The Byrds’ “Turn.”
Kip Berman, thank you.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s new album Days of Abandon is out now on Fierce Panda.