Interview: Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Matt (Reviler): To start off, could you state your name and what you do in the band?
Kip: I’m Kip, I play guitar and sing.
Matt (Reviler): Belong is getting a lot of blog and critic love as well as radioplay, has it kind of felt like a rollercoaster leading up to and after its release?
Kip: Most of our life is just sitting in a van or venue together waiting to play a show – there’s a lot that keeps us busy and isolated from those external things, so we don’t have a lot of time to consider our place in the
indieverse. This is probably for the best as that kind of status oriented self-obsession tends to undermine the reason you write songs and play music in the first place.
Matt (Reviler): At what point do you consider the band is a ‘success?’ Or is that not something you are concerned with?
Kip: We simply hope to exist as much as we can exist and make things that will exist when we no longer exist.
Matt (Reviler): If Pains had a ‘mission statement’ what would it be?
Kip: Our “mission statement” would simply be the phrase, “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.” Once we had the name, the songs just sort of happened the right way.
Matt (Reviler): I remember initially checking you guys out based solely off your name, where did the name originate?
Kip: The name is taken from the title of an unpublished children’s story my sometimes crack-headed friend wrote.
Matt (Reviler): There’s a pretty clear sonic shift from the debut record to Belong, how much of was credited to where you guys wanted to take your sound and how much was credited to working with Flood and Alan Moulder?
Kip: We had a really clear idea going into it of what we wanted these songs to sound like long before walking into the studio. We wanted things to feel immediate and visceral. But simply wanting and achieving that are two
different things. I’m glad we got a chance to work with two people who could help make the sound in our heads a reality.
Matt (Reviler): How did you end of working with them? Was it intimidating at all?
Kip: Alan Moulder was a fan of the first record and contacted us – but he didn’t have time to produce it, so he suggested we work with Flood (they share a studio, are good friends and have worked on a ton of stuff together). Flood was great, as he allowed us to think a bit differently about things while giving us the confidence that the way we did things,
however backwards and amateurish at times, was totally ok. He didn’t try to make us some generic version of arena rock – he liked the messed up parts of us. Alan came in and mixed it at the end, and he has a great intuitive sense
of making powerful rock music that isn’t ever generic sounding, so it was like best of both worlds. I’m really grateful we got to make this record this way.
Matt (Reviler): What were the biggest differences in recording Belong vs. the debut?
Kip: Well, we’d never made a record before we made the first one, so in some ways we just had no experience to draw from. With the new record, we could think “what are the things we still like about the first record, and what are the things that we can get rid of or do better at his time.” That sounds pretty obvious, but it helps to reflect and see what’s still awesome sounding to you after a couple years and focus on making things more like that.
Matt (Reviler): Do you have a favorite record of theirs that they worked on?
Kip: Siamese Dream, mixed by Alan Moulder, was a clear reference point. But not so much “we want to be the smashing pumpkins” (we’re a really different kind of band) but more a sense of the natural, power of the guitars and that balance between heaviness and beauty. There was something lilting, natural and fragile in the vocals of that record, while the music was this tremendous, heavy thing – that balance kept things from being boring, generic, angsty, hyper-masculine rock.
Matt (Reviler): There seems to be a balance between cleaner tones on the new album mixed with the blownout fuzz of the debut, was it important to not fully commit one way or the other? Were you going for that balance?
Kip: We wanted to make something unaffected and immediate. We wanted our record to intuitively feel like “Yes!” not like, “I understand why I enjoy this music as the direct descendant of a variety of righteous and critically
ignored indiepop bands that reflect our good taste.” There’s an implicit hypocrisy if you say you’re a pop band and you don’t try to be, um, “popular.” Not in a famous way, but in making music that can be enjoyable to people that may not know every obscure 7″ that you cherish.
Matt (Reviler): It seems like the record is bit more personal from a lyrical standpoint, and the title invokes, obviously, feelings of trying, and possibly failing, to fit in.
Kip: There’s a lot of ways of seeing this record – I’m not even sure what the right way is. It’s a big rock record about not being a big rock band. Everything it tries to be it also denies, it’s equal parts overreaching, unachievable ambition and ever present doubt. It’s confused and contradictory, but we didn’t want to hide that. We’re at a weird place as a
band and as people, and rather than say “we’re so indie and will never change” or “we’re gonna make something huge,” we figured to just lay it all out there let things resolve or remain unresolved in the course of these 10 songs.
Lyrically, my life is not a standard indie trope. I am not this bookish, shy character content to ride bikes, eat cupcakes and hold hands in endless chaste devotion. Or at least I’m not always that way. I didn’t want to
obscure what is immediate and genuine or hide behind cleverness or offer polite, pithy resolution where there was none. People could say the absence of a pun every 6 lines is dumbing things down, but to me it feels like the
opposite – it’s not hiding behind sophistry. If it makes people uncomfortable to be engaged in such a direct way, or be confronted by the ambiguous nature of these songs, that’s ok.
Matt (Reviler): Did you ever consider yourself an ‘outsiders,’ in the Brooklyn scene or otherwise?
Kip: We love a lot of other bands in Brooklyn – bands like Crystal Stilts, Twin Shadow, Big Troubles, Vivian Girls, Zaza, The Hairs, German Measles, Dream Diary, Hooray for Earth, Murder Mystery and so many more. But as for our sound and what we aspire to, it’s always been a bit at odds with what other bands from our area sound like. We’re kind of anomalies.
Matt (Reviler): What’s the best and worst thing about being a band from Brooklyn? Do you feel like there is ever a grating pressure to prove yourself somehow?
Kip: We’re sort of out of step with what’s going on musically in Brooklyn, but I like that. I really like the other bands happening, it’s just that we sound sort of different than a lot of that. The highest artistic achievements to us are emphatic 3 and a half minute pop songs.
Matt (Reviler): What’s your favorite new song to play live?
Kip: “Belong” or “Strange.”
Matt (Reviler): When was the last time you guys played Minneapolis?
Kip: We’ve never played in Minneapolis before.
Matt (Reviler): What’s your favorite part of playing/visiting here?
Kip: It’s our first time, so I can’t speak with any authority. When I was very young my mom took me to “Purple Rain,” and to this day that movie always makes me choke up a bit at the end– although she says I fell asleep in the theater. And of course Husker Du and The Replacements are trailblazers of American Indie Rock, and reading about them in “Our Band Could Be Your Life” by Michael Azerrad was definitely inspiring. I’ve been listening to Sugar’s “Copper Blue” a bunch lately.
Matt (Reviler): To wrap it up, what are some records you have been spinning a lot on the road?
Kip: Puro Instinct “Headbangers in Ecstasy,” John Maus “Love is Real,” Tori Amos “Little Earthquakes,” Twin Shadow “Forget” and Crystal Stilts “In Love With Oblivion”
Catch the Pains of Being Pure at Heart tonight at the Triple Rock Social Club
Writer / co-founder