The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart: Interview

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart from New York are entering into a new phase of life. Their new album ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ released in July, showcases a more mature sound, slightly straying from their iconic youthful melodies. With this in mind Kip kindly spared a few words to talk to us about the new record, all things Sarah Records, and their current tour…

We love your first single ‘Anymore’ off the new album. Could you tell us a bit about the record? 

Thank you. When we were finished recording it, I played it for my 1 year old daughter, and she really liked it. She does this dance where she sits up and bounces with her hands in the air and smiles. It’s very sweet. So, even though it’s probably not quite Belinda Carlisle “Heaven is a Place on Earth” (her absolute favorite), I feel good about it too.

There’s definitely a more mature sound on the new album, what’s different this time round? 

I was recording it when I was about to have a baby. It was a very strange, nervous time, with all the anxiety and emotion I was going through. And then David Bowie died the 1st day we were going to record – this was back in January 2016. So there I was, waking up with all this worry about the future, then crying with my wife to Bowie records at dawn (especially Hunky Dory) and then going to the studio and trying to make something of real worth. But it wasn’t about this egotistical “I want to make a classic record, man” sort of thing, but more about just proving to myself and to her that I could be better, because I knew I had to be better – not just in music, but in everything in order to be a good husband and – soon – a good father to my daughter. 

Your lyrics have always grabbed us by the heart – how did you put pen to paper this time?

That’s kind of you to say, thanks! I just try to write songs about how I feel, but different times in life will lead to different kinds of songs. 

It was released on your own record label ‘Painbow’, what made you decide to set up your own label? 

I think they were the only label that would sign us! 

You played Thekla in Bristol earlier on in the year. Are you aware of Sarah Records and their tie with Thekla? 

I love Sarah Records, I have massive respect for what they created. Clare and Matt did something beautiful and true, self-made, and vital. People all over the world know Bristol because of them – or at least I do. I first got into them from the Gaol Ferry Bridge compilation cd I got when I was 19, and was instantly drawn to East River Pipe, Blueboy, Heavenly and even the Sugargliders and Secret Shine track on there. I then discovered more about the label – The Wake were fascinating, and Action Painting and Boyracer was super good and evidence against the misconception of the label as only very gentle or delicate music. Clare Wadd has come out to our shows sometimes, and it feels like I have to try to act normal about it. Amelia Fletcher (Heavenly, Marine Research, Tender Trap, etc) is also someone we’ve gotten to meet a few times. She’s really incredible. I guess the label was anti-hero worship, but it’s still like – kind of amazing to meet these people who really accomplished so much and stood for such great things. 

I think things are starting to change now – bands are embracing the need and the challenge to do something beyond their own vanity. But what Sarah was doing in the 1990s about was as much a political mission as a musical one – or at least there was a real comfort with publicly giving voice to leftist political ideals. American bands and labels in that era – at least the ones that were seeking a larger audience, with a handful of notable exceptions, didn’t really talk about that stuff. There was a lot of sarcasm, apathy and cynicism to the “indie rock” aesthetic. Yes, “alternative” music was de facto “liberal” in a “rock the vote, man” way, but seemed to just say things about how “the system sucks,” “selling out” or these vague statements of anti corporatism. All these bands secretly wanted to be the next Nirvana, so they didn’t really speak too much truth to power, in case it kept them off the radio, or didn’t play well in more conservative regions of the country. So “being angsty” is sort of the lowest common denominator, least politicized form of protest. It was the Michael Jordan “republicans buy shoes too” idea applied to music. 

Sarah Records was like,  “Actually, we’re fucking card carrying socialists and we exist beyond the grip of capitalism, and to prove it – we’re going to stop selling even though we could keep selling.” I know it’s almost impossible to entirely exist beyond the grip of capitalism – I mean, I bought their stuff in a record store in Boston – but they did about as much in their power to give real value to the fans of these bands (and opportunity to bands that might not have traditional commercial appeal). Obviously Dischord and K Records and the community of artists that were labeled “Riot Grrrl” were vocal critics of capitalism and advocates for radical, leftist politics. I know Slumberland was motivated by that ideology as well. And of course Hip Hop was far more politicized than the rock or indie rock world of that era, especially in the US.  But Sarah did it with music that wasn’t overtly “punk” sounding or all that aggressive sounding, which I think was unique. Like, the song would be about feeling shy and that being ok, but then the liner or label notes were about smashing systems of oppression. The music was and is great- but what informed the label’s ideology might be even more relevant today. 

Check out ‘Anymore’ off their new album ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ below: 

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