The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

New York band detail teen heartache to astonishing effect.

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“We get a lot of people telling us, “Your name is terrible but the music is awesome!””, laughs bassist Alex Naidus when asked about the travails of being a member of fuzzed-out dream pop outfit, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. Named after a short story written by lead singer Kip Berman’s friend, never has a band name so accurately described this endearing bunch of self-confessed music geeks who sing about the travails of loving your sister just a bit too much (‘This Love is Fucking Right’), heroin addictions and teenage trysts, that transcends obvious comparisons to C86 tweepop and shoegaze to create songs that are genuinely affecting.

Sat on the pavement on a typically crowded Saturday in Portobello Road, we get to gossiping about the inside-scoop at Primavera Festival where they’ve just played (“Incredible!” they exclaim in unison) and eventually get down to the business of finding out what it’s really like reliving your teenage kicks through song. To get a taste of the swoonsome delights of their self-titled debut, download lilting b-side, ‘Ramona’ exclusive to Dazed Digital.

Dazed Digital: You guys formed when you played at a birthday party for Peggy (Wang-East, keyboardist and singer) in 2007 – did you find an instant chemistry then?
Kip Berman: Two of the five songs we played at the party even made it to the album! Though the songs we played then are up for debate! We’d been friends before that so it felt really natural for us.

DD: You guys really took off when blogs got hold of your first EP. How did you find the speed at which things happened for you?
Alex Naidus: That’s how I find out about bands, it just seems like a natural way I guess.
Peggy Wang East: you don’t want to get caught up with it.
Kip:  With the internet, it’s helpful for a young band who doesn’t get the chance to tour. There’s a chance for people to hear your music without having to go to far-distant places. There’s still this really old fashioned sense about our band that you still have to work hard and tour hard and build things in a genuine way, and not just expect an overarching technological concept to sustain you in the long run.

DD: Does living in New York filter into your sound and what you do?
Peggy: it’s kinda easy to stay a teenager there in a weird way. We have our jobs but we get to hang out and none of us are settling down anytime soon. New York exists as a mecca for people who want to come and be creative.
Alex: I feel like it would have been hard for the band to exist anywhere else or to have started anywhere else. We are all music nerds and bonded over such a specific thing. It can be hard to find that in other places. It’s such an exciting place to be that it felt like an exciting place to start a band. We all found each other in such a natural way. It would have been hard to start the band in a place like Tulsa! It’s a New York story.
Kip: it’s not like the album is a New York album. We love bands like causeCommotion and Vivian Girls and we really admired those bands and I feel in part, that was very influential to how we started out and why we wanted to be in a band. But the New York sound is so diverse. It’s not just the gritty Downtown sound of Ramones and Velvet Underground. There’s Grizzly Bear, TV On The Radio…

DD: And you’re not into this lo-fi aesthetic?
Peggy: I feel like a good song is a good song. I like stuff recorded on a four-track just as much as I like Britney Spears!
Kip: Technology has made it easier to make music that sounds good with very little money. But in  the end, it’s about the quality of the song.

DD: The lyrics are confessional and heartfelt. What’s the most sincere thing you’ve done?
Kip: I think everything we do is coloured with those feelings. There’s not a separation between our lives and our music. It feels like one continuous thing. I guess it’s dangerous because it’s all-consuming in some ways but at the same time I can’t see another way of doing it.

DD: And the characters in the songs are taken from your own lives?
Kip: It’s taken from our lives and what we know, there’s not a lot of abstraction. It’s not like Luke Haines (singer with The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder) who creates all these different characters because he’s a genius! I don’t feel the same sense of auteur-ness! I just want to write about us, our lives and stuff we know about.

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