So you're probably sitting there thinking, 'Ya know, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart isn't really groundbreaking stuff....' And that's cool. You're right. We know that. Cool thing is, so does the band (a quite refreshing thing). Pains has never tried to be anything more than a fresh, youthful take on the fuzzy pop structures that bred them. The rub of it is that they happen to do so exceptionally well, turning heads (a lot of them, and most of them many times) with their 2009 breakout self-titled record. Now they back it up with Belong, a reaffirming sophomore statement about themselves and their self-indulgent brand of pop. Fresh off the new release, Kip Berman chimes in on exactly what it is that's gotten his band this far...this fast.
Talk a little bit about Belong and what we should be expecting from its sound.
Kip Berman: We’re all really excited for the record to be released and for people to get a chance to hear it. We’ve been wanting to play these new songs live for a while, and we’re just now getting a chance to do that. So it’s fun for us. As far as how the sound is different from the first record, I know it’s not cool to say but it’s pretty much the same ideas just taken a little bit further.
Those ideas being...
KP: We’ve always played a noisy brand of pop music. We’ve taken pop music in general and just tried to make it louder and poppier at the same time. I know that seems kind of contradictory, but that’s what we love. So hopefully people continue to take them as noisy pop songs. Slightly noisier and poppier this time.
It really hasn’t been all that long since your last release, but I’m sure you guys are excited to be able to expand your setlist a bit.
KP: For the first two years of our band we played the songs that eventually became the songs for our first record. For the two years after that, we played those same songs because that was our recorded material and that’s what people wanted to hear. So it’s exciting now to have a set-list that’s half filled with new stuff and songs that we believe in. That’s not dismissing what’s in the past at all, but it’s fun now to be able to mix in the new stuff, as well. I’m just excited to share it with new people and I hope people like it.
Thinking back to when you guys exploded on the scene, did the reception of the first record surprise you?
KP: We’re an indie-pop band. From the background we come from, any kind of precedence for the music that we make to be heard outside of the very narrow pop fetishes that we are in is exciting. Most of the bands that I liked growing up, and not all of them of course, they had a sort of intensity about them that a lot of people didn’t know about them outside of certain circles or pop festivals or message boards or something like that. So to see our first record getting played a lot was exciting because it gave exposure to a type of music, and a chance for others to discover a lot of bands that we loved growing up. They might like our band but they might discover other bands through us that we were inspired by. That’s a cool feeling to know that people can discover better bands than ours through us.
What was it like working with Alan Moulder and Flood? Did it take you awhile to get over any sort of awestruck vibes there?
KP: It was really cool. Sure, we were very much in awe of what they’ve accomplished professionally. They’ve worked on a lot of the greatest records that we grew up listening to. But the second you meet those guys, they don’t carry themselves like a big deal because they actually are (laughs). They don’t work around making you feel uncomfortable because they have Wikipedia entries (laughs). I know there’s this perception that The Pains got ‘super huge’ and started recording with big shot dudes, but from the actual experience it was just a really creative moment for us. It wasn’t too self-serious, where we felt like we had to make the greatest rock record of our generation. There was definitely a sense of fun in making the record, and I hope it comes through in the songs.
But you had to know that, at the very least, you had an audience in waiting this time around. Did that add any sense of pressure?
KP: The only pressure on us was the pressure we put on ourselves. We love these songs and we’re really excited about them, so we wanted to record them in a way that didn’t suck (laughs). We knew the songs would sound good if they were recorded in a way that allowed them to be fully realized. Ultimately, you can’t control how a record is received. With the first record, we were just kind of in the right place at the right time. You can’t really control the immediacy of the cultural or commercial moment that you live in, and you can’t control the critical reception. But we can control what our own personal appreciation of the music is, and insofar as that, we worked hard to make music that we absolutely loved and feel emotionally connected to. It’s a big deal to make a record, so to say that there was no pressure would be wrong, but it was probably less than bigger bands on bigger labels with commercial expectations would be.
With your expectations as a band, how do you view the sort of current “state” of the industry, and why does that state suit you right now?
KP: The big changes for us have been obvious. I mean, we got to work with Moulder and Flood on this record, and if we have been making this record in 1995, that just wouldn’t have been an option unless we were a huge band on a big label with a big budget. And then again, if it was 1995, we might have been aspiring to that. But ultimately, what matters most is the music, and getting all fetishistic about what’s indie and what’s mainstream is missing the point that good music is just good music.
You guys certainly don’t seem to be complaining about anything at this point.
KP: We were sort of able to have our cake and eat is too because it is 2011. As the old industry crumbles, things that were off limits in our position a long time ago suddenly became realistic. We got to make this record, and one that sounded the way we wanted it to sound without having to change anything about our band and our label. That’s a really positive thing. From our point of view because we exist as band now and I don’t know that we could have in the past, I don’t know that we can see anything as negative. People might say there is a disposability of popular culture, but at the same time I think good music sustains. Our goals are broader than the bottom line of how many units our record sell. What matters about music isn’t the financial impact of that bottom line. From our point of view, that aspect doesn’t really both us as much. The good stuff will survive, and the bad will be forgotten. Or at least, that’s the optimistic stance on it.
Nashville has more dive bars than ATL now that sucks. tbh i think that new…
*Christ, Lord sorry
"Punk" style like this seems like it is the polar opposite of punk. Bradford Cox…
They're kind of starting to look like a joke of themselves. Song's good though.