Interview The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart: The Return Of Twee

2009’s Great Escape saw a multitude of stateside bands coming over to tingle and satisfy our ears. Among the many are Brooklyn’s The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, pioneers of the return of twee. Great twee.

2009’s Great Escape saw a multitude of stateside bands coming over to tingle and satisfy our ears. Among the many are Brooklyn’s The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, pioneers of the return of twee. Great twee. Their self-titled debut, released earlier this year, has been incredibly well-received, even listed as one of the year’s top records by Rough Trade. Lucy Tesco managed to get Kip and Peggy in the back of their tour van long enough to talk cool parties, dressing up as Prince and horny boys.

Right guys, first of all, well done on having made such a fantastic debut record! It really is something, and I’m definitely not alone in thinking that. Your first EP came out in the summer of 2007, so there seems to have been quite a big silence in between that and the album. What was going on during the hiatus? Were you just writing? Cultivating a fanbase, maybe?
Peggy: [laughs]
Kip: Well the biggest addition really in between the release of the EP and the album was Kurt, our drummer. So we really were learning to write with him instead of the drum machine, which changed a lot, I guess. We were both playing shows and writing for a while before going into the studio. We recorded the album in the spring/summer of 2008, which was really fun. We’d been over here just before that, after the EP was released here in February. We played with The Manhattan Loves Suicides, and stayed at their place up in Leeds, which was really cool. I guess it was sort of a “real DIY” tour…

Touring wise, you guys seem to be doing a lot of that, on both sides of the pond. Although this is your first tour over here since the album was released. How were you received once the record came out in the US?
P: Yeah, after the album was released in the states, we did a tour around there, which was great. It was so much fun. Philly was awesome and Toronto was good too. Actually Toronto loads of people showed up, it was insane.
K: The reception we got on that tour was overwhelming, we weren’t anticipating anything like it at all. I think that’s kinda how this whole thing has gone: we just made our music, and have been really lucky in being given the opportunity to go on tour. I guess we’re just enjoying it and going by the idea that if it happens, it happens… Like 2 days ago, we played at the Bowery Ballroom, which is this really nice venue and it was like sold out and guys were touting tickets outside. It was actually shocking, going completely beyond any expectations I think any of us ever had.

How does it compare playing over here to back home? Is it incredibly different?
P: I dunno, not really. Although last time we were over here, we played a show with Vivian Girls and like, the whole audience just started chanting “Brooklyn!”, which, you know, would obviously never happen in Brooklyn. [laughs]
K: No, instead it’d be particular neighbourhoods. “Williamsburg!” “No, it’s East Williamsburg!” “Bushwick! Bushwick!” [laughs] No it’s not really that different. I mean, we have fans over here just like we do back home.
P: Yeah, in both places we have some die-hard fans, like five people who show up to every one of our shows. And we have friends in places too, which makes it really nice. Like The Manhattan Loves Suicides in Leeds.

Speaking of having friends in places, this whole “scene”, so to speak, in Brooklyn seems, from an outsider’s point of view, to be really tight knit. Bands such as Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls who are all interlinked, friends. Does it feel incredibly close to you? Is it all a very small world where everyone knows everyone?
P: It’s really weird, we’ve been seeing those bands for ages now.
K: I remember seeing Crystal Stilts a while back - wait, was that even before we formed?
P: Yeah, it was before we were even a band.
K: Yeah, I remember. And they didn’t have a drummer, so we watched as they were like juggling playing their instruments, pushing peddles, all the while with this kick-drum. That was a really long time ago I guess… But yeah, there are loads of bands. I mean, obviously Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts were just over here recently playing shows. But I would say Cause Co-Motion are really like at the front of it all. It’s a shame they haven’t really played out here yet. It’s weird, I guess, ‘cause we just take for granted the fact that we see these bands play all the time. Like every other Saturday someone is playing. And everyone’s just really really friendly. But there’s a lot more diversity going on than I think people realise. Like Grizzly Bear, MGMT… I mean Kurt is in another band, called the Depreciation Guild, who are making different stuff. I don’t think there’s one sound to define the city by. It’d be kinda maddening if there were, no?
P: Yeah, there’s a lot going on, but it is all really friendly and everyone supports everyone. I mean, we get good reception when we play, but not anymore than any other bands.

Have you guys had a chance to listen to any of the, I suppose, mirrored niche stuff coming out of London at the moment? I think a lot of the bands that are around now have been influenced by stateside stuff mainly. But like Male Bonding, Pens…
P: Pens are really good, I like them. I’d really like to see them play sometime. Other than that though, I don’t think I’m really familiar with a lot of the new bands at the moment.
K: We’re gonna be playing with Hatcham Social… Shrag. Wait, where are they from? They’re not from London are they..?
P: I dunno. I don’t think they are.. Huh.

No they’re not… Hm. Where are they from?
[silence]
K: But yeah, I guess when we come over here the guys we’re closest to are probably the Manhattan Loves Suicides. We always try and see them for a while whenever we’re over.
P: Yeah, like whenever we have to say good bye, I always feel really sad, but then I think, hang on, I’m probably gonna be seeing you guys a lot sooner than I think.

As you were saying, new bands, not that familiar with, but what about your influences? I think that’s partly what attracts people to your record so much. I know a lot of people who, when they listen to it, think of the Shop Assistants and bands like that.
P: I don’t mind that comparison; I like the Shop Assistants, and The Pastels, Flatmates, all those kinda bands.
K: It’s funny, I think who we sound like varies according to different cultures. Like I know that in the UK, people have compared us to the late 80s, early 90s indie bands.

Like the Smiths?
K: Yeah. But then we came from suburban America. I mean, at 14 - I don’t know actually, Peggy probably was – but at 14, I definitely wasn’t listening to bands like the Shop Assistants. I was more into Sonic Youth and Nirvana. And stuff that was coming off K Records. But then Kurt Cobain was actually into all that K Records stuff, you know.
P: Yeah, did you know it was Courtney Love who put him on to it?
K: [laughs] Who woulda known? Courtney Love into twee. Cour-twee Love. [laughs] But like, I got a guitar when I was 13 cause Kurt Cobain had one, and I just thought it’d be cool.
P: Kip used to play funk in his room. [laugh] Oh wait, do you even like to talk about that?
K: Yeah I did. Like when I was 6, my dream was to be Prince. I used to dress up as him.

So had it always been an ambition to be in a band?
K: Not really. It’s just like a casual fun thing to do. Start a band, play a couple shows, break up…
P: Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of different bands. I was always into being in a band, but never thought it could be something I could seriously do.
K: That’s what’s just so crazy about all this. We’re just really lucky to have the chance to tour, over here and everything. But I think the best part of being in a band is getting invited to a cool party even if you’re not cool.
P: [laughs] Yeah. Did you see that band outside? They were looking at who’s playing tonight and they said our name. I was wondering if they even knew we were standing right there, cause I knew who they were, but didn’t really wanna say anything…
K: Oh yeah! It’s like this time I was walking down the street and I was on my cell and I saw one of the guys from the Horrors. I was just saying to my friend “Oh my god! It’s the Horrors!”

Have you listened to their new record at all?
K: No, I don’t know that much about their stuff. I just think they look really really cool. Like, scarily cool. But I heard some of their stuff and it was just like really good garage rock.

Yeah, their new stuff is really really different. Kinda krautrock-y. Can influences and such… But what about a second album for you guys? I mean, I know it’s early days, but is there some stuff in the pipelines as yet?
K: Yeah, we got some singles coming out in the summer. Four new songs, and we don’t throw away B-sides so hopefully that’ll be four songs for the next album. But I guess, we’ll just be touring throughout the summer, with these new songs too, and then in the fall, go back to the drawing board. We could come back maybe completely different: a Can conceptual band. Maybe add a little dub.
P: [laughs] Yeah, we could get a horn section!
K: Yeah, a horn and a string section.
P: Maybe just one, I dunno. Which would you rather? I think I’d prefer a horn section.
K: That’s ‘cause you’re horny.
P: [laughs] We should just get a load of horny dudes.
K: Where would we find them though?

Around Brighton…?

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