Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sweet to the Core: An Interview with Kip Berman of Pains of Being Pure At Heart

When you name yourself something like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, your kind of asking for trouble. Thankfully, the band members are nothing of the sort and lead singer Kip Berman was kind enough to do a quick phone interview with me, where we talk about there current tour, upcoming EP, how great Jay Reatard is, and what are his favorite romantic movies.

The Creative Intersection: First off, thanks for putting an Austin tour date in your tour. I know you played about 14 shows during South By Southwest and I’m glad your not sick off the city.

Kip Berman: Of course not. Austin is an amazing town and were actually glad to be able to come back kind of out of the context of South By Southwest because I realized there’s life outside of South By Southwest I’m sure.

TCI: Thanks. So in about a year, you’ve gone from being pretty unknown to being a huge buzz band. What is it like with the huge burst in popularity?

Kip: Well, to be honest everything’s been pretty gradual and natural and it doesn’t seem like anything’s been over night from our perspective. We’ve been a band for a few years and we’ve tried to tour as much as possible and we’ve just been very grateful and the experience has been past anything we could have expected or anticipated. It’s kind of the old fashion story of just touring a lot, hard work, and really enjoying the music that we play and we’ve been really grateful that people have responded so positively to it.

TCI: So how did the tour with Cymbals Eat Guitars come about?

Kip: Ah well, we’re on tour now with both Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Depreciation Guild and does are both two bands that we really love and we’re just grateful that Cymbals Eat Guitars was able to do the tour as was Depreciation Guild. We’re fans of both bands and I think it makes for a really good night of music, I hope.

TCI: A lot of the lyrics on the album come across as being sick of a party scene and the problems of being a teenager, teenage angst if you want to pigeon hole it. Were these written about general experience with being in the Brooklyn scene or something else?

Kip: No, I mean we live in Brooklyn and we’re genuine fans of the music that comes out of Brooklyn, but most of does songs are written about growing up in the suburbs and sort of the experiences of that. It’s the experience of growing up and not really having anything to do or not having a lot of friends. Kind of being bored and unsure of what you should do with your life. The songs are not really about cool parties, it’s sort of about the absence of any of that. It’s about being normal and wondering about stuff.

TCI: So is that why you moved to Brooklyn?

Kip: No, I mean I.... I don’t know why I moved to Brooklyn. My friend was moving to New York and I wanted to go to and I had lived in Portland, Oregon for awhile. I was so excited about living in a new place and I’m so glad I did because I met Peggy and Alex and Kurt and they’re my best friends now and we play music together and it’s really fun. It wasn’t like a reaction to anything for like... I don’t even now why I moved to New York, but I’m glad you did!

TCI: Do you ever feel like the lyrics get easily misinterpreted like how I just did? I mean, I hate to ask this because chances are you’ve been asked this a million times since the album came out, but is “This Love is Fucking Right” really about incest?

Kip: No, no it isn’t. I mean there is no right or wrong way to interpret our songs. We’re fine with people listening to them and thinking what they think about them. We want to be mean or tell people they are wrong about anything. I would say like I said probably a few times before that “This Love is Fucking Right” isn’t about incest, but we don’t get to bent out of shape with people thinking what they want to think. We just really enjoy playing the music we play and we’re really appetitive that anyone cares enough to listen to us and think about what the songs say.

TCI: So what is it about? When I listen to, this is just general, you can tell me if I’m wrong, but it’s about a relationship you’ve had with a girl for a long time and they wind up sleeping together and the aftermath is really awkward. Is it that?

Kip: We have songs about that, but I don’t think that songs about that. I think “This Love is Fucking Right” is more just about finding someone that’s like yourself and being really close to them and feeling really happy regardless about what over people think. It’s sort of this sense of no matter what other people say, or if your friends not cool with it or whatever, if it’s awkward, you’re happy together and you just want to be affirmative about that. I really think there’s a special closeness between two people incest or anything like that. The term “sister” is used as a special closeness, it represents something that transcends the simple being friends with someone. Your closer to that person, like it’s another part of yourself. You kind of complete each other, to quote Jerry Maguire. It’s like that other half of yourself.

TCI: Are you a big movie buff?

Kip: I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I enjoy them when I do. I like romantic comedies with Meg Ryan in them. I like the movie You’ve Got Mail. I saw that recently.

TCI: What did you think of 500 Days of Summer?

Kip: It wasn’t really my cup of tea. But after I saw that I saw You’ve Got Mail and I enjoyed that a lot. I would like to just be positive about You’ve Got Mail and that’s about it.

TCI: Your going to be releasing a brand new EP with brand new songs in just a couple of days. Why did you decide to go the EP route then just waiting to record a new album.

Kip: Well, we had these songs and we’ve been playing them live and we wanted to make them available to our fans. It’s probably going to be awhile before our next album comes out, but we’ve been playing songs like “Higher Than the Stars” and live for some time, especially on this tour. We just wanted them to be available to people and an EP was a great way to do that. It allowed us to release these songs and not worry they made sense in the context of an album or not. It’s just sort of four songs we really like and who cares if they really make sense next to each other, there songs we like to play and we thought it would be fun.

TCI: Ok! Now, Jay Reatard called your music boring and kind of insulted the whole Brooklyn scene. Does this mean anything to you?

Kip: We’re actually really big fans of Jay Reatard and we love his music a lot. I think Alex is literally in the Jay Reatard fan club, so I think Jay was just joking around and having some fun and he’s a great musician who’s been doing really, interesting, compelling, and passionate music for a long time. We really love what he does, and he’s a good guy I think he was just trying to rustle some feathers and sometimes the internet gets carried away. We’re big fans and I’ll definitely be buying his new album on Matador soon.

TCI: Oh, you definitely should! It’s awesome!

Kip: I know. I think Alex has it and I want to get it. I want to get a copy for myself. We’re out on tour and I want to buy it on vinyl, but I won’t be able to listen to it for awhile so... it might come with a download so I’ll buy it soon.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, along with Depreciation Guild and Cymbals Eat Guitars, play the Mohawk here in Austin on 9/25. Buy tickets here.

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