Watching their electric performance at The Garage, information pills I immediately understood why all the major music publications are getting their knickers in a twist over The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. With the recent release of their debut album, more about The Pains have quickly amassed a devoted fan base and garnered raptuous reviews for their perfectly pitched shoe gazing dream pop. If I hadn’t met them, I might have assumed that they were the sort of band who believed their own hype – and why wouldn’t they? Having sat down with Kip and Peggy earlier in the day I instantly realised that while they weren’t oblivious to the attention, they were unfettered by it. Letting the press get on with their excitable reactions, the band just want to play the music that they love.
Peggy – Definitely not, I just think about the bands that play music like us that we have always admired, and most of them were were not that comercially well known, and not always that critically received either, so playing the kind of music we play… we didn’t have our hopes up high. But we were really happy with the record though, we really enjoyed making it, but we had no sense that anything beyond us being happy would happen. I always liked bands that I discovered on my own, I wouldn’t hear them on commercial radio or MTV.
So you were expecting that the album would spread by word of mouth, and instead you were plunged straight into a media frenzy. Were you ready for this?
Peggy- It wasn’t the goal of the band. You know, “everyone is going to love us!” We were just friends that started playing music and this is the kind of music that we like and have bonded over. I think if we had set out to get commercial success we wouldn’t sound the way that we do.
Kip- Where we come from, our backrounds in music, there is not really a strong tradition of bands expecting good things to happen. Perhaps American bands are more self depricating (laugh) but there is this built in expectation that if you do something that you love, it might not be well received by others, but you’ll be happy because you will be proud of it.
Peggy – And you’re happy with the five people that appreciated it! (laughs) I feel like I was that person that would always appreciate a certain band and I would have been totally satisfied with that kind of response for us.
Kip- Growing up, most of the bands that I liked, I didn’t know anyone else who liked them.
Did that give it a special resonance – liking a band, and knowing that no-one else knows them?
Peggy – I wouldn’t admit that…… but I secretly enjoy it!
Kip – I would have liked to have known other people who were into the same bands as me growing up. I felt quite isolated that way; I would sit at home playing computer solitaire, listening to an album over and over again, but it’s cool now that we are travelling more and meeting people who had similar backrounds.
What is the Pains’ backround?
Peggy – I’ve been in bands since I was 13, but none of them that ever went on tour. This is the first band where I’ve got to travel.
Kip – I was in a similar situation, but none of them had graduated above playing in a basement. So this is very different from anything I’ve ever been in – one band that I was in, our goal was to play at this house we knew that had really cool house parties! (laughs)
Can you account for the reasons why the Pains have become so successful?
Kip – We started small, we were playing together for a while before anything happened, it’s easy to lose sight of that because once the album came out things changed a bit, but we were around for a couple of years and met with plenty of challenges, so it doesn’t feel to us like it is an overnight thing, but it may seem that way from an outsiders perspective. I’m grateful for the way that it turned out because it allowed us to mess up for a bit without other people watching! (laughs) We had a relatively decent period of obscurity while we refined what we do….. and also, the reason is luck!
Peggy – And being in the right place at the right time.
Peggy, Is it true that the band formed in part to play at your birthday party?
Peggy – Yes! I remember it was my birthday and I had only invited like, four people; because I only have four friends! (laughs).
Kip – It was at this big warehouse and it was basically an elaborate plot to try and get Manhattan Love Suicides to play, and so if we threw the party, we could play first and then we could say that we played with them. So we had a month to get ready.
It sounds like it was a natural way in which the band came together….
Kip- It was the best way. If the last seven months have taught us anything; we are always together, and if there were people that didn’t get along, it would be hellish, but we were friends for a long time before we picked up an instrument. This made the whole experience fun and much less stressful then for bands who get formed by putting ads in a paper saying ‘drummer needed’.
Peggy – The fact that we are friends and the fact that we have stayed friends is almost more lucky than anything else.
So there haven’t been any falling outs on tour then?
Peggy (emphatically) No!
Kip – This is our first experience of doing this, we don’t have a glut of expectations, we’re just appreciative of the opportunity and are excited by it all; and when you are excited and enjoying it, it’s hard to get upset about things.
Peggy – Touring can be really hard and gruelling, and I feel like if it were with any other people it would really suck, but it ends up being fun anyway.
What have been some highlights for you in the last few months?
Peggy – Playing Primavera was really amazing, that was the first big festival we ever played, and I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I don’t like crowds (laughs) so I thought, today might be weird or awkward, but it ended up being really life affirming and it was the biggest adrenalin rush ever.
Kip- ABC news showed up at our practice place to hear us play. The fellow who does the news is on TV saying (in deep, authoratative voice), “And now, a report from Brooklyn” (laughs), and him saying our band name on televsion… I sent that to my grandparents, I think that this was the moment where my family realised that even though they didn’t quite understand what was going on with us, we were doing something worthwhile.
Which country has had the best crowds at your gigs? Apart from Britain obviously!
Kip – Obviously!
Peggy – I thought Germany was really positive, we played three shows in Germany and they were really enthusiastic.
Kip – Sweden was pretty amazing, that country has a strong tradition of appreciating bands like ours and even though Swedes are normally really reserved, the enthusiasm we saw there predated even us having a record out – we had released our EP and if we had played in New York, maybe 40 people would have come, and we would know 37 of them, and then we went to Sweden and all of a sudden we were playing really big shows and I had no idea that a band like ours could find an audience like that. But most of the places that we have travelled to have been positive experiences.
You’ve got some more touring to do, and then what do you have planned?
Kip- We have an EP coming out this fall, we recorded four songs before we went to Europe in May, and after the tour we are going back to practicing and working on the new record. But every step of the process is exciting and I try not to think too far into the future, because then you miss out on what is happening in the present.
After this I get Kip and Peggy to take part in my game of Lucky Dip, which involves picking questions out of the bag (my handbag, actually) Peggy picks the “What is the first record that you ever brought?” and proudly tells me that it was Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”, and then with less confidence, quietly adds that a purchase of Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” was also made. “I was really into female performers at the time!” she cried. Kip gets the “What is on your rider?” question, and true to form, the down to earth bands requests are not unicorns, dwarfs and mounds of Class A’s, but bread, hummus, water and beer. ” We just need to make sure that we get fed around 5pm or we get a bit grumpy” Kip ventures, although I don’t think any explanation is needed when the sum contents of your rider can be placed in a Tesco’s 5 items or less basket.
“The Pains of Being Pure At Heart” is out now.
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