I’ve written fifty songs since ‘Belong’ came out… this is our most candid and emotionally complete record.
Since their 2009 self-titled debut, followed by their blinding sophomore offering ‘Belong’, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have been a firm favourite at BLM Towers. Rhys dropped frontman Kip Berman a line to talk about their shimmering third helping ‘Days Of Abandon’.
So ‘Days Of Abandon’ is out this month, how did it come together?
Well, these last three years, I’ve probably written fifty songs since ‘Belong’ came out. I’ve got this belief that everything I write is bad; you just have to write a lot and the good ones will emerge. I kind of write as much as I can, then reduce it, reduce it, reduce it and keep what I think are the best tracks. Then I’ll take them to the band and work out parts. We went and recorded last summer in Brooklyn with Andy Savours at my friend’s recording studio; that was really fun. Andy’s a great guy, the last project he worked on was the new My Bloody Valentine, so it was a fine thing to work with him. I’m really excited about the new record.
You’ve said you wanted something different out of the record this time?
Well, I think each time we do something we don’t want to go into it trying to make the same thing we did before. ‘Belong’ was a very different record to our debut and, likewise, I don’t think we wanted to make an album now that just sounds like something we did years ago. We wanted it to be powerful, full of life and exuberant, but to do that in ways that weren’t simply about piling on more electric guitar overdubs, you know? ‘Belong’ was a more heavy album but ‘Days Of Abandon’ is more bouncy and fun, though lyrically I think this album is heavier.
So the material comes from darker places?
I wouldn’t say that they were the darkest of places, there’s a lot worse things in life than what this album’s about. It wasn’t written in a refugee camp if you know what I’m saying. As a band it’s our most candid and emotionally complete record in terms of the subject matter.
Where did the title come from?
Well it’s based vaguely on an Italian novel by Elena Ferrante called ‘The Days Of Abandonment’, but for me the term ‘abandon’ has a lot more semantic possibilities. Rightly so, if people picked up an album called ‘The Days Of Abandonment’ they’d think it would be the most depressing collection of songs imaginable. So we’ve got to trick them into thinking that’s not the case. Abandon can be read as a sense of exhilaration or joy or just absolute freedom, but it can also be understood as being alone or isolated. I think this seems to run really strongly through the record.
It’s really strong visually as well, where did the artwork come from?
Thank you, the artists name is Lee Jinju, she’s a South Korean artist; I came across her work a few years ago and really admired her painting. That work in-particular stood out but all of her pieces are incredibly detailed and extraordinary. I think what I love about this piece is that it initially seems very classically composed, one woman asleep and the other playing a clarinet or recorder, but as you look closer there are all these challenging details — whether it’s the cracked eggs, or the Virgin Mary, or the spilled drinks. Art is something I spend a long time thinking about, it’s a big part of music. Holding the album artwork or seeing it on the screen, all of that shapes how I feel about the record.
We probably sound more like a Bristol band than a New York band. You’re not limited in the sounds you hear anymore, you can choose your own adventure and I think that’s a great thing.
Back when you were coming through Myspace was quite key in getting the band noticed, how important do you think that stuff is for acts these days?
Yes, I think technology is a great thing. The idea that people can hear your music without living in the same town as you, I think that’s awesome. I feel so grateful that when we first started people in far away places like Sweden or England or even Asia would be writing to us saying how much they liked our songs. That was the coolest thing and I don’t think that would have been possible even ten years ago for a band like ours; you’d have to hand a demo tape to a guy in LA with a ponytail, get signed, record and whatever else. It’s a better world for musicians now that you can have people hear what you do without there being a lot of middlemen in that process. I’m always grateful that we exist within an interim where those technologies are available.
Bands often get lumped into groups depending on where they come from, do you think your music carries the influence of Brooklyn?
I don’t think our record sounds particularly indebted to the place it was recorded in. The thing about Brooklyn or New York in general is that people come from all over. I’d imagine the same could be said for Berlin, or London, or any major city; most people who think they’re from New York all moved there from somewhere else. I think there’s always more of a spirit than a quality to it. We live in the same place but when you think about gritty urban tales of a debauched rock and roll life, I’m not sure our band is the first that comes to mind. We probably sound more like a Bristol band than a New York band, you’re not limited in the sounds you hear anymore, you can choose your own adventure and I think that’s a great thing.
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