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Feb 26, 2009

These indie pop true believers are their own favorite new band. They might be yours as well.

By Michael Tedder

Despite their rising popularity and critical acclaim, the biggest fans of Brooklyn pop rockers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are the members of Brooklyn pop rockers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
This is because the members of the band—singer-guitarist Kip Berman, singer-keyboardist Peggy Wang, bassist Alex Naidus and drummer Kurt Feldman—went to great, well, pains, to design their ideal group.
“If I had a million songs on my computer,” says Berman, “I’d want to hear songs kind of like the songs that we’re writing and we’re playing.”

GREAT EXPECTATIONS
In between in-jokes and in-depth discussions of ultra-obscure early ’90s indie-pop bands at their bomb-shelter chic rehearsal studio, the band members expound upon the blueprint for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
They want to create loud, fuzzy pop songs wrapped in billowing waves of noise. But they also want to keep a sense of punk simplicity. At the same time, it is important that they sound “kinda wimpy,” explains Wang.
But there’s more: they want to be blistering in their assault, “but not, like, aggro,” Berman clarifies. And, he says, the sound needs to feel like the complete synthesis of all four members, with the deeply embedded vocals mixed in as “an extra layer and not the focal point.”
On top of all that, every song needs to make Wang want to play it ten times in a row at band practice. And if Berman can use the word “microfiche” in a lyric along with his custom-made, rainbow-colored guitar effects pedal, well, so much the better.
Subject matter for the Pains is also a matter of great specificity, as exemplified by “Everything with You,” the group’s sweetly yearning debut single.
“There are so many songs about love, but that song is about the purest form of like,” he says. “It really channels good feelings that aren’t like, ‘I want to take your clothes off.’ It’s more like, ‘I want to spend the day with you just doing everything.’ I like that about it. It feels very pure at heart.”

FAST START
Portland-born Berman and New Jersey-native Naidus worked at adjacent cubicles at their old office jobs, where Berman says, “we’d blast the same tunes to each other every day.”
Around the same time, Berman and New Orleans-native Wang met at an indie-rock dance party at the hip New York City venue and unofficial Pains base of operations, Cake Shop. 
The band’s first performance came one month prior to their official debut, opening for indie-punks Titus Andronicus at a birthday party for Wang held at a co-worker’s loft space.
“The ceilings were like 30 feet tall. It was huge,” says Wang. “I remember looking around after we played and was like, ‘it’s my birthday party, but I don’t know anyone here.’”
Even after just one month together, Nadius says the group “knew what we wanted to do. And the show was so fun. It was just like, this is the coolest thing ever, let’s keep doing it.”

STAYING PURE
The group put out a handful of vinyl singles for a number of small labels before recording their self-titled debut album last year, which they released on their new label, Slumberland Records.
Such was the purity of the initial Pure at Heart vision that Berman says he loved his band “even when we were super bad.”
But don’t mistake their enthusiasm for Kanye West-style egotism. According to Berman, it’s still “surprising to see anyone else even remotely care. It’s pretty nerdy music. It’s not stuff that’s cool.”
But recent rave reviews of their album from Stereogum, Pitchfork and The Village would indicate that lots of people are starting to more than just remotely care.
The band finds the praise especially gratifying because—ever the precise architects—they even crafted their knowingly love-it-or-hate-it moniker so that potential haters would know that this was a band that wears its pained heart on its sleeve.
“I just feel like if you’re really going to play music and write songs, you really want to stand behind it. I think our band name helps us do that, because our band isn’t, like, The Cool Guys,” Berman says. “It’s more like, we are who we are. Don’t be ashamed about it, and enjoy it.” 


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Insightful. Need trend analysis with several of the assumptions to verify. Do not doubt the projections though.

Steve Linsenmeyer
Mar 7, 2010