Popular Mechanics for the Heartbroken: The Pains o...

Popular Mechanics for the Heartbroken: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kip Berman

Kip Berman was upset that he didn’t get to eat at Jollibee. The night of their concert here in Manila, Kip said he wanted to eat at Jollibee, which he referred to as an ‘amazing fast food restaurant.’ “I need to go to Jolibee. They opened one in New York [in Brooklyn]. It was a big deal. I see it everywhere here,” Kip gushes. But a day later, Kip dishearteningly tweeted that he didn’t get to eat at Jollibee. We would have thrown him a Jollibee party, to be honest. Complete with the creepy mascots and party hats.

But it’s not the only thing that Kip was excited about. Like the rest of the band, he was ecstatic about playing here. The night prior to their Manila show, the folks at Future X threw a party for them where they go to hang out with some bands. “I didn’t think I would be playing songs in the Philippines when I was in high school! It’s just pretty mind blowing and awesome,” he shares.

Coming from a slightly busted Laneway set (more on that later), The Pains of Being Pure at Heart killed their Manila gig, much to the indie-pop fizzing girls and boys that trooped to Hard Rock Cafe that night.

Well finally, some legit talent gracing our third world shores. 80s kitsch to the left, please.


Tell us about the story behind the name of the band

It’s taken from a short story of a friend of mine wrote. I like the title of it and I decided to use it as our band name. The book itself is unpublished. The moral of the story is like aspiring for worldly power and success isn’t the point of life and you should celebrate the time that you’re young with your friends and you can travel and just have a good experience. I think that’s a pretty good moral for a band because so much of your life is just caught up in travelling from one place to the next and we’re all just enjoying that experience as much as we can, It’s not like being in a band can make you super famous.

How was it like touring with other bands during Laneway?

It’s actually pretty cool to play at Laneway because there’s so many bands in the bill that I like. And the nature of the festival was the same bands for eight shows in a row and you get to spend two weeks  with these bands instead of like a day or an hour. It gave me an opportunity to get to know some people. It was little bit more than the superficial like “Oh, good show man!” You’re all interacting and you get to know people and learn their stories and how their bands work, who wrote the songs. A lot of the bands that we play with are like you in a way; they struggle, and they have hard times but at the end of the day they love what they do and you get to see that.

Based on the name of your band, was it a conscious decision to write about songs on heartbreak and love?

The real story is that I was in a band when I was in Portland and I wanted to name one of our songs “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart” and the singer of the band was like “No, we’re gonna call it ‘Born to Run’ instead. Kind of like ‘Lust for Life’ by Girls but it’s not actually like ‘Lust for Life’ [by Iggy Pop].  But that band broke up and I thought “Now I can actually do what I want. Now I can have my true vision realized!” so we named the goddamned band with the ridiculous name and not just one song! But we actually have a song  called ‘The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.”

I don’t know if I was like ‘Oh, this is the name that totally represents the kind of songs that I write.” It wasn’t very self conscious. I chose the name and I write songs. Maybe the reasons I chose the name are the reasons I write the songs but it’s never exquisitely thought out.

You had a technical difficulty during your Laneway set. How did you guys deal with it?

We had a very sad band meeting after that (laughs). We tried to figure out how it will never happen again because it was awkward and sad. So many people travelled so far to see the festival . At Future X, [we found out] half the people there had gone to Singapore to see us. It’s first time we’re in this part of the world basically and all these people that like our band bought plane tickets and flew and made a huge excursion to see us.  So to have something like that happen is so disappointing and I think the rest of the set went fine afterwards. I hope people enjoyed it .

We really wanted to put on a really good show for all the people that came and supported us. We have an expression called ‘power through” [which means] when things go wrong, if you let it visibly affect it too much it makes it worse. You should be like “ Well, this sucks. Lets play the rest of our song.” It ended up being okay and I’m glad that we got the chance to play in Manila and also to travel to a lot places here in the region. So if people had some weird experience seeing us at laneway, hopefully we’ll be able to redeem ourselves. It’s sort of like the 2008 US Olympic Basketball, the ‘Redeem Team’, that’s sort of like our motto now on the rest of these tour.

And stuff like that happens! There was electricity, a million microphones, guitars, and a PA, stuff breaks, stuff goes wrong. It also happens to other bands.

How do you guys feel about playing in this part of Asia?

Some bands have been lucky enough to tour here but it’s pretty rare. I was just speaking to the promoters [Kindassault] and they put on an international show just like ours like once in every couple of months or so. It’s not easy to make it happen so we’re really grateful that we get to play not only in the Philippines but also the rest of Southeast Asia where bands don’t typically get to travel.

I know Kings of Convenience came as well as the Whitest Boy Alive. I know Camera Obscura got to play in Indonesia but for the most part, for bands on our level, five years ago we wouldn’t be able to do this. Maybe it’s because of the internet it’s more popular or more people are aware of this kind of music now but we’re just really psyched we got to do this.

Are you guys familiar with some Filipino bands?

Yeah, you seem to have a pretty good indie pop tradition here like Moscow Olympics. That’s the band I’m most familiar with. Last night at future we met the Bee Eyes and they‘re cool guys, obviously a great band and Alex bonded with them. We also met Indonesian bandsand we’re going to play with them when we get to Indonesia. It’s really cool to experience bands that wont normally get an international following or get their music heard in America.

How does it feel like working under a great label like Slumberland Records?

It’s a legendary label for a good reason. They made the records that I grew up listening to. I just really love their aesthetic of indie pop that’s more noisy, aggressive and rambunctious. On our first record, Archie Moore, who was the guitarist for Velocity Girl, mixed the record, he made it sound like what we wanted it to be. He knew that sound perfectly.

As for the next record we need to take a [new] band photo first most of all.  I don’t why it’s so hard to get the four of us in a room and take a damn picture. I’m kind of tired seeing this (refers to this photo) hat that Peggy is wearing in this picture. It’s followed us around the world! If only we knew that we’d be seeing this picture for four years, I would have worn a better sweater or something.

As for the sound, it’ll be interesting because the last that we did was heavy guitar, alternative rock sound which love and I think in many ways it’s more a continuation of our first record but still different. Hopefully we’ll find new ways of doing the same thing so I hope we’ll figure out how to do that.

I’ve been writing some songs but until you really go home after the tour is over it’s hard. When you’re on tour, you think about the tour and when you’re home you daydream about making the third album. We already got the sophomore slump out of the way so that’s good. So hopefully we’ll make this one a good one.

How do bad reviews affect you?

It’s interesting because it makes you realize the things . It sort of reinforces your beliefs and it gives you a really good way of figuring what you really think when people ask you. It kindles the fire. It forces you to grow and say what you really believe.

Since you guys have a very 90s sound, what do you think are some of the best things from that era?

It’s hard to think of the decade in totality. I remember people used to be like “80s music sucks!” or whatever. You mean Cocteau Twins, Black Flag, REM or Husker Du, or The Replacements? In the 90s in America, things we hated in the 90s were SUVs. The only thing that made them go away were gas prices.

There’s this show in MTV called ‘120 Minutes’ that played underground music videos and now you can watch anything on YouTube. Back then music videos made you think “Oh wow I didn’t know this band I like made music videos.” For an underground stuff that wasn’t on MTV like a Pavement music video that was gold. I also played a lot of Nintendo. The new stuff’s almost too complicated. I play xBox but usually I play two games. I play Mass Effect.

Bands had this alternative rock sound. There would be bands that were on major labels making big expensive records with producers but they were alternative bands. That was cool, a sort of repurposed machinery of 80s rock to 90s sound. A band like Nirvana represented everything about underground but they were on Geffen. Does that make them less underground? Bands like Weezer, there wasn’t even a word to describe what they were. They had indie values. I love them. I love Nirvana and Sonic Youth, too, who was also in Geffen. back then, people would say when you’re a major label that you’re not real and you’re selling out. But the greatest bands of the era were on major labels. Radiohead was on EMI. These bands made ambitious, big sounding rock records.

And Taco Bell! I ate Taco Bell a lot. I think that’s just what I did. There’s still Taco Bell, but there’s something about 90s Taco Bell, man.[/three_fourth_last]
Photography by Iya Forbes. Click here for more photos from their show in Manila.

Some of my favorite things are beef jerky, bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, pistachios (aka the nut of the gods), my husband's face, and coffee.