Kip Berman is heart and soul of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. The band’s fourth studio album is just about to be released and Kip is currently touring the world, having just recently left Europe after a bunch of gigs, including a beautiful night at Oslo, London, where we had such a great night (read here!). We had the pleasure to have a chat with Kip, and talk through his career, his life, his dreams and that little miracle – called fatherhood – that is changing the angle he sees the world from.

I would like to start this interview with a presentation of your new album. ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ follows up to ‘Days of Abandon’ and it looks like three years have changed quite a lot of your life. Especially with the arrive of your daughter…
“Well, thank you for taking the time to talk, first of all. I think it’s good things change in life, or else you’d have a bunch of 30-year-old guys writing about being teenagers, and that would fee patronizing and wrong. Kids are intelligent and know when they’re being pandered to – and how fake that is. I’ve always just written songs about how I feel, the things I’m experiencing, the things that are incapable of being expressed any other way.”

That’s actually a good point. So how all of the above resonates with the forthcoming ‘The Echo Of Pleasure’?
“We recorded this album in January of 2016 in Brooklyn, with my friend Andy Savours who engineered/produced and mixed it. My wife was six months pregnant, David Bowie had died the second day of tracking – and I was filled with the anxiety of existing between two worlds, two stages of life. With my daughter about to be born, there was a lot that I had to give up – but I wanted to hold on to the important things. It’s actually a good thing to cut away the superficial facets of “the music scene”. At the time, I didn’t really know that, maybe I was just worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep doing the thing I loved – but now, it’s almost the opposite. My music would have grown stale after ‘Days Of Abandon’ – it would have been just doing an impersonation of a previous version of myself, rather than embracing a new life.”
“To me, ‘The Echo Of Pleasure’ is the near-symmetry of love. It’s the reflection back and forth, modulating over time, of two people who are together”
The title itself suggests some sort of relaxed feelings. What does the echo of pleasure mean to you?
“To me, ‘The Echo Of Pleasure’ is the near-symmetry of love. It’s the reflection back and forth, modulating over time, of two people who are together. It’s not a mirror – but a perpetual answering and asking. When one person is absent that echo ceases or, as I sing on the song itself, ‘fades into these silent days’. In that sense, remembering is a kind of echo, each instance slightly less vivid than the one before.”

The lead single ‘Anymore’ sounds to me smooth and honest at the same time. I would describe it as a sweet message of love. What’s behind this track and its atmospheres?

“Perhaps it’s a test of the listener’s vantage point, like an audio Rorschach test. Does ‘I wanted to die with you’ mean you want to spend the entirety of your life with someone, or that the time you spend with that person makes you want to die. To me, at least, it’s about a love that is extreme in its wonder and terror.”

Your discography seems to draw some sort of path. I’ve been listening to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart since the early days and I can say you’re one of those indie bands I’ve grown up with. You have often been compared to the likes of giants like Ride and The Jesus And Mary Chain, so I was wondering whether you still feel inspired by that old wave of shoegaze and dream-pop or do you feel like your songwriting has changed with time?
“I think when we were starting out, we were really fixated on a particular sort of song – like the early ‘Sunny Sundae Smile’ EP of My Bloody Valentine, or Yo La Tengo’s ‘Painful’, or again The Pastels ‘Sittin’ Pretty’. But even by ‘Belong’ – our second record – it seemed sort of redundant to try to keep writing to impress Scottish teenagers in 1989. I guess there was a sense of wonder while making ‘Belong’, and the sound had to capture the euphoria and unreality that the band was experiencing after our first record came out. We were touring and doing all these things we never in a million years thought we’d get to do…”

What happened, then?
“Well, with ‘Days Of Abandon’, I wrote that when a lot of the people that had played with me from the start (or in Kurt’s case, at least the first record) had left, were leaving, or on the verge of leaving. A short, but meaningful relationship I was in at the time had ended since ‘Belong’ had come out. It was an album about loss and absence, though there was still hope in songs like ‘Simps and Sure’ and ‘Kelly’. But stuff like ‘Art Smock’ was pretty much the 2 years between Belong in 2 minutes, and ‘Beautiful You’, ‘Life After Life’, ‘Coral and Gold’, ‘Eurydice’ – those were all songs of being left or leaving things behind. I wanted a sound language that was different than ‘Belong’, one of simplicity and grace, the opposite of stadiums. I was sad that it took us so much stuff to play a show and I wanted music that was powerful without having to rely on so much power. I have no idea how any of that relates to dream-pop or shoegaze, and I think that’s exactly the point. When I started, I wanted our music to sound just like the music we loved, but as time passed, I just wanted to make songs that were about the life we knew in the moment we knew it.”

Just out of curiosity, I’ve read you originally started playing with your best friends at… a party. Did it all started just for fun or do you recall now you had some inkling of being a band before that?
“When I moved to New York, I wrote some songs like ‘This Love is Fucking Right!’, ‘Hey Paul’, ‘Orchard of My Eye’ and ‘Doing All The Things That Wouldn’t Make Your Parents Proud’, ‘Contender’ – and a few more that we never recorded. I invited my friend Alex to come over and play them with me and, soon after, I asked Peggy too. She and I both loved this band, The Manhattan Love Suicides, from Leeds. They were coming to America to play some shows, so we told them to cancel one of their New York shows and we’d throw a party that would be even better – it was Peggy’s birthday, and that way we could open for them. We asked Titus Andronicus to play too, as I was a big fan of theirs. This was March 2007. It was a good party, we played 5 songs in 10 minutes, and I think the titles were longer than the set. Titus Andronicus blew up my bass amp (it actually caught fire I think…) when they decided to play Bulls on Parade. It was cool. I loved them more than my bass amp!”
“I want to let my daughter know that it’s important to do things of worth with your life, even if they seem unlikely”
Back to… today, The Pains are celebrating their 10th birthday this year and ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ – you have recently stated – might also be the last record. Are you going to be a full-time dad or will you still be writing new music? What can you see on the horizon for yourself as an artist?
“I want to let her [my daughter] know that it’s important to do things of worth with your life, even if they seem unlikely. I don’t know if I’ll be able to tour as much, but If anything I feel more motivated than ever to try to do great things – not for my own ego but to show her that her dad is somebody, that he’s doing better than he did before. And I’m not even talking in this money way, but to show her that her life makes my life better, that she opens up more inspiration and possibility. I don’t want her to see some lazy has-been chilling on the couch, sorting out the liner notes to re-issues. However, it’s also important for me to be home with her as much as possible because no amount of artistic success (whatever that means) is more important than being with her. I will be happiest when this tour is over and we can all be together again.”

Is there a track, out of your production, you would never leave out of a setlist when playing live? Actually, you can pick three.
“Definitely ‘Belong’, ‘Young Adult Friction’ and ‘Everything With You’.”
“I love Lorde. She’s different, she’s brilliant and she’s the kind of artist that makes you realize everything you’ve done isn’t good enough, but also makes you want to do better”
There’s plenty of interesting acts out there. Do you have anything currently in repeat among your records?

“I’m actually not one of those full-throated “poptimist” types (though there is much in the worldview I agree with) – but I love Lorde. She’s different, she’s brilliant and she’s the kind of artist that makes you realize everything you’ve done isn’t good enough, but also makes you want to do better. I’m consistently amazed by the music she makes, the person she is, and the confidence she possesses – and small vulnerabilities she reveals. Her music is moving in a way I don’t often feel. I kind of just want to shake her hand, i know that sounds silly. She’s thoroughly a wonder, and she doesn’t need me to say that – she is herself, and that’s a wonderful thing to be. The new Beach Fossils record is good too. Anton who used to play drums in our band played drums on it – and also, the new Frankie Rose record (we’re on tour with her) should be good when it’s released later this summer. The songs she is playing live from it are wonderful.”

I often think about your name, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, as something inevitably modern still nowadays. We live uncertain times and that phrase, taken from the book that inspired your band’s name, “Keep on your path, even when cold. Soon knowledge and peace will unfold”, still sounds to me like a wish and at the same time an inspiration. Is it the same for you?

Thank you so much for your time, Kip. I’m looking forward to listening to your new album! 
“Thank you for the kind words and taking the time to speak to me.”
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