Following the release of their self-titled debut record The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart left glowing praise and blogger buzz in the wake of the mellow, guitar-based shoegaze romantic pop and garnered comparisons to greats like The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. The New York five-piece released their second album Belong on March 29 – a more polished take on the band’s indie-pop oeuvre with a slightly harder edge. Bass player Alex Naidus answered a few of our questions about working with Alan Moulder, touring with the sartorially exceptional Twin Shadow and celebrity spotting at Coachella. He also outs the band as “wussy” and “pretty square” but we know that really means “pretty awesome”.
The new album just came out and it’s been getting glowing reviews. Is that something your conscious of – the music world’s response? We were definitely curious and hopeful about the reaction, but mostly we’re just proud of the album we made. It’s certainly satisfying to see that people seem to like it — it means we can keep doing what we’re doing, living this weird dream of playing music for a living.
After putting out a really well-received debut (which you guys did) is there a pressure on the second album? You know what I mean – “the all-important follow up record” etc. I think because there were a lot of new songs already written by the time we were even thinking about a second album, it put more of the emphasis on refining and editing and toying around with what we had and less on “oh my god we have to change the history of music with these next three chords!” The process was honestly a lot of fun.
How did you end up working with Alan Moulder for ‘Belong’? He’s a legend! We’d heard that Alan thought well of our first album, but still thought it was a long shot to get him involved with album two. When Alan AND Flood (Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Nine Inch Nails) both seemed like they were coming on board, we basically didn’t believe it until we were sitting down at a bar in New York with Flood talking about a recording schedule. Both of those guys are not only legendary, but also have produced things that have influenced us heavily, so it felt like a dream come true from day one in the studio.
Did they have a big impact on how the record ended up sounding and how the band sounds on it compared to your other releases? Both Flood and Alan both had big impacts on the record. We did have an idea, generally, for how we wanted this record to sound compared to the first one, but the process of getting there (experimenting with tempos, keys, sonics, textures, arrangements) with the two of them was eye opening. It wasn’t just about expert knob twiddling. Although they can knob twiddle with the best of them, for sure.
If you had to describe ‘Belong’ in 10 words to someone who isn’t familiar with your music what would you say? Loud and wussy pop songs about feelings.
You just played Coachella. Try to describe what it’s like having thousands of people looking at you from up on stage. Surreal and amazing. It was almost more mind-spinning to watch other bands from the side of stage, ’cause once I’m up there I try to focus on performing well rather than constantly soaking in the moment of “oh wow, five thousand people!” Then I’d probably screw up a lot — and have a pretty silly look on my face at that.
Did you get to meet anyone (at Coachella) you were particularly stoked about? – Do you ever have big ‘fan moments’ with anyone? Mostly I just gawked at people from afar. I saw Paul McCartney and Kelly Osborne. I guess a lot of people saw Danny Devito? For most of Coachella, I wandered around with other Pains or friends seeing snippets of other bands. Occasionally someone would introduce themselves and say they enjoyed our set, which was really sweet. Then we’d just turn around and watch Erykah Badu together.
Alternately, have you had any strange moments with POBPAH fans, such as weird expressions of devotion or gifts? In Japan, someone gave us a hand-drawn portrait where we all look like anime characters. That’s hanging on my fridge right now, it’s pretty amazing. I think someone gave Peggy a doll once. Peggy gets the most gifts, definitely.
You’re doing a bunch of dates with Twin Shadow who seem like cool cats. What are they like to tour with? They are the coolest. They have style for days — not everyone can pull off mesh tank tops five days a week, but somehow they make it work. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re an incredible live band. One thing I will say is that they’ve continually skirted my challenge of a Pains vs. Twin Shadow basketball game. I think they’re scared of getting embarrassed.
Style for days:
You’ve got so much touring this year. How do you all stay relaxed or entertained while you’re on the road? I do a lot of crossword puzzles. In general, we’re pretty square compared to most people’s conceptions of “rock and rollers,” so staying relaxed and entertained isn’t too tough of a task. Also, since we’ve been touring heavily for the better part of two years, we have infinite inside jokes — pretty much our own language, really. That keeps things fun and interesting.
The “Heart in Your Heartbreak” video is pretty awesome. Can you tell me a little bit about the concept? For a long time Peggy has wanted to make a video in a Guitar Center-esque shop because it was such a formative experience for all of us growing up. Her idea to have us play stereotypical guitar store employees was pretty inspired, I think. If it seemed like the video was a lot of fun to make, that’s because it was.
When are you planning to head back to Australia? Not sure of that but hopefully soon. We had a great time when we came over last, so we’re all looking forward to getting back. And if we can come over in our winter/your summer, all the better!
Any final words? Thanks a lot and hopefully see ya soon, Australia!
Belong is out now through Slumberland Records.