THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART: WE HAD A WHITE CASTLE FOOD ORGY

April 1st, 2009 | Interviews

Download: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart “Come Saturday”

[audio:http://larecord.com/audio/pains-comesaturday.mp3]

(from the self-titled album on Slumberland)

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart shrink fearfully from stop-motion horror monsters and also likely prefer gamboling to gambling. They spend all their money on greasy cheeseburgers and are said to play very loud. Tonight will be their first-ever show in Los Angeles. This interview by Chris Ziegler.

Why are you afraid of roller coasters?
Kip Berman (guitar/vocals): I’m afraid of roller coasters. I’m afraid of a lot of things. Not in a bad way. I don’t like any kind of physical—I don’t like thrills. Why would you wanna watch a thriller movie? I like some things like Argento but the idea of just these horror scare-you-something-gonna-jump-out-of-the-dark—I don’t like that. I don’t understand why people would wanna experience that. I don’t like when people drive recklessly. I don’t like flying.
Do you get thrills elsewhere? From gentlemanly things?
My favorite TV show is Beavis and Butthead and my favorite movie is Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. I like the happy movies. Or movies about friends. Starting a band. Wyld Stallyns.
Is the story of Pains actually the same story as Wyld Stallyns?
It’s like really—seriously—I think about it. Friends who can’t really play their instruments but are really passionate about music and their songs cause world peace and align the planets and bring mankind into harmony, but they also get to like date medieval babes. It’s a really happy story.
And they get an ‘A’—they have academic success as well.
If you brought Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Napoleon—I thought Joan of Arc was really hot.
That was Jane Wiedlin! From the Go-Go’s!
I don’t know who played the characters. But I think that project—I mean, the guys right before them were just like, ‘San Dimas rules.’ And Bill and Ted worked really hard on that project. They could have just been a band, but they took care of their responsibilities first and that allowed them to go on to music and create the future.
You took a lot of life lessons from this movie.
I really like the movie a lot.
What kind of mental picture do you have of L.A. since this is your first time visiting?
I feel like everyone’s pretty and blonde and there’s palm trees and they drive a lot.
So far you’re completely correct.
It’s a stereotype but it’s not necessarily a bad stereotype. I like places that are very—there needs to be places like L.A. and Las Vegas. I really like the Kardashians! I watched the first season pretty regularly. I don’t have cable but I can watch it at my mom’s. It’s cool when there are places that are not like everywhere else.
Do you feel like you’re going on a field trip every time you go on tour?
Oh, definitely. I think of it like a road trip with your friends. You get in a car with your best friends and go places and get to play music. Even when we were like driving through the south and breaking down twice and like two people would be at our shows, we were still having fun. And enjoying the time we spent together. My best friends are my bandmates.
Is it true you give each other wet willies in the tour van?
Dan gave me a wet willie right when we were leaving band practice.
Are you literally still wet from the wet willie you received before this interview?
The thing is people know I’m a really terrible driver, so they don’t give me a wet willie when I’m driving. But when we hang out, we play Boggle. It’s just our tour behavior. You could have beef jerky for lunch if you wanted to! There’s something about being on the road and eating beef jerky that makes you feel almost like what a man would feel like.
Like Davy Crockett.
Especially if you’re going out west. It’ll be really fun to come to L.A.
You played thirteen shows at SXSW this year—maybe next year you could do 26?
It could be like an iron-man competition.
You and Vivian Girls could pull a jetliner across Austin International Airport with your teeth.
They’d probably be better than we were. They’re tough. They have more tattoos. We have zero tattoos. You just look at Kathy’s left arm. There’s a cool hamburger on one. They’re definitely more rock ‘n’ roll.
If they’re ever picking on you, you just come to me.
They’re super-super-sweet.
I know Peggy was a regional spelling champion—how about the rest of you?
I don’t how I got this, but I was the 6th grade chess champion. I’m not good at chess at all, but I think I got lucky. Alex played baseball. He wasn’t like cool enough for the kids to like him, but he was decent and he loved playing baseball. I liked sports—I wanted to play football growing up but my mom would never let me.
That could have changed the whole band.
Now looking back, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I shouldn’t have played football.’
The Sparks guys both played football.
That band’s amazing! They’re geniuses. Flat-out geniuses. On a totally different level. Me and Alex like to watch football.
Crack open some beers?
Totally! A total bro-down. It’s really fun. All day you can watch football.
What happened at your last food orgy?
That’s a really crucial part of our identity! We go back and forth. I’m really into nachos and Mexican food. In New York, you can get food delivered anytime, usually. What genrally happens—oh, we had a White Castle food orgy the other day! I live with Kurt the drummer and we’re walking distance of a White Castle. It was so much fun. We had all these burgers and fries and onion rings. And I like watching him play video games because he’s really good at them, and I get scared—I get too scared to defeat video games because they get dark and freaky. And I can only watch movies with happy endings. But we had the food orgy, and he played God Of War 2
Does that have a happy ending?
It’s a cliffhanger that sets you up for God Of War 3. But it’s really rendered beautifully. I bought him the game so I could watch him play it. I can concentrate on eating the burgers and he had to figure out all these puzzles. I had the better deal. Burgering out—going between a cheeseburger and a hamburger.
How many burgers have you eaten in one sitting?
After a show, you’d get like $60, and that doesn’t go very far—but it goes really far in terms of greasy food. Rather than hoard it and save it for a rainy day, you can spend it all—and feel like you’ve accomplished something. You know how some bands, right after they get paid they buy drugs? It’s junk food for us.
How awkward were you back in high school?
I would just like never get the girl, you know? I was kind of a dork. I wasn’t a dork in a cool way—I was just a dork. I had like a few friends and I hung out with them all the time. It wasn’t like the overly romanticized notion of what being a young teenager—we didn’t take drugs, we didn’t smoke. I wasn’t even cool enough to do that stuff.
Did you freak out when you first heard Jonathan Richman?
I love him a lot—he’s an artist I like a lot. But by the time I heard him, I was older—more the time around college and a little more self-confident. But it was really enlightening. Same thing with Beat Happening, too. Which tapped in to like a similar—celebrating what you are. Making it cool to be who yourself. If there’s a moral to the story, it’s don’t try and be something you’re not. Because you’re never gonna be compelling. I’m really excited about Deerhunter—I think Bradford’s a very genuine person. Very honest. He doesn’t just say what he’s supposed to say. He’s very not afraid to be who he is. It may be off-putting to some people but he’s a completely interesting artist and person. I think that’s important. There’s a lot of people who can be smart but I respond more to people who can—you know, emotionally honest.
Are you the people you seem to be in your songs?
I was thinking about this before—so much of life and our lives and the music are pretty much identical. There are songs about us. We don’t change things to try and be cool. I don’t know how to explain—it’s really hard to evaluate your own recordings but what I really love about them it is kinda sounds like us. It sounds like Alex and Peggy and Kurt. I don’t think there’s any kind of artifice. It’s just pop music. There’s people who have better vocabularies than I do and I appreciate the songwriting—Colin Meloy is an example—but I guess I respond… I like songs that are honest and feel true.
What do people talk to you about when they talk to you? What do they try to connect with?
We had all these teenage boys who were super-psyched on Pains and they were all like, ‘I had the exact same teenage experience.’ ‘We just hang out at diners with a few friends in the suburbs and we don’t ever do anything cool but we really like your music!’ And that’s totally my life. It made me feel my experience wasn’t unique to me—a lot of people have the same coming-of-age experiences that aren’t classically romanticized. They just become sort of like decent human beings who don’t wanna piss off their parents too much—it’s negotiating between not trying to be like a total fuck-up but trying to like grow up, too.
That is Jonathan Richman stuff. ‘I love my parents and I love the old world.’
His story is really interesting because he went to the heart of decadence. I mean—I don’t know him, but he was there in the ‘60s in Warhol’s New York—
—slept on Lou Reed’s couch?
Literally like the most visible icon of New York decadence—and he was just a decent guy who really liked the music. And they accepted him. It wasn’t like, ‘You’re too square to hang out with us.’ He was really enthusiastic and sincere. And he found a way of channeling that music he experience with the Velvets into his own songwriting, which was completely revolutionary in a different way. I almost love that story even more the songs themselves. Obviously I never got to do anything that cool in my life, like hang out with the Velvet Underground.
You got to hang out with the Pastels.
I met him once! I don’t think that was a total epic bro-down. We were literally dressed the exact same way. It was kind of embarrassing.
James Brooks once said ‘pop culture is designed to make millions of people less alone.’ What do you think?
I haven’t thought of our music—I think of it as pop, but I never thought anyone would like it. We were content if like twelve people were down with it. But if people can get an emotional relationship with it, it’s way better. We just want to be the kind of band you would have loved at seventeen ourselves. Obviously, we want to be memorable and not deliberately obtuse or standoffish—we’re not trying to alienate people. I don’t know how to describe it—we have a really high respect for pop music, but anyone that reaches the level of Elton John that’s going to cross generational line—like music I get my mom for her birthday—
Like what?
She loves Leonard Cohen. Her favorite of all time. But I gave her a bunch of records I thought she would like. Like Arthur & Yu. It came out on Sub Pop—it’s like really good Neil Young kind of folk-y but Britpoppy. My mom listens to stuff like the Magnetic Fields. I got her the Vampire Weekend album—she was into it, but not as into it as the Arthur & Yu.
What decimal rating did she give it?
I think she really enjoyed it and appreciated she was getting to hear a band she heard so much about.
She seems cool—do you have any songs about her?
My mom’s really cool. It’s bad because you realize you’re from a generation that won’t be as cool as your mom. My mom ran away from home when she was 16 and did all this very bohemian rebellion, but I was always too scared.
Do you think she’ll write a song about you?
She hasn’t yet. Are there songs about my mom? I don’t know. It sounds kind of inappropriate. I’ve even played her the Pastels and she was kinda into it. We even went to Leonard Cohen together and she was so into it! But then I’ll be listening to Scott Walker and she’ll be like, ‘This is kind of show tunes.’ ‘No, mom, it’s DARK show tunes! DARK! He was a crazy genius!’ She can pretend to like indie rock a little bit but when it comes down to it, it’s these talented singers with beautiful voices. My other roommates’ mom was listening to NPR and they were reviewing the new U2 album and then the Pains album, and she ordered it off of Amazon—but then she got the LP by mistake. I was like, ‘I would have given your mom a CD dude—you should have just asked.’
What kind of dad would you be?
I don’t know—that’s really scary. I was too scared to be a rebellious teenager. I can’t even imagine that level. Owning a dog is scary to me.
Did you try fish?
If you want a pet, there’s that fluffy companion—you wanna pet it. A lot. My mom just got a dog so I can go visit.
So you have access to a dog.
I like other people’s pets. OPP. I like the petting part but I’m still squeamish about picking up poop.
Does this mean you’re only willing to enter in relationships that you can set your own terms for?
I definitely wouldn’t extrapolate anything from my unwillingness to pick up poop. I think it’s kind of a universal. Most people wouldn’t wanna pick up poop. So I negotiate that—‘Do I really want a St. Bernard?’
Some relationships are entirely founded on picking up poop.
Yeah. Maybe someday I’ll have a pet.

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART WITH WHITE DENIM AT CLUB NME ON WED., APR. 1, AT SPACELAND, 1717 SILVERLAKE BLVD., SILVERLAKE. 9 PM / $10 / 21+. CLUBSPACELAND.COM.