PEARL HARBOR: TIME IS THE ONLY JUDGE
Pearl Harbor is Piper and sister Skyler on guitar with Cody on bass and Cole from Haunted Graffiti at the boards for their new EP Something About the Chaparrals. If there ever appears a midnight rainbow between Birmingham and Maui, they will calmly accept it as a sign acknowledging their place and presence in the universe. This interview by Chris Ziegler.
Tell me about the morning you quit going to high school.
Piper (keys/sound collage/bass): It was good. I think I got really stoned with my friend and I never looked back except for now I’m like, ‘That was a stupid idea.’
Do you remember the moment when you saw the school bus go by the window?
Yeah—freedom. Freedom for sure. Then you grow up and you’re not sixteen anymore—‘Oh, so that’s why people tell you to stick with it.’ You live and learn.
Are you saying that because you’re out digging ditches all day?
I feel like my life has been one consecutive ditch-digging after another.
What’s the coolest thing you ever found in a hole in the ground?
I don’t know. I mean—do you think we could ask questions that maybe pertain a little bit more to the band? I feel like I’m just going to babble if I keep getting inundated with metaphorical questions because I just smoked all this weed so I’m like really high.
Don’t fight it.
I’m not! It’s hard to get deep with someone you’re just talking to for the first time.
What’s your favorite of all your private-press LPs?
Leland’s fucking awesome. I like a lot of things. I like a lot of bands. I mean, it’s hard to get specific. Lately though I’ve been getting into some pretty crazy Eastern Bloc new wave. A bunch of new wave bands came out right around the time the USSR dissolved. There were a lot of bands that clearly had a lot to sing about and one of them that’s really cool is this band Kino. This guy Viktor Tsoi—he’s an actor and a rad tough Russian new wave guy. One thing that I’ve noticed is that there is a really heavy reggae/dub influence on a lot of the music. It’s really budget and the best sound ever because Russia is like the budget post-apocalyptic version of the United States so the art that comes out of it is very similar in that way. At least the music.
Wasn’t making rock music actually a crime in the USSR?
Totally. These records were definitely not allowed at the time that they were made and that’s the other thing that makes it really cool. They were never really accessible at the time. If you go on YouTube you can type in ‘Russian new wave’ and there’s this weird documentary that some chick did back in the ‘80s. She interviewed a bunch of those bands like Kino and I think this band Videosex too. They’re actually from the Czech Republic. I just found this crazy Serbian band called like Viatalas. They’re such blissed out new wave. Really awesome.
You seem like you’ve got a real affection for people who persevere through adversity.
Maybe I do.
What is the value in not having everything come easy?
Anything important is worth struggling for—if it’s important, it’s not gonna be handed to you.
Do you think it becomes important because of the struggle?
Well, yeah—if it wasn’t important, would you struggle for it? Would you honestly work for it if was worthless? If it wasn’t worth something, it would be within your reach immediately.
What is something that you secretly struggle for through Pearl Harbor?
I want to write the ultimate fucking jam. Honestly like, ‘Okay, I think we can start a new project—the shop is closed.’ That’s the goal—to achieve the ultimate musically. Sonic omniscience.
How would you know?
God, I mean—you don’t. The only way you ever know is when you are in the reflection stage of a project which, to me, comes so far after. You’re never gonna know until it’s over for good.
What’s the most budget you can get and still survive?
I’m definitely leaning toward something pretty fucking budget.
How budget can you get and still retain a delightful sense of humor?
Not much more budget than I am. I guess I’m always pretty much in good humor in a way. Everything is kind of hilarious to me whether or not it should be.
What’s the most trouble that’s ever gotten you into?
Oh God—I have no shame in laughing at what I think is funny. Honestly, this is the first telephone interview I’ve ever done and I kind of feel really weird.
What did you think I was going to ask you?
I mean, God, I don’t know. I guess I was ready to answer, like, basic stock questions. Like, ‘What is your intention with this release?’ And then I’d be, like, ‘Uhhhh, I don’t know.’
So in your imagination, not only did you imagine being asked boring questions but you don’t have the answers to those questions?
I feel like such a vegetable. You know who Merrell Fankhauser is? Let’s get deep for a second. Yesterday I met up with him for the first time. I found him on Facebook today and like ten minutes later he sends me this message saying that he’s really happy to meet me and he ended up inviting us to play on his show which is kind of like my fucking dream—oh my God. I’m dying right now. Because seriously I just went to this thing and I was like, ‘Man, Merrell is so cool. Like, he’s totally my hero.’ And now he’s offering to make all of my dreams come true.
How many dreams have come true in your life so far?
I always wanted to be in a band but I’ve never really played music at all because I just thought I was going to suck at it. I’ve always been kind of self-conscious about creative output on such a public level. I was really hesitant about it. But last year there was a little bit of a catalyst in my life that was so debilitating—it fucked me up in a way that made me really want to play music because I didn’t really know what else I was going to do. It lit a fucking fire under my ass.
Can I ask about that?
It’s not that secret. It was just like a boy thing. I didn’t kill anyone!
What happened when you picked up the bass?
I didn’t suck as bad as I thought. I mean, my sister has been playing guitar for maybe four years now and so she’s totally shredding fucking circles around me. But the cool thing about trying to start a band with your little sister is that you’ve been there the entire time—guiding her through awkward phases. I went through all these stages in my physical appearance when I was growing up—I had a mohawk that was neon green for like a year. I had this reptilian dinosaur vibe. I think she got to live vicariously through me. She doesn’t think that shit’s cool.
So you personally verified it was not cool in front of her for a year.
Exactly. I was living verification of that. I was pretty tore up from the floor up. She started playing guitar right around the time that I started really discovering really good music like Felt and My Bloody Valentine and a lot of bands that are killer. A lot of Creation bands. I think maybe that inspired her a lot. I’ve noticed her style is similar in a lot of ways to Johnny Marr or Lawrence Hayward and it’s crazy to me. It’s like, ‘How do you do that?’ I can’t do that. Maybe I contributed that way. It’s very hard to say. Time. Time is the only judge.
Do you agree with genius filmmaker Coffin Joe that time is the ultimate punishment?
No. It can be if you’re a blundering fool—I think time will catch up with you. But I believe that time heals and reveals, man. You find out a lot of shit you could never have wrapped your head around. You grow up a little bit and start not feeling so bad about these things—but also understanding them more, you know?
How much of your day is divided between philosophical reflection and musical experimentation? I assume there’s nothing else except sometimes a meal of clear broth.
Seriously—sometimes I feel that way. I feel like I’m constantly philosophically reflecting while playing music. You gotta be thinking about something when you’re playing music or else you’re kinda just cyborging your way through the process, right? I’m thinking about a lot of shit.
That’s not for the readers. That’s not for the readers to judge, no.
That’s cool. Fuck you, readers.
I’m really sorry.
What do you feel like you think about the most in any given day?
If there was a pie chart of today, what I’m thinking of? Because my short-term memory is completely nonexistent. When you start smoking weed at eight or something…
No way you were smoking weed when you were eight.
No, no—totally not. Jesus, how do you get away with that when you’re eight? Your parents would have to be blind and deaf. Or just really supportive no matter what you do.
What’s the most adorable creep you ever saw at one of the record fairs?
Um…ew. There was this one dude. I was perusing the dollar records and he had this kind of Mr. Tumnus—what’s that guy’s name from Narnia? He had this centaurian—
Technically, he was a satyr, not a centaur.
Well, whatever—I would’ve gone my whole life without knowing that. He was really creepy with big beady eyes. It made me apprehensive about the dollar section. That’s where trolls hang out.
Who watches Pearl Harbor kindly from above at all times? Who is in the pantheon of freaks?
I would like to think that Viktor Tsoi is up there. I think he died in a car accident. Merrell’s up there for sure, but I think we’ve talked about him enough. Who else can I namedrop? How about Martin Newell? That guy’s fucking super-crucial. He’s the guy from Cleaners From Venus. I’m eternally grateful to Lawrence Hayward for all the beautiful Felt records he put out into the world. His influence is pretty profound. Even my sister’s on board. It’s just weird to me because she’s fourteen and she gets that. I wish I could have figured that out. It’s not even so much that they’re freaks—they’re people first, freaks second. I really relate to them on a geek level—on a philosophical level. I can relate to their struggles maybe a little bit. I mean—Bobb Trimble is a fucking genius. That’s really what it all boils down to ’cause I don’t love all these dudes. I think it’s really all about their music fucking ruling. If Bobb Trimble was a freak and his music sucked, I probably wouldn’t give a a shit. He’d just be like crazy Robertson the Venice Beach who-gives-a-shit? guy—no offense to that guy. They’re all really genius musicians in my eyes and in my eyes the solidest musician is the solidest dude. It’s all I really care about. Music is the only thing I can immerse myself in and be just perpetually interested in. I think I really started understanding music and relating to songs on a deeper level when I first picked up Psychocandy—I started acknowledging music as a way to heal and a way to understand myself.
You know what Brian Wilson said? He said music can’t heal your mind but it can heal your soul.
True. I think it can heal my mind too. I feel like my mind can find resolution in some songs to issues in my life.
Do you find that in your own songs at all?
It helps—I feel like playing these songs and singing whatever I’m singing about helps me deal with whatever the issue at hand is.
What’s something in your own life that’s been made clearer through your own music?
I feel like that has yet to reveal itself. Maybe it has. If you put your mind to something you really can truly do it. Honestly, I know it’s really cheesy but it’s kind of hard—literally a couple of years ago I never would have imagined myself doing anything in a band. Especially with my sister and in front of people, I mean that’s pretty crazy.
And world famous.
Yeah—after this interview…
No—before this interview. Famous to people in England and New Zealand.
That’s so crazy—I don’t understand it. The Internet is fucking crazy. I don’t know what to do with it. It’s like this portal into infinite worlds and possibilities and I just use it to download free fucking records from Czechoslovakian blogs—so weird.
It’s good, man. And that’s honestly it. They have this really budget approach to making pop. There’s a lot of really good nu-romantic spaced-out pop jams. I guess it’s equatable to Alan Parsons Project or something in terms of being really spaced out new wave-y in this really progressive kind of way.
Do you have the blinds open or closed when you write?
They’re closed? I live in this place where my side of the house is the incinerator direct sunlight side of the house. I can smell all of the electronic shit in my room melting. Not melting but it’s got that slightly liquid-y thing going on—just enough to be concerned.
How many poisonous substances do you think you inhale at night when you’re asleep?
None that I know of. Sometimes I fear that bad taste is genetic. My dad got me into really good music when I was younger—he played Stranglers and some good stuff but at the same time some AC/DC Ballbreaker 1995 tape or something. I just really hope that when I get a bit older that I don’t lose it. Whatever it is.
Doesn’t it not matter if you enjoy it?
Yeah, but there’s obviously ramifications with an ignorance-is-bliss lifestyle, right? I just want to make tasteful conscious decisions as much as possible. Should I light this other spliff? That’s what I’m thinking about right now—isn’t that fucked up? You’re trying to do your job and I’m trying to do mine. Yesterday I came in contact with really excellent weed from the dispensary Kush Mart that I go to called Snoop Dogg Reserve. It’s pretty fucking good. That dude wouldn’t put his name on it if it wasn’t good. You know who else has their own strain is Woody Harrelson—really fucking good. It’s the best shit I’ve smoked ever. He’s like the president of weed.
Are you comfortable going on record saying you occasionally smoke marijuana?
I don’t give a shit. I’m totally fine with that. That’s my day job, dude. You can put that.
Do you think weed came from aliens to enlighten the human race?
Or at least keep us from murdering each other. I guess it’s not really working—not everyone is into it. I mean, it keeps my demons at bay, man.
Tell me your top three demons.
My demons are just inability to save money, patience and what’s another good one? God, I’m never gonna get a date after this.
PEARL HARBOR WITH ANIMAL STYLE, NEVEREVER AND COWABUNGA BABES ON THUR., DEC. 10, AT SYNCRONICITY SPACE, 4306 MELROSE AVE., LOS ANGELES. 9 PM / $5 / ALL AGES. SYNCHRONICITYONMELROSE.BLOGSPOT.COM. PEARL HARBOR’S SOMETHING ABOUT THE CHAPARRALS EP IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM MEXICAN SUMMER. VISIT PEARL HARBOR AT PEARLHARBORLA.BLOGSPOT.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/PEARLESCENTHARBOR.