Released last week through Play it Again Sam in the UK, and Slumberland in the US, the latest Pains of Being Pure At Heart album Belong is an excellent album, and one we thoroughly recommend. Making another instalment of competently, but exuberantly played noise pop, The Pains are up to their old tricks once again. While the album has received some mixed reviews, an inconceivable 3/10 from The NME, we at The 405 (well, I did) gave it a towering 8.5. It cannot be argued that The Pains have not installed themselves in the indie landscape, becoming one of the bands that you cannot help but talk about. With this in mind I was delighted to catch up with the lead singer of the band, Kip Berman, to have my many questions answered. So 'Belong' is finally out, are you proud of it as an album? Yes. Do you feel Belong is a reach for a wider audience? No. Commercial success isn't something we can control, nor can we control critical acceptance. We can only make the music that we love and believe in and just hope good things happen. But for so many of the records we loved growing up, they didn't sell at all and were ignored in all but the most obscure press. Yet, those were the most important records in the world to us. My Favourite, The Aislers Set, The Pastels, Sarge, Hefner, Promise Ring, The Make Up, etc. Only occasionally would something actually cool become famous (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer etc.) Was the bigger, louder sound a deliberate direction you went in, or did it feel natural with the producers you went with? We wanted it to sound loud and American, like the rock music we grew up with and convey a feeling of absolute immediacy, a sound you can disappear into in the moment you hear it.
While writing my review I noticed that much of Belong feels like an attempt to reassure and write for all of the awkward teenagers out there. Is this the case? Everyone has awkward adolescent experiences, not just kids who love obscure records - and those experiences don't end when you turn 20. We write about our lives, our experiences, the people we know and the things we feel. If anything, I hate that forced sense of prolonged adolescent identity - and moreover that perpetuation of sexless, prepubescent "twee" culture. While at one time it was a clever, political rejection of the traditional institutionalized machismo of rock music and a social world that equated adulthood with conspicuous acts of consumption (the 80s), at this point to style yourself "twee" is such an empty gesture. In an era where Owl City wears cardigans, we need to find a new visual and musical vocabulary. The only mention of sweaters on this record is that they should be removed (Anne with an e - "take your sweater off and wear your spikes again”). But then again, I did find a lot of hope in records when I was a teenager - so if people do feel that way from ours, it's cool. I just don't like that pandering "for the kids" gesture, when the kids can decide for themselves what's "for them." Also, I do like sweaters. I'm actually wearing an argyle one right now. Fudge. Both in musical sytle, and lyrical content, you've always seemed to be a very nostalgic band. Is this an apt description? No. I don't like the past. I like a lot of records that were made in the past, but I am just as excited about the ones that were made in the future. I want to live long enough to hear the Velvet Underground of 2041. Quite a few reviewers described 'Belong', and the 'Higher than the Stars' EP to be a change in direction from your first album. Do you feel this was the case? We just kept trying to push things further into absolute, emphatic and unrelenting pop. To realize a euphoric sense of what pop songs can be. I don't know if anyone will care or understand that, but to us we did and will continue to do what we think is right, as long as we can. Do you feel your abilities and confidence as a band has increased? I think we've gone from "Terrible" to "Average." That's progress. People say that a debut album is significantly easier to write, as you've had your entire life to write the songs. Did you find 'Belong' a more difficult album to write? I don't know - I feel like we started something with the debut, but on this record it felt like it actually turned into that thing that we thought we were doing before. We've always said we were a "pop" band, but this feels truer to the idea of a record that can be heard and understood outside of context. Did you feel any pressure of expectation? I know you're supposed to say "no" but actually, "yes." I grew up loving records. And there are enough in the world without us. So if you're going to do something, do it right. And if you think it's good, it's not good enough. You can't stop until you know that it can get a half star and win "worst album of the year" in a prestigious magazine, but that you can answer "Yes" to the "Do you feel proud of this record?" question. Do you read reviews of your own work? I try to avoid that, but it's sort of impossible. Last time, you came out with new material very quickly. Are you already thinking about new songs? Just like this record, I want to take our time and do something special that isn't just "Belong II: This time BELONGER!" Any plans to tour the UK again soon? I hope so. Finally, what have you been listening to lately? Twin Shadow - Forget & Dream Diary - You are the Beat.