Kip Berman of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The TVD Interview

When Kip Berman formed The Pains of Being Pure at Heart back in 2007 with friends Alex Neidus and Peggy Wang, he never expected the band to reach such a level of success. It’s been seven years since their self-titled first album came out, and although Alex and Peggy are no longer part of the band, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s fanbase keeps growing.

Despite recently selling out a show in New York at Rough Trade, Kip Berman remains as humble as he was when The Pains of Being Pure at Heart started out. He’s still the guy who spent hours writing songs about his personal experiences and feelings in his bedroom.

What makes The Pains of Being Pure at Heart so easy to listen and love is the authenticity of the lyrics, despite it being a dance-pop band. It’s not often that pop songs are deep and meaningful to the artists, but every song that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart perform has a different story. They might be one of the most relatable pop artists out there.

The band is currently starting their tour to promote their new album, Days of Abandon. Before their first tour stop at the Baltimore PopFest at the Ottobar on March 7, we had a chance to chat on the phone with Kip about the band’s new album and their upcoming tour. In this TVD interview, Kip tells us about the inspirations for his new album, the reason behind the band member changes, and his love for vinyl.

You recently released “Simple and Sure,” the first single off your new album, Days of Abandon. It’s a bit more joyful than the sound used in Belong. Is this what we can expect from Days of Abandon?

Oh, I hope so. I think ideally this record will capture a fuller range of feeling and emotion, and part of that is joy. There’s songs that are maybe a bit more melancholic, but I’m really excited about finishing this record and just sharing it.

What inspired this new material for Days of Abandon?

Oh, I mean, I don’t know anything other than the life we live, really, just to make music. I think this song is a song of secrets and a song of love and recognizing that sometimes the most difficult things to do in life are the most straightforward and the most seemingly simple. It’s the idea that at the beginning of the song, some guy’s acting like he’s complicated, which is masked by the fact that he’s insincere. This song is one about sincerity and devotion, and I guess that’s just drawn from real life.

Days of Abandon is the first album with your new label, Yebo Music. What made you decide to switch from Slumberland Records to Yebo Music Records?

Slumberland is still putting out our 7-inch single, and we have a great relationship with Slumberland, but we just had an opportunity to record a record with Yebo, and they were supportive of that, so we went into the studio and made a record. At the end of the day, I think we have a good relationship with Slumberland, and I hope we have a good relationship with Yebo as well. The most important thing, to me at least, is the quality of the music that we release and it doesn’t really matter what the name of the label is.

Your previous albums have been released on vinyl, and you have expressed love for vinyl in the past. Do you plan to do the same for Days of Abandon?

Of course! You know, vinyl is very important to us as a band. It’s a format that we’ve always released in, and we released 7-inch singles, and we have 12-inches of albums in vinyl. I think it’s great, but I’m a little concerned because vinyl has gotten so expensive now from a fan’s point of view or a consumer’s point of view. Our first record, we were selling it for like $15 at the most. Now, I see vinyl records that are usually $20 to $25, and I just feel like that’s a lot of money to pay.

Do you have a vinyl collection?

I do! I just got a record in the mail today.

Which record did you get in the mail today?

It’s this band from the 1980s in England that I’m a huge fan of. They only did one record. They’re called Bad Dream Fancy Dress, and they’re on a label called El Records.

So it’s been a year since you last toured, and the band members have changed. What caused this change?

Change has always been centered around me writing songs and then getting my friends to play them for the record. You know, the people I collaborate with are very important to the sound of the record and the sound of the live show, and sometimes scheduling and just life doesn’t allow people to make the same levels of commitment, and I can ask other people to help with on a record. I think if anything, it helps this record have a fuller, more diverse sound because I was able to work with a couple of friends of mine that I hadn’t gotten to play music with.

One guy is a really good horn player, and he arranged all the horns on the record, which was really a nice touch. And there is a vocalist, her name is Jen, and she’s playing on a band called A Sunny Day In Glasglow, and she offers for vocals for two songs, and it’s something we’ve never been able to do, you know, having a separate singer before. I think the change in terms of who is in the record has made it a better record at the end of the day. At least, I hope so.

Has this affected your tour dynamic?

Not really so much because Christoph [Hochheim, guitarist], he used to tour with us a couple of years ago, actually, and then pursued his own band, Ablebody, and he’s now back playing with us live. And his twin brother who used to come on tour with us just to hang out, he’s been in the band before, so he’s playing drums, and our friend Jacob is playing bass. So a lot of the people have either toured with us before or been in the tour band before, and these are people I’m really close with, so I’m glad that the dynamic of the band is still one of friendship and not just a professional musical relationship. I really value making music with people that I know.

Through the years, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart has been growing bigger. You recently sold out your hometown show at Rough Trade in New York. Did you ever expect to be as successful as you are now?

I usually think 10 or 15 people will like our music, and I’m always just surprised that there’s people that I don’t know that come to our shows. The people who come out are usually our friends that come to our shows, and then you start noticing people that you don’t know at your shows. And it’s just the strangest thing that these people are there because they just want to be there, and they enjoy the music, and it’s an amazing sensation to know you’ve created something that people just like.

I’m really grateful that people in New York will relive our music and want to come see us play. I’m really excited that we get to play at Rough Trade record store, which is a really great record store that just opened up in Brooklyn that has a venue next to it, and I’m really looking forward to it.

How do you feel about starting your tour at the Baltimore Pop Fest?

I played independently last year at the Baltimore Pop Fest, and it was a really great experience. I’m doing a great festival, and we’ve worked so hard to get some great bands on tour with us. We have Eternal Summers and this other band called Literature that I’ve enjoyed for a while; Wildhoney is supposed to be good too. I’m really excited to play in Maryland.

After performing at the Baltimore PopFest, Kip sat down with us and shared more about their tour experience.

How does it feel to be back touring after a full year of not touring?

It’s so exciting, I mean, it’s like the thing I love most, and I’m so proud of us, you know, playing music and getting a chance to share it with people. There was such a long time that we didn’t get to play shows, and I guess I kind of, I mean, everyone has doubts and fears, and I was kind of afraid that I was never going to do the thing that I love again. (laughs) It sounds dramatic, but I was really doubtful about it, and it was just so wonderful to step onstage playing for an indie pop fest here, and it’s so much fun. I guess I realized that whatever happens, everything is going to be okay. This is what I really want to do if I get the chance to do it.

You had a girl come up to you saying that she was crying during the show. That must have felt great to know someone cares about your music so much!

Maybe it’s because she thought we were so bad that she was crying. I don’t know; it was really sweet. We’re not like a cool-guy band who are so austere and a difficult kind of band, you know. We write pop songs about our feelings, and to see someone really connect with it in that way is really special and a really wonderful moment when you see that the thing you do is actually—at least for one person—it means something to them.

After we finish the interview and the recorder is turned off, despite it being 2am and he’s had a very long and exhausting day, he remains sitting next to me for a few minutes, asking me about my life and talking about how appreciative he is that his fiancée’s cousins came to visit him. I’ve met many band members, and I have to say he is possibly one of the humblest, nicest men in the music industry. He certainly deserves all the recognition that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart has gotten.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s new album, Days of Abandon, arrives on store shelves on April 22, 2014.

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