It has been a very busy past few years for Pitchfork favourites The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. After being propelled into the public eye at the beginning of 2009 with the release of their debut self-titled LP, seemingly out of nowhere this outfit were creating whirlpools in the indie scene with their crafty reworking of late 80’s/early 90’s pop. Since then, it has been one big never-ending tour for the band, with fans eagerly awaiting the release of their next album, (and the band members themselves eagerly awaiting their next visit home, Peggy laughs).
Their follow up, Belong was released at the end of March of this year with an extensive national and European tour to support it. Recently, Tone Deaf’s Ella Jackson caught up with their keyboardist Peggy Wang to discuss the album, their constant tour, and prospects of a coming Australian tour.
Belong is a particularly special album that she personally is a bit more protective of because of the intense process that went into creating it, Peggy explains. “I think that the second album for a band is always kind of hard, especially because we’re doing everything so accelerated in this day and age. I grew up in the 90’s and back then, bands got noticed for their second album, ‘cause you didn’t have things like the internet to… you know,” she continued, “I feel like our first record was really unexpected. The amount of attention we got for it… we didn’t expect that at all.”
Belong was produced by Mark Ellis (perhaps better known to fans as Flood), and mixed by Alan Moulder, both of which are figureheads in the alternative music recording industry, and heroes to all members of the band. The whole process was “a once in a lifetime opportunity” according to Peggy, and certainly a big change to the recording of their first album, which was done in a friend’s recording studio at his house. “The pressure was on,” Peggy asserted, “but it was cool. It helped us be more creative.”
Despite the completely different recording process, one thing that remained constant was the songwriting process Peggy went on to explain.
“Kip writes the lyrics and records the songs in bedroom basically … then he brings it to us and we kind of edit it.”
Peggy continues, saying that there is talk of beginning a more collaborative process, though she personally likes things the way they are now, as she likes music that’s of a singular vision, stating, “I feel like there’s something more pure about that.”
As Peggy runs through the sort of music each member is interested in, it becomes obvious that if Peggy and the others do begin contributing more to the writing of the songs, it’s possible that their music could take on an extremely multidimensional sound indeed. Although they all bonded over the very similar music taste that they had when they first met and got the band together, they have all branched out in different directions over the years.
Peggy loves her 90’s music, listening to everything from Manchester bands such as The Farm and Happy Mondays, to 90’s House music, to Blink-182, to pop songstress Deee-lite. Kurt has more of an ear for pristine-sounding 80’s music, and Alex enjoys rap, while Kip is probably the most predictable when it comes to musical taste, she states, “Kip will probably always be into the same kind of bands, I think, he’s kind of geared in that way, like, he loves Suede, he loves The Killers. You know? He likes all the kind of things that I think he’ll always like.”
Growing up as an only child with parents that listened to nothing but Chinese opera and Chinese pop, Peggy was left to toil through girl magazines, MTV and mixtapes a girl that worked at her parents’ video shop made to find her niche music wise, which lead to her going through a lot of phases, she recounts.
“When I was a teenager, I went through my Matador [Records] phase, my only white girl band phase … I think I still weirdly like that. I don’t feel like much has changed.”
A lot of cool stuff did stumble out into the mainstream in the 90’s though, she reminisces, and she’s glad to have grown up in that generation.
Currently in the middle of a European tour, the band is all over the place, which is both thrilling and overwhelming for her. As stated previously, Peggy loves nothing more than to go home, but definitely isn’t above making the most of her visits to other countries, all of which she never would have been able to do before the band got together, she says.
“Before I joined the band I never went anywhere—I’d been to London like one time for two days. I didn’t really have time to travel, it was hard for me to get time off work.”
Of the countries she’s visiting, like most girls, she’s most excited about the ones she can do some quality shopping in.
“Berlin, Hamburg, Madrid and Glasgow are all really great places for that.”
Another city they’ll be visiting for the first time is Amsterdam. When asked whether they had any adventures planned for their stay there, Peggy answered with a laugh, “I guess just eat a whole lot of space cakes!”
She went on to digress that she, herself, wasn’t the biggest fan of pot, stating
“No, it’s funny, there are like definite potheads in our band, but I personally cannot deal with it. Because I’m already socially retarded as it is, so I just can’t take pot sanely, I just go retarded. But I was thinking that I might try it again, because I feel like now I might be in a different mindset, where I can just be really fun and giggly and just laugh a lot, so maybe I’ll try that when I get to Amsterdam. But I don’t know, the last time I actually ate something with pot in it, it was in college, and I just got so scared… it scared the shit out of me. But certain people in the band will definitely be experiencing that.”
When not shopping in between shows, Peggy admits that she and the rest of the band are fairly boring on tour. They have no wacky rituals that they perform before a show, and no strange quirks that go ahead on the tour bus (or at least none they’ll admit to). One thing she does really enjoy is DJing after parties though. She DJs a 90’s dance party in New York and likes sharing the love in whatever city she may be in whilst on tour.
“It kind of just gives me something to do. It’s a fun excuse to dance and party,” Peggy explains, “and you don’t really have to …talk to anybody,” she adds in with a laugh.
With all this talk of touring, there was nothing left to ask, but “When the hell are you coming back to Australia!?”
Peggy lets slip that she had seen the girl who books their Australian tours recently, and that there had been talk of a “Fall” tour, [our Springtime]. Or, if not then, February was a prospect. She went on to clarify that she herself was fairly out of the loop though, so to not take her personal word for it just yet.
Peggy and the rest of the band are indeed excited to return to Australia’s shores some time soon though, having had a great time here on their last visit. In Sydney they did the touristy sort of things, she reminisces
“I thought Sydney was a really beautiful city. We just go to walk along the water, and go to the zoo, and we ate fish and chips and that was all really fun.”
In Melbourne they had a bit more time off, and got to go check out some bands, such as Crayon Fields and Summer Cats, both of which Peggy has proudly added to her list of Australian bands she enjoys, along with The Triffids and The Go-Betweens.
In Brisbane they had a “funny” time, Peggy laughs, pondering the after parties she DJed there.
“You were really in the urban centre there, like Times Square sort of thing, and like… people would be so weird!”
So there you have it, Sydney was a good tourist destination, Melbourne had good bands, and people in Brisbane were weird. Sound about right?
Belong is out now through Slumberland Records and is worth a listen for all of you who are fans of the iconic jangly early 90’s sound. Buy the record and commit all the lyrics to memory now, as it seems it could be very soon that you could be seeing them played live. Don’t expect to be seeing them playing at a venue as small as East Brunswick Club where they played last time they were in Melbourne though, as these guys are on nothing but an upwards slope.