Peggy Wang on vox and keys
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are everywhere right now and honestly — although I’ve heard the name kicked around for awhile now — I didn’t listen to them until recently. They have a fuzzy, pop sensibility that recalls My Bloody Valentine, but puts me in a much nicer mood. I see visions of high school dances, sneaking Peach Schnapps under the bleachers. (OK that’s a scene from The Virgin Suicides). The music is pretty in a twee, Sofia Coppola-kinda way.
On vox and keys Peggy Wang adds an essential layer to this confectionery delight, and like so many New York dwellers doesn’t stop at just making music, she’s also an editor at BuzzFeed. Miss Wang was nice enough to answer our burning questions on skinny boys, making an album, the Internet and European dreams.
So first of all congrats on all your recent successes — especially your Pitchfork review. How does all this buzz feel?
It’s awesome! It is kind of crazy that one simple thing can open so many doors. No one had ever heard of us before the review, and now I have old high school and college friends contacting me and saying stuff like “Congrats!” and “I’m so proud of you!” It’s funny because I don’t think anyone has said “Congratulations” to me since the time I won the regional spelling bee in 5th grade. We self-released an EP and it was never reviewed on Pitchfork, and I think when we recorded the album, it didn’t even occur to us that it would even get reviewed. So yeah, it really surpassed any kind of expectations.
How important do you think the Internet is for bands these days? And why do you think you guys have had so much success on the ‘net?
The Internet has been incredibly instrumental for us. It used to be that you needed to be on a record label with distribution if you wanted to get your music out there. We were able to put out our first EP ourselves, and maybe it wasn’t available at Virgin Megastore or whatever, but we did put all our music up for download and people were able to hear us and get a bit of a buzz going. I think people lament over the old days, when you would make your friends mix tapes and tape your favorite college radio shows to find out about new music. But the way things are right now with the Internet, it’s just so much easier for indie bands.
Can you tell me a little bit about the formation of the band – when did you guys meet…that sorta thing?
Alex and Kip used to work together at Insound. Kip and I met through my friend Shirley. The three of us formed the band to play at my birthday party in March 2007. We all loved this band from Leeds called the Manhattan Love Suicides and also Titus Andronicus, both of whom played the party too. The party was in a giant warehouse on Wythe St. in Williamsburg and was by far the most epic birthday party I’ve ever had. It was so fun that we just wanted to keep doing it, and with the help of Cakeshop, we were able to book another show. We went for about 8 months playing with an ipod instead of a real drummer, until we met Kurt who came to a few of our shows and really liked the EP that we put out. Besides being a totally amazing drummer, Kurt also has amazing taste in music. I feel like we all have pretty good taste in music, so it makes for a good band situation, especially during long car rides while on tour.
What was it like recording the debut album — and how does it feel to have a finished product now?
Recording is really fun! I know some people might find it boring, but I dunno, we are kind of lazy and like to do everything in one take. So it’s not too frustrating. I think Kip did lots of guitar overdubs and tracks, but I didn’t have to sit around for that part. It definitely feels good now that it’s finally out, because we probably finished recording it in August or September of 2008. And then it didn’t officially come out until February of 2009. The EP is more mechanical and noisy, which is the style of music that is closest to my heart, but I think it’s important that we progressed into a more polished kind of sound. And I’m really happy with the way the vocals came out on the album.
What’s your favorite venue to play?
Our best shows have probably been at Cakeshop and Dead Herring. I like small venues with no stage! And nice sound guys (or girls) who give you as much reverb as you want.
I heard there were a lot of skinny boys at your album release show at Mercury — what’s your type?
Ha, really? I honestly didn’t notice a disproportionate number of skinny boys at that show! Umm, I guess I’m into boys with floppy hair who wear really soft sweaters and have no tattoos. Ideally, he would be just like me in terms of interests and outlook on life, and in a perfect world, we might even share the same birthday!
Is Art Boonparn [director] a friend? How did you guys come up with the concept and feel of the video for “Everything with You”?
Art Boonparn is one of my dear old friends from New Orleans (which is where I grew up and went to college). We wanted to do a video on super 8, and I remembered Art showing me a music video he did for his band Hotchkiss that he shot on super 8. He doesn’t have much film experience, but after working with him on that video, I can honestly say that he has a very natural knack for filmmaking. Me and the other girl in the video, Carlen Altman, are real life best friends. We just sort of filmed it in a day with no real agenda. She lives out in Brighton Beach and she was going to take me to all her old haunts. The video is so simple but it turned out really effortless, maybe because we didn’t put much effort into it, ha ha, but it came out the best way possible. I think it shows that you don’t need lots of special effects or a plot or acting or anything to make a music video. It just feels warm and special without being contrived or overly cutesy.
What’s next for you and the band — and what are you most looking forward to?
Oh man, I’m looking forward to going to Europe. I’ve never been to continental Europe. We’re playing a big festival with My Bloody Valentine, who I’ve never seen play live. Also, we have some new songs that I can’t wait to record. This might sound self-involved, but I listen to the demos all the time. I’m pretty excited to start playing some new songs.
“Everything With You”