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April 7, 2011 / punkcakes

“Oh? Oh! Oh.” An Interview with Pearl and The Beard

As a band, Pearl and the Beard have everything: tight melodies, catchy rhythms, lyrical quips as well as heartfelt emotion, and a truly awesome use of instruments. They’re goofy and fun, but serious about their music; they know what they’re doing, and what they’re doing is excellent. The originality and passion alone lures you in, and once you’re in it the songs will haunt you until you play them again… and again. They recently released their second full-length album Killing The Darling, and it is definitely worth a listen, or two, or 397. I talked with all three of the souls who make up Pearl and The Beard – Jocelyn, Emily, and Jeremy – and if you want to smile, you should check out the exclusive interview below! I love these guys!

Q: What’s the story behind Pearl and the Beard? How did you guys come together as a band?

Jocelyn: We met at different open mic nights throughout New York City, which just goes to show you you never know who you’re going to connect with if you keep putting yourself out there.

Emily: Yes, we did, and yes: you never know!  It was pure serendipatiousness or serendipiosity…errr…

Q: Your sound is definitely unique and original, who or what influence you and your songwriting?

Jocelyn: I personally love to just let the spirit move me… songs can be born when you least expect them. Being open to letting all different kinds of sounds, songs, and sonic landscapes into my consciousness has been the best tool in helping me become a better songwriter.

Emily: I read a quote today from T.S. Eliot that the best poems are felt first and then heard.  I really like this and find my best songs come when I’m least expecting them…

Jeremy: It pretty much changes like the wind, and influence can seep in at any point. Whatever music I happen to be listening to primarily at the time, the sound of a huge pile driver 10 blocks away, the way CDs sound coming from the other room while I’m in the shower, and my dreams are how I’ve been writing these days.

Q: Tell us about your eclectic use of instruments… it really separates you guys from other bands today – it’s refreshing. What is most important to you guys as a band when it comes to staying true to who you are?

Jocelyn: We tend to use a variety of instruments out of necessity: since there are only three of us, I think we would get bored if we just played the same three instruments throughout every song. As for staying true to who we are, well, we really just can’t help it. We’re bad liars, and none of us have any kind of vested interest in being cool, so it’s not really a challenge to stay “us.”

Emily: Ha!  Joce: true!  We are inarguably a bunch of total nerds.  Truthfully, I’d love to extend our instrumentation even more – experiment even more… there is an entire world of beautiful sounds waiting to be heard, and, with each person that tries them, an even different sound is born…

Jeremy: The thing I like about music is it’s universal, and therefore limitless (snap snap snap). There are so many regions to explore, literally in the landscape, and figuratively in the sonic landscape. As we’ve traveled and played with other folks we get fresh ideas about what we’d like to add to a song, a new rhythmic pattern, instrumentation, what works and what doesn’t and apply it to our own music. I compare it to hearing a new joke from your neighbor, school chum, pen pal, cobbler, trolley operator or other contemporary friend, where you take the joke and making it your own. We are sponges I think, and what makes us “us” as individuals is all the baggage, stories, and ideas we pick up along the way in our travels.

Q: If you could describe your music in a few words, what would they be?

Jocelyn: Oh? Oh! Oh.

Jeremy: I’ll say what a person we played with in Knoxville once said about us: “You couldn’t fit a piece of paper between those harmonies.”

Q: You just released the new album, Killing the Darling. Would you say it’s different than your previous album God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson?

Jocelyn: Working in conjunction with two producers (Dan Brennan and Franz Nicolay) was a really incredible experience, and it gave the new album a nicely well-rounded atmosphere. We constructed songs, arrangements, and even our time quite differently than we had for the first album, and having a change of pace with our work ethic made the album more sparkling for me. It was very fast-paced and exciting. Oh and also there are more rock songs.

Emily: I think, as with any project, whatever might be happening in one’s personal life, away from the studio, always leaks into the work.  This is why two albums couldn’t really be the same for us: three people, living their lives: the sounds, the vocals, the instrumental performances and, of course, the material, are bound to have evolved.  This might be stating the obvious, but it feels good knowing that as we change and learn, so does our work.

Jeremy: I’ve read countless articles on bands that compare their first album with their second and I’m trying to avoid a lot of the cliches that I hear and we make fun of in the car, but I find myself thinking the same things. This album to me seemed leaner, and more concise. We went big on parts that we thought needed to be big and we let the quiet parts live quietly. I think it also, personally, showcases our different personalities more than the last album. Other people might not pick up on it, but I definitely hear it, and if fills my heart with joy.

Q: What are you guys most stoked on with the release of this album?

Jocelyn: I’m looking forward to continuing to tour to promote the new album. I love it out on the road. I also feel very grateful that I have such a supportive band mates who encourage me to share my artwork through the album art.

Emily: We released it in vinyl!  I can’t believe it.  I grew up listening to vinyl and never imagined I could ever be captured like that… amazing.

Jeremy: Seeing more people get it, hopefully. Touring more behind it, and that this batch of songs is out so we can focus on writing more jams.

Q: What can we expect from Pearl and The Beard in the future?

Jocelyn: Maybe a twelve-person sweater.

Emily: A spin-off, made for TV movie but we will have changed our name to Tiny Lasers. Spoiler: we all get Lasik.

Jeremy: More or less hair depending on who you ask. Hopefully finally some of those one piece aluminum foil-looking jumpsuits they keep teasing us with in future movies.

Q: You guys just played a string of shows promoting the new album, any memorable or fun stories you’d like to share with us? What’s your favorite part about playing live music?

Jocelyn: At SXSW, we were outfitted for new glasses by a company called Tortoise & Blonde. That made me feel like a total rock star! We also got to play at a benefit for Planned Parenthood of NYC on Monday at the Bowery Ballroom. While we had a ton of amazingly memorable moments on the road, coming home and getting to be part of an event that supports Planned Parenthood really meant a lot to me and felt extremely rewarding.

Emily: Yes, yes, Joce: Those were amazing experiences!  One of the other finest for me was seeing New Orleans for the first time and having a lovely fan rescue our show in Louisiana by pulling together a beautiful house party. We met some of the most lovely people who are down there volunteering and building homes destroyed by Katrina. They are doing such amazing work down there: it was a really special day for us.

Jeremy: I think the most memorable things to me are difficult to sum up because they’re a series of very small meaningful things that happened to me personally or us as a group. As far as playing live, I love connecting to a group of strangers and friends all at once, and putting one big thing in common in the room that everyone can relate to.

Q: I completely admire your originality and strong sense of identity as a band, it shows through your music. If you could give any piece of advice to young bands trying to get their sound heard, what would it be?

Jocelyn: Write the music that you want to hear. You should be your own favorite band! If you’re excited about the music that you’re making, other people will be too. Also, be shameless. Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone and everyone about your project… you really never know who you’re going to meet and who is going to love it just as much as you do! And don’t take people too seriously who claim to have all the answers. You know what’s right for you if you follow your gut.

Emily: I would add to that wonderful treatise: “You’re already as weird as you think you want to be.” (Someone told me that once when I felt like what I was doing wasn’t “good enough”.)  Don’t be anyone else but who you are.  You can be successful and happy (who says their mutually exclusive?!) by creating something sincere and from your innermost guts.  There is an audience for all kinds of sound, art, music, and creativity, and that audience needs YOU to create it for them.  And I love what Jeremy said, “Stay humble, and be open.” Absolutely.

Jeremy: I agree with Jocelyn: Write the music that you want to hear. Also, don’t ever, EVER take yourself too seriously. You’re creating a minimum of 20 vibrations per second in order to make sounds.  My butt does that every day. So have fun, don’t think the noises that come out of you are any better or any worse than anyone else’s. Keep some horse blinders on, and by that I mean don’t focus or get frustrated if your friends or whoever are doing “better” than you. Each musician’s path is as unique as a snowflake (snap snap snap) and there is NO set path to follow. It can be frustrating and can seem like nothing is happening, but it’s really difficult to judge that when you are in it. Keep your head down, keep on truckin’ and eventually people will get what you are trying to do or you will get better and then people will “get it”. Stay humble, and be open.

Q: Since Punkcakes is also a baking appreciation blog, what are your favorite deserts? Any connoisseurs of the pastry in Pearl and the Beard?

Jocelyn: I make a mean “Magic Happy Bar…” a seven-layer sweetened condensed milk treat that will basically make you cry sugar.

Emily: What a sad, sad question for me!  Due to the inability to eat in moderation (read: addiction), I swore off sugar indefinitely.  I still eat honey, but for the most part, I’m sweets-free, and feel amazing and have not regretted a day. In my day, however, the ultimate dessert for me was a fluffy (and I mean FLUFFY – 1-3 inch thick), homemade iced sugar cookie (or two… okay, or three…) – preferably from my mother’s kitchen. Memories…

Jeremy: I’m terrible with baking. I don’t think I’ve ever baked anything in my life. Of the sweets I love anything with the combo of peanut butter and milk chocolate.


Catch them April 30th at The Rock Shop! (tix & details)


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