So here’s the thing. Pearl and the Beard has been one of my favorite bands since the ancient precocious days of my sophomore year of college. At the time I was getting out of a brief relationship, mourning my “mayfly girlfriends,” and listening to alot of Phantom of the Opera. Complete with the mask and cape. There may have been some light manly crying involved. There are videos of it somewhere in the rabbit hole of my Facebook videos. During that haze of melancholy, I saw this video. First I thought, “Mein gott! Will Smith is a secret musical genius.” Then I thought, “I’m a fool for using ‘Will Smith’ and ‘genius’ in the same sentence. Then finally I realized that I should do more research on the actual rag-tag bespectacled gang of musicians who arranged it all.
These were those ancient days before Spotify, so I took a leap of faith and bought God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson on iTunes. On that winter afternoon in 2010, I was hooked. Fo. Lyfe. I followed them on every social media outlet possible, and then I made many of my friends listen to them (with me watching them listen). Encouraging people to listen to Pearl and the Beard is like trying to get people into The Wire. Maybe my fanboy-ish zeal is turning you off, but once you experience it for yourself, you will know why I’ve become a zealous bible-beating werewolf for this band (I wanted to think of a very specific monster). In a nutshell, these musicians are lyrical travelers who explore emotional territory with infinite heights of joy and nostalgia and infinitesimal depths of yearning and sorrow. Give them several listens. Today, October 30th, my favorite song of theirs…it’s a toss up between Good Dog, Dumb Lovers, and Prodigal Daughter… I’m mad indecisive yo. But give em’ all a listen and note how each song kind of takes over the sounds around you. Every song is the sound of finding something. Or losing something.
Since 2010 I’ve bought several more albums and I’ve seen them live 3 times. I even struck up some rapport with the band via email, so I figured, why not do a brief interview to learn about their creative process and the well of experiences that they pull from?
Why are you so god damn accessible? I know many people have had the experience of contacting an artist they admire only to get a computerized response: “Thank for your email…” and whatnot. Why is it important for you guys to keep your fans close? Also, how do you do it?
Emily Hope Price: We are musicians but we’re also music lovers. If we wrote to a band we loved, we’d love a personal response. How awesome would that be? It’s just what we’d want for ourselves as music lovers. I guess it’s that simple. We’re interested in forming relationships with our fans that are long lasting and meaningful.
Jeremy Styles: It’s important that if someone has cared about your music enough to overcome any self-conscious feelings that we are usually mired in and reach out to a band, then I think it warrants a nice response! Things like that can go a long way.
Jocelyn Mackenzie: We care about our fans as people and not just as numbers or “likes” on Facebook. It’s really important to us to communicate to those fans that we couldn’t do what we do without their support, quite literally.
I’m an aspiring novelist who knows nothing about music (or proper novels for that matter) but I find that the most difficult part of any artistic endeavor is getting up off my ass and going to work on my work. What thoughts or motivations get you to slog through apprehension and begin working on your art?
Emily: This is an awesome question. We each have this problem in different ways and about different elements of our craft. Honestly? Sometimes there isn’t a magic answer to get you moving. Sometimes you just. aren’t. motivated. And there isn’t anything that will remove you from your slog, and it’s important to be kind to yourself in these moments. Show yourself love and understanding rather than guilt, obligation, or judgement. How motivating is it to beat yourself up? BUT sometimes it’s as easy as sitting down with an instrument or a beautifully clean piece of paper or a white screen. Just go, just play, just write. Not thoughts or expectations – free improvise/free write. Do it for 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes. Then stop, get up, eat a sandwich, call your BFF or your mom, listen to your favorite band or go searching for new or unusual music or information. Keep focused (don’t turn on Netflix – it’s always my downfall) with an open and nonjudgmental mind. Be kind to yourself at all times. I think that’s the basic secret to succeeding in an art. Be kind, stay open.
Jeremy: Part of it is just that it has to come out of you. That being said, those desires can get muddled with laziness, a tasty beverage, or a call from a dear friend. The problem is those things are all extremely fun, and it’s important not to beat yourself up over it. The process of creation is also extremely fun, but can be riddled with frustrations and at times not a barrel full of laughs. But when you actually get it down and see your vision beginning to take shape, that can be a drug as well. Working with other people has gotten me to be less lazy and push myself to work a little further than I normally would because those people are depending on me to do my share. When solo, I tend to work either at a much more slow pace, or incredibly rapid pace because it doesn’t get checked by anyone else. Figure out a system that works the best for you and trick your mind and body into doing what you want it to do!
Jocelyn: I would add that just making a schedule for yourself is hard enough, let alone sticking to it, let alone with other people! But when I’m working solo, it helps me to reward myself for productive behavior… I’ll tell myself that if I get done what I wanted to get done that day, THEN I can have a twenty minute YouTube binge, but not before. It doesn’t always work, but it’s funny how the tactics we use on small children often translate as perfectly viable motivation to us as adults!
Before I tell you my favorite song (and the minutiae involved in its selection), what song would you consider your favorite? Most difficult to write? The one you are most proud of? I understand how this could be comparable to picking which child is your favorite, so in lieu answering this question, you can explain why this question is impossible.
Emily: We are currently in the post-production phase of our newest album. We are so excited about sharing it already. There is a song we’re working on in the mix that has avoided us at every turn. We have been chasing after it for months and months. Normally we would probably abandoned it, but we pushed and pushed it because we felt like it had a specific potential – so we needed to see it through. It has been a struggle, but I think it has finally opened up for us. At the moment, picking favorites is like picking a favorite child, but I would probably argue that the songs which were completely collaborative between the three of us are some of the strongest song in our repertoire – and often the most rewarding to perform.
Jeremy: I agree with Emily about this particular process. I have been jonesing to hear our new stuff fully recorded and fleshed out. Right now they all seem like a very awesome group of friends waiting inside of a secret shack with tons of food, booze, and back rubs for me to experience. I want to be in there so badly.
Jocelyn: Yeah, the process of writing this new album has been incredibly challenging, but coming out the other side with a batch of songs that we all love has proven to be incredibly rewarding as well as cathartic. But I’d say if I had to chose one song from our past catalog that was my favorite to write, I’d go with “The Lament of Coronado Brown.” We were at a writing retreat at a friend’s lake house, and Jeremy had this amazing guitar part and melody prepared. Emily heard it and out of nowhere just said, “Can we sing… ‘They don’t know that I love you?'” And it just fit so perfectly with her voice. We spent the rest of the day adding the bell parts and drums and cello, and then worked on the verse lyrics while swimming in the lake, shouting words at each other between backstrokes and flips. It was pretty magical, and that song remains one of my favorites to perform as well.
For Pearl and the Beard, what does a boring day consist of?
Emily: An 8-12 hour drive.
Within the confines of a six word story, Tell me about the experience of writing and recording your upcoming album.
Jocelyn: Try. Fail. Try. Fail. Try. Succeed.
With that short literary masterpiece concludes our interview. Special thanks goes to Pearl and the Beard for taking the time to answer my questions and Rookerville for cross-posting my article. It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling, the feeling you know that I’ll be back — when the day is new. And I’ll have more Swimfan-esque email interviews for you. And you’ll have things you want to talk about.
I will too. If you heeded any of my advice you’ll keep your eyes and ears peeled for Pearl and the Beard when they come to a town near you. And be sure keep their next full length album on your radar! That’s a thing to be expected sometime in 2014, so treat it like Doctor Who: familiarize yourself with the back catalogue before you jump into the most recent seasons. The new stuff will be good, but be a good fan and earn the new material will ya? Old stuff just makes new stuff better, am I right ladies?
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