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Kip Berman's Pains in the Domain of Youth

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart frontman talks fatherhood and purity of spirit

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    Kip Berman's Pains in the Domain of Youth
    Ebru Yildiz
    The Pains of Being Pure at Heart headline the Loft on Thursday, Sept. 28.

    When I get the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kip Berman on the phone, he’s in full father mode.

    “Let’s go have a little walk. We’re going to walk, walk, walk, walk,” he tells his year-and-a-half-old daughter, who coos in the background.

    The Pains first rose to prominence during the Myspace era after posting their songs on the now all-but-defunct social network for free. Starting in 2007, the band’s mix of bubblegum pop, noise rock and shoegaze on viral cult hits like “This Love Is F------ Right!” and “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan” snowballed their underground popularity.

    Today, Berman, who serves as the band’s principal songwriter, vocalist, guitarist and purveyor of perpetual optimism, is “just grateful that people remember who we are.”

    As their band name suggests, the Pains have long been recognized for their frequent flirtations with innocence and cultivating an air of childhood purity.

    “I’m not like a child, and I don’t pretend to be. I’m 37,” he says as he continues to attend to his toddler. “I think there’s an idealism to our music and a purity of spirit that I’ve always tried to maintain. I don’t know how to explain it -- when we started, people always assumed we were teenagers.”

    Berman pauses to apologize to his daughter for not fitting her with the proper shoes for their walk.

    “I have an idealized vision of what I want to do with music -- immediacy, spontaneity, songs that are direct and immediate and emotionally connect. People associate those qualities with adolescence and youth. Idealism is the domain of youth,” he adds ebulliently.

    After years of releasing material on Slumberland Records, today’s shoegaze and noise-pop hive, on Sept. 1, 2017, the Pains released a new album, “The Echo of Pleasure,” on Berman’s own Painbow Records. The album continues to chart the band’s course toward disarming earnestness and knowing naivete but with an additional layer of sincerity that springs from Berman’s love for his daughter.

    “We recorded the record when my wife was pregnant. I was creating music that channeled the anxiety and worry about the changes I was about to go through,” he admits. “Before she was born, I was worried about her affecting my music, and now that she’s born I worry more about how my music will affect her. Nothing I do artistically or musically will mean anything if she thinks I’m a s--- dad. It doesn’t matter if NPR thinks we made a great record if my daughter thinks I’m not giving her enough attention.”

    As he makes his way to the Princeton, New Jersey, ice cream shop where he is scheduled to meet his wife, he makes sure his daughter is safely in her care before briefly splitting away to wrap up our conversation.

    I ask Berman what he’s listening to these days, and he answers with a brutal truth: “99 out of 100 bands that will come out this year -- it doesn’t really matter. The majority of music is just sort of a space filler, myself included. Eras are sort of defined by only one or two bands.”

    Yet, he’s not bitter about it. In fact, it seems to bring a more meaningful sense of community and immediacy -- something he’s always striving for -- to his relationship with music.

    As our conversation winds down, he reminisces about the bands he used to tour with and bands that are no longer around -- bands whose records he and his bandmates still throw on.

    “Shout out to Moving Units,” he says, unaware of their San Diego affiliation, unaware that my own band played a New Years Eve 2017 show with them.

    “Simply existing is a huge success when a lot of bands I liked or looked up to aren’t around anymore,” Berman says.

    Simply existing flew out the window for him the April before last, so I let him get back to the ice cream and his family waiting for him inside.

    The Pains of Being Pure at Heart headline UCSD’s the Loft on Thursday, Sept. 28. Get tickets here.

    Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford poet-neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. He now fronts the Lulls, plays lead guitar in Velvet and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.