This Love Is Fucking Right 

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's Indie-Pop Perfection

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You either love indie pop—that C86-enshrined sound typified by brightly fuzzed-out guitar jangle, bashfully hopping backbeats, and fey boy/girl vocals—or you're just flat-out wrong. (You jerk.) For fans of the genre, the past year has been a veritable dirty dream of twee, spearheaded stateside by the venerable and beloved Slumberland Records, and with no more perfect poster boys and girls than Brooklyn foursome the Pains of Being Pure at Heart (twee as fuck, they took their name from a friend's children's story). The band's self-titled debut full-length for Slumberland is one of the year's best records, indie pop or otherwise. Its melodies are familiar and effortlessly catchy, its sound is dreamy and sweet, its songs concise and clean pillars of pop songcraft, its lyrics clever and coy and sometimes just a tiny bit crass. Heaven(ly) help you if you haven't totally fallen for this band. Singer/guitarist Kip Berman spoke to us by phone from his apartment in Brooklyn.

MERCURY: I notice you have a Portland area code.

KIP BERMAN: Yeah, I actually lived in Portland from 1998 to 2005. I went to school at Reed College. I actually interned at the Mercury.

Based on a couple of songs on the album, "Young Adult Friction" and "The Tenure Itch," I was going to ask where it was you went to school that everybody was being seduced by their professors and fucking in the libraries, but maybe Reed makes some sense.

For better or for worse, that's where I went to school. I grew up on the East Coast, but getting to go out to Portland was really eye opening. There was a strong indie-pop community out there and just great bands, and I got exposed to a lot of stuff I don't think I would have at that age had I not been in that part of the country—the Aislers Set down in San Francisco, the Gossip, and the Need would play in Portland all the time; Dear Nora was one of my favorite bands there; the Exploding Hearts were a big band in Portland at the time; the Hunches, the Thermals emerged sort of right before I left.

A couple of your songs have lyrics about being a teenager, teenage years... what have you. Were these songs that you wrote a long time ago, or is it just good songwriting sense to appeal to the youth?

I don't know, I'm pretty immature. I feel like the songs from the album are kind of about stuff that happens to you when you're growing up, but I also feel like that process doesn't really stop at 18 or something like that. The experiences that shape you aren't limited to a specific adolescent age range; it's a constant process of becoming the person that you are.

There was this Deerhunter interview where [frontman Bradford Cox] said you write songs for your 17-year-old self, which I thought was interesting. We wanted to be the band that we would have loved when we were 17, when music does mean everything to you and it's a really idealistic time in your life. We were all kind of nerdy kids who hung out at diners and talked about bands that we liked all night; the music and who you were were almost one and the same thing. I think it's important to hold on to the reason you loved the music so much that it meant everything to you.

You have a couple lyrics that seem like intentional nods to other indie-pop bands. There's a line about "crashing through," which was the title of a Beat Happening song, and one about "another sunny day," which was the name of a British band.

I feel bad about the "another sunny day" one, because I realized after the fact that Belle and Sebastian did that, too. And not everyone has to name drop Another Sunny Day to get anorak cred. "Stay Alive" originally was going to have a Velocity Girl reference in it, but I couldn't say "crazy town" in a song without cracking up, so that one didn't actually make it. "This Love Is Fucking Right" is kind of a reference to a Field Mice song, "This Love Is Not Wrong"; it's kind of the flip side to the coin.

To me it's fond and loving. Everyone tries to act like they've made the most original music ever created, and I'm like, I love other bands, and I'm not afraid to say it. I've always loved other bands, and I'd like to be in a band like the kind of bands that I love. Sometimes it's fun to leave little love notes to the bands that have allowed you to make the music that you do.

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