Neverland’s got nothing on the whimsical world constructed by Pearl and the Beard. The N.Y.C. based trio carries listeners on their backs through a DIY dreamland that is unpredictable, yet safe and warm like the comfort of one’s own bed.
The band’s debut album God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson is adventurous and may require a compass. Pearl and the Beard pairs the mythical and distant, as in the track “Vessel” a sailor’s lament and a mermaid’s beckon to the sea, with the oh-so personal confessional hymn “O Death” that exclaims “I love you the way you’ve always been”, and they will.
The Brooklyn three-piece is made up of Jocelyn Mackenzie, Emily Hope Price and Jeremy Styles, a group that seems destined for each other from their well-matched vocals to their stylish threads.
In preparation for the release of the band’s Black Vessel EP tonight I decided to have a little chat with Jeremy and Jocelyn to find out what makes them tick and to get to the bottom of who this Amanda Richardson character is. Read the entire interview below, and check the band out for yourself tonight in N.Y.C at the Living Room or Sunday in Philadelphia at World Café Live.
BUST: I read that you three met here in N.Y.C., what exactly brought you together? Was it always a musical pursuit?
Jeremy: We met through different open mic nights. First at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn then Sidewalk Cafe in the city. We liked the cuts of each other's musical jib and started working together. It was purely a musical interest at first. We were all solo artists living in the city and performing then decided to combine our individual powers and strengths to form a sort of 400 pound, 16 foot Captain Planet with 3 voices. As a result of the musical partnership we have become very close friends, giving each other support as we navigate through these unknown musical waters.
Jocelyn: For me, it was lonesomeness and cheap beer. I ended up at Pete's Candy Store open mic night by accident one night, having arrived there by myself for happy hour. Jeremy asked me to borrow a pen, and I almost, almost, didn't even tell him that I sing. I'm glad I did.
BUST: As a band you have a very distinct look, would you say there is any aesthetic inspiration you collectively draw from?
JS: It wasn't calculated. I think we are just like-minded in our clothing and accessory choices. I draw my inspiration from looking at certain photographs over time. I look to see if that man looks out of place or extremely dated. I'm trying to wear clothing that if I ever got caught in a time machine fiasco I'd be able to blend in at any time. Since we would also make terrible snipers, lookouts, and fighter pilots because of our lazy, lazy eyes that don't like to look too far ahead, we need corrective tools that help ameliorate this malady.
BUST: The vocals blend seamlessly on every track is this something that took time to achieve or was the chemistry instantaneous?
JS: I'd say it was at first natural, raw talent, then honed over the years with each other to make the most efficient and lovely sounds we can. We have all been singing our whole lives. I've been in choirs since I was old enough to stand still, so I learned how to blend, when to sit back and support and when to take the lead. Since we practice in my house acoustically we get a really great sense of our voices and what works and what doesn't. Having played hundreds of shows we've run the gamut sound wise, with really amazing sound, subways, to dingy clubs where a sweaty sound guy is fumbling around trying to stop feedback.
BUST: I have to ask, who is Amanda Richardson, and why name an album after her?
JS: I'm torn. I'm trying to remember if we wanted to keep it a mystery or not. Sometimes we tell, sometimes we don't. But here it is: Amanda is my old roommate who has one whopper of a story to tell. She's been through some hellish times and also some random, awesome times. One day she was relating her tale to Jocelyn at a practice and afterwards Jocelyn, completely dumbfounded said those exact words which we then made our album title. It just fit for some reason, with the collection of songs we were recording at the time. She's actually getting married soon to the love of her life so we might have to collect all of the albums we've sold and change the title to her new name. Just kidding.
BUST: You’ve definitely mastered the art of storytelling with this album, are there any particular folktales or fairytales you loved as children?
JS: I grew up in a very religious house, so for me the Bible stories I learned were like my children's stories. David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Adam and Eve, Jesus turning water into wine. These were what I was raised on. Thanks to the girls I've been hearing about some of the Hans Christian Andersen stories that were made G rated for Disney, but am finding out just how dark it they really are, which I find absolutely amazing.
JM: My dad made up a lot of stories for me as a kid, one favorite being the recurring tales of "The Girl With The Little Rubber Head."
BUST: A lot of the songs are very personal, are most of them products of personal experiences, or is the intimacy just another illusion of great storytelling?
JS: A little of column A and a little of column B I'd say. A lot can be said when putting out your personal experiences for everyone to see, and sort of expose your diary in a way. It lets other people know that they are not terribly alone because someone out there totally unrelated to you is feeling a similar emotion and going through ups and downs. But there is also a lot that can be said by creating a fictional, stylized world where extreme circumstances bring out the purest form of emotion because it has no limit since it doesn't quite exist in reality.
BUST: There’s a bit of darkness in a lot of your songs, are you ever afraid of getting too dark? How do you keep your music from going over the edge?
JS: You realize as an adult that everything wants to balance itself out. We enjoy great times, but realize a rainy day is never far away. With our songs we tend to view the world through these eyes that have seen a lot and realize a lot more is coming, good and bad. I often wonder what it's like to be at our shows where we are singing some pretty intense, sometimes dark, songs, then in between songs we make some pretty sweet jokes.
JM: Emoting with your face while you're singing is a really good way to allow the reality of the emotions to come through the lyrics. So even if you're singing a sad line, if you're smiling, the true duality of its meaning can shine.
BUST: The track “Donny & Johnny” addresses urban gentrification and tourism is this an issue that you feel strongly about as New Yorkers?
JS: For me that song is extremely complicated in its delivery, but pretty simple in its message. The Donny in that song refers to Don Quixote and the Johnny is obviously Johnny Cash. It's about change in general, and whether or not all change is good. Landmarks get changed, moved, destroyed. The old man, Don Quixote lives in a fantastic world, albeit fictional, but it makes him happy. He is ultimately undone by the realization that what he has been experiencing is not real. It comes off as "cured" by those around him, but it really does him in. Is Coney Island an eyesore or a place to create some awesome memories? All these things changing are both good and bad. The world is not black and white. It's full of color and that's what makes it worth living here. People can argue for or against gentrification or tourism, but the truth is it has its benefits and drawbacks depending on who you ask at what hour of the day.
BUST: Jeremy, you’re out-numbered here, how does it feel it feel to work with two strong women vocalists? Do you think you would lean toward a different sound or aesthetic appeal if say, you were in a band with other guys or working solo?
JS: It feels great. We all have such unique voices alone, but occasionally during a song I can't even tell who is singing what because it's all blending so well. It can be annoying being the only dude in the band, but it also makes me feel special. When we tour and play with other bands I get glimpses of what life COULD be like if I was in a different band with all dudes, and I'm ultimately happy with this world that we've created for ourselves. Like I would never get head rubs if it were me and all dudes. It has taken me a while to figure out the ins and outs of the ladies' minds, and I'm still learning, but I like the dynamic we all bring working together. It just balances itself out.
BUST: Last but not least, why the Will Smith medley? What about the Fresh Prince garnered a musical homage from Pearl and the Beard?
JS: For shoots and googles, really. We were writing new songs and using the Fresh Prince of Bel Air as sort of a syllabic place holder for how the melody should go, and not be permanent. Then, because we are huge nerds that love to run jokes waaaayyy into the ground we tried to mash up as many of his songs ad nauseum. We performed it and people seemed to love it, so we kept doing it. Then we filmed it, and it helped sell some records for us.
Watch the P and the B's Will Smith medley:
PHOTO AND VIDEO COURTESY OF WWW.PEARLANDTHEBEARD.COM