Teeming with an unabashed love of ’80s indie pop at its most immediate, the 2009 self-titled debut from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart was an insta-classic that flung the young Brooklyn band to the head of the class.
Faced with the challenge of following up such a sterling start, these star pupils did the only thing possible: Be themselves, only better. For “Belong,” the band worked with legendary producers Flood (U2, Depeche Mode) and Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins) to add heaviness to their heavenly sound and created an album that recalls the best of the “Empire Records” era.
amNY spoke with singer/guitarist Kip Berman about the new album:
“Belong” echoes early-’90s alt-rock bands such as Hole. Were these groups that made an impact on your teenage years?
Growing up, I listened to Radiohead’s “The Bends,” Smashing Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream” and Weezer’s self-titled blue album a lot. But Tori Amos was just as important to me as those bands. Their voices and lyrics were weird and special — I could, and still can, relate to that.
Why do you think alt-rock stumbled while hip-hop took off?
I think the answer is that pop is good, and hip-hop embraced and mastered pop when alternative rock treated the term like a leper. [Also], alt-rock is inherently hypocritical on the issue of commercial success. No alternative band could “succeed” and admit they [had], or even admit that success was good.
The indie-rock community can be pretty insular. Have you gotten any flak for trying to make your music as popular as it can possibly be?
I love pop music, and we’ve always said we’re a pop band. All those other weird micro-hyphen genres people throw on us aren’t our own invention. I’d like to be Katy Perry, if possible.
With the Strokes’ recent revival, the NYC music landscape of 10 years ago seems to be back. Is there room for new voices?
We’ve always lived in the shadow of something or other, and that suits us fine. Our ambitions aren’t of scale, but of quality. Great records are more important than great bands. Bands fall apart or lose their way, but a record preserves something pure and timeless. A great pop song written in 1965 can make perfect sense in 2015, and I bet if you played the Strokes to kids in the ’60s, they’d love it.
If you go: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are performing Friday at 6 p.m. at Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St., 212-353-1600.