so, it’s already august (seriously – where HAS this year gone?!) and i’ve begun to think about my top ten albums of the year. it’s a tough thing for me, because i’m more typically attracted to singles rather than entire albums, but there are a few that are already sticking out as favorites.
one of those is pearl and the beard’s lovely killing the darlings, which i’ve fangirl babbled about on here several times now (go HERE to read my complete review). the band, which consists of the trio of jocelyn mackenzie, emily hope price and jeremy styles, crafts eclectic and delightful music that defies genre labelling with a wide variety of equally diversified instruments (you won’t find the standard guitar / keyboard / drums only equation here).
two members of the group, jocelyn mackenzie and jeremy styles, were kind enough recently to answer some questions for me about the band, their creative process, and what’s up next for them.
have you met heather: what’s the story behind how the three of you formed pearl and the beard?
jocelyn mackenzie: We met at different open mic nights… Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn and Sidewalk Cafe in Manhattan. Just goes to show you you never know who you’re gonna meet at the open mic night! Keep on going if you’re starting to doubt yourself, young ones.
hymh: and…where did the name pearl and the beard come from?
jeremy styles: There is no Pearl or Beard, only the ones being created through our songs. The name just came from our dome pieces.
hymh: I must admit I’m utterly intrigued and delighted by how your music is so eclectic. Some songs have a very bluesy feel while others seem best suited to fairy tales. Where do you find the inspirations for your songs?
jeremy: I’ve been happy about that as well. It’s not a conscious effort on our parts to write so many different types of songs. Each song we approach just comes out that way because that is what we were wanting to create at the time. From the beginning of this band we’ve never wanted to be pigeon-holed. Since we’re all individual song writers that have come together a lot of people ask, “What makes a Pearl and the Beard song?” – and the answer is simply if all three of us like something that we start working on, then we put it into our musical repertoire and eventually record it. What happens then unconsciously is that we’ve created a mix tape of sorts. A mix tape of music made by the same band. Avant-Death-Gyro-Core? If Jeremy, Emily and Jocelyn like it, we write the thing. It’s simple, and it’s fun. It allows us to write what we want and not feel tethered to one particular sound because that’s what we’re “supposed” to be. We are three very different people, who are friends and we have different lives and experiences that effect us in unique ways. You mix that together in the pot of music with our abilities and skills and you’re gonna get God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson, Black Vessel, and Killing the Darlings to date.
hymh: what is the writing process usually like? is it a collaborative effort between the three of you, or do certain songs come from certain people?
jocelyn: Any way you can imagine that a group could write a song, we do it. Some are brought as complete songs to the table by one band member or the other and then finely tuned by the other two, some are equal three-part collaborations, some are just two of us working together, some are old songs that we splice together in a sort of song kabob, some come out of just jamming. Whatever a particular song needs, that’s what we do. It’s not about ego.
hymh: one of the things i really like about your music is the diverse collection of instruments you use, in particular the glockenspiel and the cello (both of which i feel ought to be used more in music nowadays). what drew you to the instruments you use? any others you consider bringing into your music?
jocelyn: It all depends on what a song needs, but also what is available to us. We like to make the most out of what we have. For example on Vessel (from our first album, God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson), I have a part that I play on melodica that I wrote because there happened to be one floating around the apartment I was living in at that time. But had we had an accordion or a tuba available, maybe it would have been an accordion or tuba part. That being said, the song will tell you what it wants, so if we need to be creative and go out of our comfort zone to accommodate a song’s needs, that’s what we do.
hymh: killing the darlings is a fantastic album (one I’ve had on repeat for awhile now). what was the process like for you guys to create it?
jocelyn: Thank you! Working with Franz Nicolay and Dan Brennan as a double-power super-producer team was a dream come true. Both brought completely different yet completely harmonizing ideas and inspirations to the table, and both were streamlined, organized and on point. It was like working with two robot sharks, in the best possible way.
hymh: any particular songs (new or old) that are favorites of yours to perform?
jocelyn: I personally love performing “The Lament of Coronado Brown,” because I don’t sing for most of the song and I get to just listen to Jeremy and Emily’s gorgeous voices blend together. It gives me chills every time to hear those two. “Douglas Douglass” is always fun though, too, because we can really connect with the crowd during that one when everyone is stomping and clapping along with us.[ed. note: douglas douglass was recently remixed by the comedy/rap duo snakes to create whole bunch of chicken – go HERE to check it out.]
hymh: any plans to tour beyond the east coast this year?
jeremy: We’re embarking on a South / Midwest tour from 8/12 – 9/9, so check our website to see if you can catch us! But other things are definitely in the works, and our hope is to get all over the world. As far as this year goes realistically, we’ll see. We want to go out there, and we’re doing the best that we can to meet everyone out there and play for them and share in this musical experience.
hymh: what can listeners expect next from pearl and the beard?
jocelyn: More and more and more and more and more.
thanks jocelyn and jeremy!
here’s a list of the the band’s tour dates – lucky you left coast and midwest peeps! so bummed they won’t be hitting the west coast yet…
New York, NY
Cooper Square Hotel Penthouse
The Mecklenburg Inn
The Blind Tiger
w/ Now You See Them, Matty Sheets and the Blockheads
w/ e-s guthrie
Lexington Avenue Brewery
w/ Rainbow Nerd and Jon Stickley Trio
w/ The Stereofidelics
The Pigeon Hole
w/ poetry by Cecilia Llompart and Lex Gibson
New York, NY
w/ Lenka, Casey Shea and Robbie Gil
w/ Andy Lund, The Great Crusades, and Bob Dey’s Tank Engine Man
The Lemon Grove
St. Louis, MO
w/ Spot Ons
3rd and Lindsley
Paper City Music Festival
w/ Woody Pines, Lewis Brothers and more
w/ David Wax Museum and Second String Band
buy killing the darlings, pearl and the beard’s latest LP, HERE.