Kip Berman on How Fatherhood Helped Him Go Solo
As Kip Berman of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart readies himself to have baby number two, he’s also ushering in a new band called The Natvral. He’s been the indie rock jetsetter; now, he’s going for local troubadour.
“At this point, I’m just happy kind of cutting the fat out of music and touring, things that aren’t about writing songs and playing them for people,” Berman tells TIDAL before the recent release of Know Me More, his debut solo EP. “It’s been a real relief for me to just sort of say yes to playing shows in someone’s living room.”
Berman initially formed the Pains of Being Pure at Heart more than 10 years ago in New York City. Their shoegazey, Anglophilic sound soon made them mainstays on indie blogs like Pitchfork and gained them an ample enough following that they could tour internationally — more than once.
Their most recent album, 2017’s The Echo of Pleasure, was recorded before Berman’s first child was born in 2016, and marked a kind of pause in the demanding schedule of a touring band for the front man. The Natvral is all about staying just that: keeping music simple and setups simpler. A boon for Berman, who is expecting his second child this fall.
“Going back to complete and total helplessness with an infant is kind of mentally hard to get back to,” he says. “I don’t know if you ever have anxiety dreams where you were like, ‘Oh no, I’m in college and this term paper is due.’ Then you wake up like, ‘All right! I did it all! And I’m past that.’ Here, that dream is a reality because you have to go back and do it all again.”
Conceptualizing his new project was not quite as harrowing as having another child — in fact it wasn’t harrowing after all, according to Berman. Know Me More was recorded in 2018 in London after the last Pains tour. Producer and friend Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine) has a studio in the city and offered Berman some recording time if he opted to stick around for a few more days.
“The songs were written at home,” Berman says. “I didn’t know how they were going to be recorded, and Andy was like, ‘Well we should just set up a microphone and I’ll plug in the guitar and then you play the song and if you think you’ve done a good job, well, that’s basically it.’”
The duo recorded three original tracks in this stripped-down style — “Know Me More,” “The Violet Hour” and “Home” — the sound leaning more toward that of folksters like Richard Thompson than the Pains’ signature fuzzed-out style. Berman also recorded a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” partly for his Cohen-loving mother, and partly because, well, they needed one more song.
“It was almost the opposite of running out of time,” he says. “If you’re not doing all those overdubs and trying to get everything perfect, recording actually goes pretty fast. I wrote them, I played them, and it’s like, ‘Oh shit, we had more time. What else do you know?’”
Songs in hand, Berman is looking forward to plugging in and playing around New York and his new home of New Jersey, and then returning to his family — a growing unit that is having no small effect on the kind of music he has now decided to play. His two-and-a-half-year-old daughter picked all the singles for the Pains’ last album, and looks forward to daily drives to daycare with her father, who plays her everything from the Supremes to ABBA on the way to school.
It’s hard to get her out of the car on these mornings, but Berman is happy to put on one more song, regardless of time. “I think it’s really nice and a lot more important than showing up exactly on time at school,” he says.
And that’s the mentality behind The Natvral, too: enjoyment of the music beyond all else.
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