Pearl and the Beard

14 Sep

“All three of us listen to different music, we like different songwriters, we each think of music differently, so we hope our music reflects these differences and avoids the ‘factory’ song.”

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a living room show for Pearl and the Beard. Emily Hope Price, Jocelyn Mackenzie, and Jeremy Styles were three extremely talented individuals that filled my home with music and laughter. It was such an incredible experience seeing and hearing them live, especially having it happen right there in my own home. This band has worked hard to get by over the years, releasing tons of music and never slowing down. Their most recent release, Killing the Darlings, is an album you can’t stop replaying. Filled with ten songs that are all extremely unique in their own ways and constantly have you tapping your feet to the beat. I interviewed Emily to learn more about the band that has gotten so much notice in the world of folk.

Q. How did the three of you meet and decide to form a band?

A. Joyce and Jeremy met at Pete’s Candy Store open mic in Sept. 2007. Then, after bonding together and forming Pearl and the Beard overnight, they met Emily at The Sidewalk Cafe’s open mic night in January 2008. Pearl and the Beard was born!

Q. All three of you are involved in the vocals in your songs. Does the same go for the songwriting process?

A. The songs take shape in whatever process they need. Sometimes we bring to the table a finished song that just needs a little reworking… sometimes it’s just a verse, or a chorus, or a hook and we build it together. It’s never the same, but we all have a hand in making it come to life.

Q. Your Will Smith melody went a bit viral on YouTube. Why did you guys choose to do Will Smith and the songs you featured in the video?

A. This whole thing started as a joke – a fun thing to do at a show once in a while.  It was never intended for a video or to go viral. We were needing a video and our manager suggested the Will Smith song, and it kind of just happened. The songs we sing in that medley appear simply because we could fit them in. It was fun to see how many songs we could actually make work within its frame – some had to be sacrificed… it’s the way of the medley, we’re afraid.

Q. The music industry today is filled with artists who seem to release the same song, just different lyrics over and over. Do you ever find yourself thinking, “All of our songs sound the same?”

A. That’s an important aspect of our work in that we try very hard to avoid thinking this. All three of us listen to different music, we like different songwriters, we each think of music differently, so we hope our music reflects these differences and avoids the “factory” song. However, we do recognize that it’s hard to avoid using similar kinds of musical language when you’re writing song after song. We can’t avoid being US, so we do find that we use similar musical tools in each song, but it’s a matter of how you use those tools to create your work. There are 26 letters of the alphabet and a kajillion words that all mean different things; there are a zillion different colors in existence. Music is the same way. Why limit yourself to one set of words that sound the same or use one shade of color your whole life? (Even Picasso had a blue period, but he moved on, too.)  So, to answer your question, yes, sometimes it occurs to us that we use similar tools, but it’s enough that we’re conscious of it and always learning and changing, hoping our work follows suit.

Q. SXSW is such a great place to feature indie bands and artists trying to get their music out there. Was it an honor to play at such a huge music festival?

A. Of course! The first year we did 3 or 4 shows, the second year we did 7 shows in 4 days, which was pretty ridiculous. We were exhausted, but our favorite SXSW activity is seeing live music and discovering new bands who then become friends. The first year of South By we met Holy Ghost Tent Revival who have since become very close friends of ours. SXSW is the perfect place to meet incredible people doing what we do. SXSW can be a great experience, and it was for us.

Q. You probably get this question all the time, but some newer fans that have just stumbled upon your music may not know the answer–how did you guys come up with the name Pearl and the Beard?

A. Once, long ago, a mermaid was spit out of the sea onto a deserted beach. Knocked unconscious, she began to wither away in the sun. Jeremy, a sailor at the time, had been living in a lighthouse for several years just a few miles away from this same beach. One morning he went collecting fish from his traps in the ocean, like you do, when he came upon the mermaid. He saw her face and began to weep it was so beautiful. A single tear dropped into the mermaid’s eye. Suddenly, her tail fell off and flipped away into the ocean! Jeremy screamed like a little girl, but the mermaid, upper half (which of course was a beautiful girl), started to shake and, without warning, it turned into none other than a beautiful shining guitar. With strings. And it was tuned. And it had an extra 9 volt battery in its pickup. And you could hear it without needing to plug it in to a sound system for MILES and MILES. It was amazing and completely magical. And it was FREE! He looked at it longingly for several minutes and, at first cradling it, then impulsively raising it to the sky, screamed, “PEEEEEAAAAARRRRRLLLL!”  Emily and Jocelyn, sisters of the now deceased beached mermaid-turned-guitar, heard his cry from the ocean and swam to him. Now, Jeremy had a huge beard – it was like a beacon to them – calling them by name.  It glowed in the sun!  ”BEEEEAAAAARRRRRDDDD!” they called back.  ”You killed our sister!  She is a guitar now. You jerk!”  Now, everyone knows the only way to get your guitar-mermaid sister back is to shave the beard off of the person in possession of the guitar and sprinkle its remains into the sea. So, Emily and Jocelyn are cursed to be with Jeremy and his guitar forever until they can successfully shave off Jeremy’s beard. Hence the name: Pearl and the Beard.

Q. If you could pick one artist or band, dead or alive, to cover one of your songs, who would you pick, which song would you pick, and why?

A. Prince. Voice in my Throat. Why not?

Q. Have you ever done any solo acts? If so, how different is it from performing with the band?

A. We each have our own separate projects from the band. Jeremy’s solo project is called Worship Service. Jocelyn is in her project called Dream Team Laser Beam with Jim Altieri, and Emily Hope Price has been doing her solo work since joining Pearl and the Beard in 2008.

Q. It looks like you’ve got a busy time ahead of you with all of this touring and promoting the new record. If you only had to choose one venue to play for the rest of your career, which one would it be?

A. Niagra Falls. That’s a venue, right?

Q. If you were stranded on an island and could only bring one of your songs to listen to, which one would it be and why?

Again we say, why not?


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