With their second album (and first in five years) Love, Chaos out today, guitarist and vocalist Kirsty Lowrey and drummer Sara Leigh-Shaw of the much-revered London rock duo The Pearl Harts talk to Post-Burnout about their formation, the musical change-up on their new album, having their music featured on the hit BBC drama Peaky Blinders, touring with Garbage and Skunk Anansie, their Irish live debut, working sessions with some major artists, and how they feel like they are beginning again.
Yeah, I guess the first thing I’ll just ask is, for you guys, how did you individually start getting into music and then how did you guys kind of meet each other?
Kirsty: Well, Sara’s got a cool…like, your family’s musical, Sara, isn’t it? My family is not musical. [Laughs]
Sara: [Laughs] Yeah, I mean my dad, he was a guitarist, so I kind of, yeah, grew up with him sort of having…playing guitar and, like, keyboards and stuff. He didn’t do it professionally, but he was pretty good at it, and it was his hobby. So, I think I always knew that I would play a musical instrument, and I really wanted to play the violin and then, at my school, there wasn’t any violins to play, so they tried to give me the flute, and then my hands were too small, then they gave me the clarinet. So, that’s what I kind of got given, and I was so happy. And then I really wanted to play the drums and, yeah, my mum and dad were like, “If you can get some lessons at school then you’re more than welcome to,” basically. And, at my school, I was lucky enough that they used to give kids, like, free lessons or like…they were heavily subsidised, you know? It was, you know, I don’t know, £3 or £4 for a lesson or something, so…
Sara: So, yeah, that’s what I did. I think they kind of wanted me to…they were like, “Oh, you should play the saxophone, and progress to another wind instrument.” [Laughs] That I was like, “Oh, I want to play the drums,” and I think my dad was secretly happy, because once, you know, once I sort of like…I got, like, one of those practice kits – and I picked it up really quickly – and he had somebody to jam with, so he was like, “Here’s the Rolling Stones,” and, you know, “Here’s David Bowie,” and just, you know, all the music that he listened to, so it was kind of nice for him. So, he used to, like, play his guitar and I’d play the drums, and that’s how I started anyway, so, yeah. Kirsty, are you going to tell your story, or…? [All laugh]
Kirsty: My story? I, um, when I was…You telling yours has reminded me, actually, of how early I started, but when I was in primary school, my head teacher at the school used to play acoustic guitar and she’d just play, like, God songs and stuff, and it wasn’t a particularly religious school but I guess, like, when you’re a kid – when you’re like six or seven – you don’t really know what music you like, I guess. And so, yeah, I just remember learning a couple of chords to, like, [Laughs] “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” which I was reminded of, the other day. Em, and then I kind of…then I did use to do that at lunchtimes, and that was it. And then when I was 14, 15, I really wanted to play the bass, and I started on the bass guitar and joined a few bands, and then just haven’t really looked back since. My bass guitar teacher was like, “I think you should learn six string,” and I was like, “OK!” [Laughs] Because it seemed louder and more fun, and it was!
So, how much of it was kind of, like… – when it came to, like, the actual music you were listening to at that point and what you were trying to kind of emulate, I guess – how much of it was kind of the influence of adults, whether that was parents or teachers, and how much of it was just self-discovery?
Kirsty: I think a lot of it, for me, was about my friendship groups and my social groups. It was definitely about…like, I feel there was…I mean, I’m not a chi…I’m not, like, an adolescent anymore, but, like, I feel like when I was an adolescent, when we were adolescents, like, there was like a scene. Like, you’d just all hang out in the park, and you’d be wearing…everybody would be wearing, like, hoodies [or] T-shirts. Like, you, like, wore your band, your music love, on your sleeve, basically, and you wanted everybody to know and, yeah, so it was all about your mates, and, like, discovering music from, like, your mates’ brothers or your older siblings or, you know, just like the cool kids, like, who are older than you in school and, yeah, you just basically would check what hoodie they were wearing or, like, what they were like telling you about or whatever, or what CDs they were lending you, and that’s kind of how I got into, like, the music I listen to. Like, I was really into The Distillers and Hole and the riot grrrl scene in the early…like, I was too young for it, but one of the girls that my mate’s…who was a family friend of a friend, she used to listen to it a lot and I remember even stealing my cousin’s, like, Alanis Morissette CD and being like, “What’s this?!,” you know what I mean? But, yeah, I just really feel like it was a very social thing, and you’d get inspiration from your mates.
For yourself, Sara?
Sara: Um…I guess, I mean, like, I think, for me, I think because I’ve always had, like…because my dad was always playing, like, lots of different things and I think a big bit of mine came from that. And then, like, I really got into a band called Manic Street Preachers; like, I just loved them, and, again, when they sort of first started out, I was too young to have known who they were, but I sort of delved into their back catalogue and I kind of really liked the intensity of that band. I liked how they were, you know, four people against the world, I kind of liked that mentality to it. So, quite a lot of the people that I went to school with, like – I mean it was kind of similar to Kirsty – in that, you know, people like…there was people who wore the things on their sleeves, you know? Bands like, I don’t know, Korn or something like that, all into that. But, yeah, I guess, I mean…yeah, my groups of friends, I think, they were just more into, like, maybe more eclectic…like, different kinds of music and stuff, and I think I felt the same. Like, I think I was drawn to heavier music because I played the drums and I think that was what was expected of me, and I did play in some heavier bands, but, like, secretly I kind of liked a bit more eclectic music, I think. So, I didn’t really…and, you know, sometimes when you’re at school, you’re kind of like, “If I shared some of my sort of weird music tastes…” [Laughs] I was a bit sort of shy to share them, if you know what I mean. So, it was kind of a bit…yeah, a bit of two things going on. And then, yeah, then when I moved to London – because I grew up in the North East – but when I moved to London, yeah, Kirsty and I met because I joined this website called…I think it was called “drummergirl.com,” or something. [All laugh]
Kirsty: Did you join it as a joke?
Sara: I did it as a joke! And, yeah, I was looking to play in bands and I just, you know, I was looking to sort of find a social group and I just signed up to some different websites, like drummergirl.com, well, sign up to it, and I just completely forgot about it, and Lara [Smiles], who, em…– we actually have a song called “Lara” – and she’s one of Kirsty and I’s best friends, and we just…yeah, she just got in touch, and she was like, “I’m trying to find a drummer for my band,” and that was the band that Kirsty was in. So, that’s how Kirsty and I met, and that was pretty much within, I don’t know, the first year that I moved down to London. So, yeah. The rest is history! [All laugh]
And then, so The Pearl Harts started from there. What was, I guess, the kind of impetus of it being a two-piece? Was it just easier to schedule around, or did you think that was enough, the sound was complete enough?
Sara: I think that because…so, we had been in a four-piece, and that’s kind of sort of like…it kind of filtered out partly because the singer Lara, she got the opportunity to tour with, like, quite a big touring project, so she was away a lot, and I think it was already starting…I think she was already wanting to go a bit more into like a synth-y, dance kind of direction, and me and Kirsty were more into heavier music, and we, you know, just wanted to explore that more, really. And I think, yeah, the idea of just doing it, the two of us, kind of sounded exciting. Kirsty just got a Loop pedal, and we just thought, “Well, if we can use the Loop pedal wisely, then we don’t need another member. We’d just figure out how to write the songs.”
Kirsty: Bear in mind, I never sang in a band in my life!
Sara: “In my life!”
Kirsty: I had barely done back-ups in my other band! And Sara was, like, she’s so cool; she proper championed me and she was like, “Let’s just get into a rehearsal room and let’s just play some covers. You know the words to those songs, you’ve grown up listening to those songs, just sing them.” So, we did, then I was like, “Hey! This is kind of fun!” And then, it was horrible at first, because I was like, “I sound shit.” But, no, Sara, you were really supportive, and, like, just encouraged me to do it and I wanted to do it, and, yeah, so we didn’t really…we had the idea of wanting to be in a two-piece and I think at the time…
Sara: It was kind of…it didn’t really…we didn’t really know what we were doing, because I had this little practice room in Hackney, and people used to throw stones at the windows [Laughs] because it wasn’t really supposed to be a practice room, but we just sort of went there, we just sort of sat in there, kind of not really knowing what to do. [Laughs] But, like, we knew that we wanted to make something, but it was kind of like, sort of a sweet, innocent process, as well, because we knew where we wanted to end up, but we just didn’t…
Kirsty: Yeah, quite know how to get there! [Laughs]
Kirsty: Just get in the room…we just sat in the room, didn’t we? We just did it, we just smashed it out. I think we, like…you’re right; we definitely did have an idea, didn’t we, of the sound we wanted? We knew who our influences were. Sara and I were always really aligned with our musical tastes and our personalities and just…yeah, we were kind of inseparable, really, from the moment that we met, and it just made sense to do something together, and we both really wanted it, and it was just easy. I mean, we dabbled…like, later down the line, we were like…people used to be like, “You should do a bass player,” or “You should do this…,” and we were always like, “[Sticks middle fingers up] Ehhh! Fuck off!” [All laugh] I’m glad we were like that, you know? I feel like we’ve stood our ground and we’ve worked really hard on the sound, to develop it, to make it, like, our sound but also a big sound; not just volume-wise, but, like, you know, layers and…
Kirsty: Yeah, full, yeah. And, yeah, I’m glad we stuck it out. I’m glad, yeah.
Sara, you’re obviously a session drummer; I mean, you’ve worked with – talk about eclectic taste – you’ve worked with like, Hans Zimmer, Johnny Marr, Orla Gartland, Charlie XCX, as well as working on, I believe, The X Factor and TFI Friday. I was wondering how that came about – how you got involved with those projects – and how you think that The Pearl Harts differ?
Sara: Em…well, I just kind of made it my mission to be a full-time musician. So, yeah, before…I mean, when we were still doing our old band, I was sort of doing session stuff and I just…once you’re kind of like in that scene, you just, like, meet other people and, if the opportunity comes along, you just…you know, I just wanted to take it and have that opportunity. Yeah, like, when I did the Hans Zimmer gigs, that was pretty terrifying, because that was like classical music and I don’t…I did a bit of classical music at school, but I’m not a very good music reader, like, I do everything by ear. So, that was a bit scary but, yeah, I think it’s just like…I think most musicians now, it’s really hard to sort of make a living as an artist, so a lot of musicians have just had to diversify and do lots of other things, so…But I like playing with other people because I think it kind of informs you as a musician, and you can learn from it and, you know, bring ideas to the table for your own projects; not just musically but, like, the way that things are planned or, you know, it’s just kind of nice to feel like there’s other people who are doing similar things to you. So, like, Orla, she also plays for an artist called Dodie, as her session guitarist and keyboard player, so I think it’s more common now that there’s more musicians who do both roles, if you know what I mean. So, yeah, it’s kind of hard sometimes to juggle it all and obviously, for me, The Pearl Harts is my priority because I’ve put in so much time and effort, I really sort of care about it – not that I don’t care about the other things – but, like, I’ve made it my priority. But, yeah, sometimes it’s hard to juggle things but you just have to be organised with it, I suppose, and, you know, be honest with everyone and say, “Oh, I can do that, but I can’t do that,” and, yeah, hope for the best. [Laughs] So, yeah, that’s it, really.
But when you’re in others…sorry, when you’re working with other projects, do you kind of see aspects that you can adapt to The Pearl Harts or do you kind of go, “Oh, if I was writing this, this is what I would do differently,” or anything like that?
Sara: Em, not really, because I think I just sort of like…it’s just interesting to learn because obviously, like, some of those artists have been, like, a few steps on from where we are, and I’ve just been able to see what aspects have been done well to elevate a project, so it’s more kind of, like, you know…it’s more sort of learning what can make a project be elevated. I don’t sort of look at it from a creative aspect and be like, “Well, I want us to do this,” because I feel The Pearl Harts already has its own handwriting. So, it’s kind of like…I think it’s more from a production level, like, what we can do next or, you know, what makes sense more kind of behind-the-scenes, rather than, “Oh, I like the sound of that song. I want to emulate it as The Pearl Harts.” It’s more…I think it’s more of, like…yeah, sort of like a behind-the-scenes inspiration, than just sort of taking from it creatively, if you know what I mean. If that makes sense. [Laughs]
Well, your new album, Love, Chaos, is out the 21st of April, I believe. And it’s quite a bit of a departure, I think, in sounds…I haven’t heard the full album yet, but of the three singles released thus far, it does seem very different in the sense of your previous record, Glitter and Spit, which came out I think about five years ago now, at this point. Yeah, I was wondering if you could maybe talk about how this album differs from the previous one?
Kirsty: I think, like what we were saying before about the sound developing as a two-piece, I think when we originally started the band, you know, our influences, they’re still the same as they are today, but we were quite focused on riff-heavy rock n’ roll, like Sabbath-y style, quite like full, bombastic drums, like, you know, and we still love that type of music, we still listen to that type of music, we still want to play that type of music, but I think we also just wanted to challenge ourselves. Like with what Sara was saying with production, like, you know, that is…having that access to, like, making and creating your own – with technology – making and creating your own music yourself, it’s a good thing to learn, and Sara’s taken that on like full-head. And, yeah, we just wanted to experiment with different sounds and, yeah, I think that then sort of influenced the style of the writing and also, I think when you’re younger, you’re quite obsessed with how you’re perceived, in terms of like, “Oh, we listen to rock, so we’re only going to play rock and this is our box and we fit in it,” and, as you get older, you’re like, “I actually really like pop music,” or “I actually really like hip-hop and R&B,” and, you know, your taste…you just don’t give a shit anymore about, like, what box you fit in; you want to be in all the boxes, and we really took that on board when writing this record and we were like, “So, what if it’s like…?” You know, “Actually, I really like this topline, because it sounds quite poppy, but mixed in with, like, this kind of hip-hop or mixed in with these really heavy guitars, it sounds like The Pearl Harts.” And I just feel like we were way happier, and it felt a much easier record to make, because I felt like we weren’t worried about the pressures of how it was going to be perceived, if you know what I mean. And we did think, like, “Wow, this is quite different!” But, also, it doesn’t feel that…now I listen to it, I’m like, “This totally feels like us,” you know what I mean?
Kirsty: I just feel like the songs…I just want to…I just have more fun singing. Not that I don’t love the first record, but I’m just so excited by them, I enjoy playing them so much more. I just really think that they’re, like, far more elevated. They’re just more elevated, you know what I mean? Personally.
Sara: They feel more honest for us, don’t they?
Kirsty: Yeah. “Honest” is a good word. Yeah, they feel way more like…yeah, they feel legit. Yeah, I agree with that.
Sara: And also, they are still built through the Loop pedal…
Kirsty: Yeah, it’s definitely still our formula, isn’t it? Sometimes I’m like, “Wow, we have a formula!” [All laugh]
Sara: Yeah, ‘cause we can’t…it has to come from the Loop pedal. If it can’t be worked with the Loop pedal, then we just don’t do it.
Kirsty: Which is kind of nice because it means that we give ourselves a parameter, as well. We’re not…you know sometimes you can just be like…like, I remember when I was younger, I would listen to Crosby, Stills & Nash, and it would stress me out because I would be like, “How is it so perfect? Like, how did they come up with? Like…ugh! Where did it come from and how did they all sing that and, like, when did they discover all this beauty?” But then as you get older and you get more experienced, you’re like, “Oh, actually, they kind of did this and that and that,” and when you break it down, it’s so much easier…more easier to understand, but you can be overwhelmed by the sound of something, which I think is also really beautiful – sometimes, you shouldn’t have to break everything down and, like, the overwhelming emotion of music is what makes it so great – so, I don’t regret that feeling, but when you break it down, it’s much more easier to digest. And then you can start to say, “Well, OK, this is what sounds good. This is what we find an easy process to work with or to write with, let’s just keep going with that,” and then shit just churns out, doesn’t it? Not being afraid of the unknown, you know, it’s like pen to paper, and you’re like, “What do I write about?” If you go, “Right, I’m going to write about cheese,” then you write everything you know about cheese, you know what I mean? I quite like cheese. [Kirsty and Sara laugh]
Do you think lyrically the album has changed much…? Because obviously I think, [in the] music, you can hear a different direction. The album was produced by Danio, if I’m pronouncing that correctly; obviously I think he is going to add his own production flairs. You were talking about the parameter you put in, you say, “OK, it has to be with the Loop pedal.” I wonder, when it comes into the production studio, when you work with other producers, how much of that give and take it is, like, “OK, we don’t have to emulate this one-for-one when it comes to a live setting”?
Sara: Well, we did three tracks with Danio, and then one of the tracks we co-produced, and the rest of them we [produced] ourselves. So, we kind of had like an idea of what we wanted it to sound like, then Danio took it in a bit more of a…as if he was producing, like, a hip-hop track; like, he made the kicks really punchy and like the drums, they don’t sound as live as what they would’ve done on the old record, so it was kind of just staying within that box but also keeping the guitar…I mean, the guitars are still kind of old-school sounding. [Kirsty nods in agreement] So, em…but I think, with Danio, I think he just sort of enhanced the ideas that we already had; because we had a meeting with him and, at the time, he was like, “Why don’t you just produce it yourselves?” And we were like…we didn’t really feel ready at that point to just do a full album, producing ourselves, and having his ideas…So, like, there was one single that we did loads of postproduction on, and we made the drums sound really sort of ‘80s, which was “Wild Me,” and then Danio heard it and he was like, “Well, I want to do some more on it now!”
Kirsty: He was like, “I need this song!” [All laugh]
Sara: So, then it became, like, a co-production that we did together. But…and then, the other three songs – so, he did “More,” “Hypocritical” and “Ms Chanel,” which hasn’t been released yet. That’s on the album – but, yeah, he just had a very tight…he made everything sort of quite tight and clean, so we kind of, like, kept within those boundaries. But in terms of adding bits, he just added bits of sparkle, I would say. That was what he did. He was quite respectful of changing any lyrics or guitar riffs. I think he was quite respectful of that; he just sort of added bits of magic over the top, I would say, and then just tightened everything up and made it, like, not like it was live-sounding, more sort of studio-sounding.
Yeah. So, was that always a conscious thing in the back of your mind, where it’s like, “OK, we have to actually be able to translate this live, though”? Was that always something that you…?
Kirsty: Oh. Yeah, I think, like, we…that was always…that was kind of, like, our, like…Pearl Harts law: “We’re not playing it, we’re not writing it, if we can’t do it live,” you know what I mean? And we still live by that, but also, we’re kinder on ourselves now, you know? Like, we know the uses of the Loop pedal, like Sara’s really experienced in using her sample pad, and we’re using those bits of technology to our advantage, so we’re able to just make…you know, we’ve got elements of the stems of the track, like with the samples and stuff, that we can add into the live set, the bits of production, so that you can feel those bass drops, you can feel the enhancements that, like Sara was saying, give it that sparkle, but it’s still played live, you see what I mean? I think that was important to us, to be able to challenge ourselves live, as well. Because it is a lot when it’s only two of you. Oh, my God! Like, Sara’s singing and drumming and sampling! Like, I’m singing, I’m playing guitar, I’m looping. It’s just like, face, arms, shoulders, legs…everything’s going! [All laugh] And then you’ve got to perform! And it’s just like, you know, it’s super fun but it is proper exhausting. But, yeah, it’s good for the challenge, and I feel like because we were really excited for these songs, it was like, “How do we get them sounding…?” Making the record, and making the record sound great, was the priority at the time of making the record. We were a bit like…Danio was a bit like, “Let’s add in some horns,” we were like, “What?!” We were like, “We can’t add horns into the band! Like, we’re a two-piece!” And he was like, “Trust me,” and there’s some programmed horns in there, but we’re like, “That actually sounds sick,” and we’ll figure out how we get that on the live show if we want to. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be there, you know? Like, I think the song still stands for themselves, and, you know, I quite like going to see bands where it doesn’t like track…you know, like, play-for-play, on a CD. Like, you can appreciate that when it’s done well, when a live show is done well. But I want to see the idiosyncrasies; I want to see the fuck ups; I want to see the bum notes; I want to see the change of lyrics; I want to see the different phrasing; you know what I mean? The different times. I just think it gives it more emotion and, you know, a record, in a way…a record is a record, and a live show is a live show, they don’t always necessarily always have to be a mimic of each other, you know what I mean?
Yeah. I wanted to ask one thing about your label, Double Bang Records. At the moment, it’s been just for releases of The Pearl Harts. I was wondering, is there any plans to ever expand that and maybe release music from other artists, or is that just kind of your label?
Sara: Um…I have thought about that.
Kirsty: Would love to do that, I mean where’s the fucking time, though? [Laughs]
Sara: Yeah. Thought about it. I think we would need to get some kind of funding to do it. I do think about it, because, like, you know, when you release something and there’s so much that you have to learn, which you don’t really think about, you just think, “Oh, I’m going to make a vinyl and I’m going to upload it to Spotify and that’s it.” And I think it’s more straightforward now, but there is other stuff that you have to consider, in terms of boring stuff, like data input. Like, sometimes I’m like [Laughs] “I didn’t sign up for this!” Like, there’s so much data input to do…yeah, and I think like, you know, when me and Kirsty were first starting, doing music and stuff, it was…I don’t want to sort of like go, “Oh, you know, it’s so hard for female artists” and stuff, but it was harder to be taken seriously, especially in a rock band. On more than one occasion – on multiple occasions – we’ve like…people have said, “Oh, we’ve already had The Runaways,” do you know what I mean, like…?
Kirsty: Oh, yeah!
Sara: It was like, well, there’s been plenty of four-piece male bands, but nobody’s ever said, “Oh, we’ve already had Oasis!”
Kirsty: “We’ve already had Led Zeppelin,” yeah, or what have you.
Sara: Or, you know, whoever…I mean, I think, actually, they’re a five-piece, but anyway…
Kirsty: You know what I mean!
Sara: But that was kind of said a lot through our previous band, and then when me and Kirsty started The Pearl Harts, I think Deap Valley started at the same time, so they were like, “Oh, well there’s already Deap Valley,” and it’s kind of like…But, now, I think that’s changing quite a lot; so, like, with our knowledge and things, it kind of would be nice to help other young, female artists who are just starting to come through and feel like…I mean, not that we’re that old or anything, but like an elder…like, helping somebody who’s, like, eighteen or something and they just want to do their music and, you know, they might need the guidance that we would’ve needed but we didn’t have. So, yeah, maybe one day it would be nice to do that.
It’s kind of a sad indictment though, of kind of the music fans, that the idea of, like, I don’t know, women in rock is still seen as somewhat of a novelty or a – what would you call it? – a kind of a gimmick or something, you know?
I mean, was that ever something that you guys dealt with much, or was that just kind of the exception rather than the rule?
Sara: I just think it felt, like, a bit like if you played rock music, you were just lumbered into this classic rock place and it was a bit…it felt a bit throwback, but, like, I think there’s a lot more female rock artists coming through, like Cassyette and people like that, and, like, it feels different now, and there’s a lot of…you know, I’ve noticed a lot of session bands have got female guitarists in their band and they’re proper shredding and stuff, so I think it’s changing, for sure, but I think at a certain point, not that long ago – like, literally before the pandemic – you know, when we did our first album, we did struggle sometimes because I think it’s easy, if you played rock n’ roll, to be put into this kind of like, “Oh, you know, bit of a novelty. Wear leather jackets? You know, they must be like The Runaways.” [Laughs] Do you know what I mean? Whereas, yeah, I think it’s changing now, but I think tribal groups are kind of becoming more…like, subcultures, because of, like, the social media and TikTok and stuff like that, I think it’s making people have different groups, like when we grew up. So, yeah.
One thing I wanted to ask, I know for example, you guys have been featured on Peaky Blinders, you’ve done tours with bands like Garbage and Skunk Anansie; I was wondering when you have those kind of big, sort of career-defining moments that are like… – and I mean obviously, we’re talking probably only really the start of your career, in a lot of ways – I mean, do those kind of start expectations or do you kind of take them, again, as the exceptions rather than the rule? How do you kind of deal with those big moments like that?
Kirsty: We were so lucky! And I don’t mean we were lucky as in…Like, obviously, Shirley Manson and Skin and the rest of the band saw something in us that they liked, and they wanted to take us on tour. You know, I don’t think bands like that are like, “Let’s watch those guys fail miserably!” You know what I mean? They obviously wanted to champion us. So, in terms of that, I feel like we deserved it, but we were still super lucky. Like, we hadn’t even released a single, and we toured for six weeks through Europe, and we played to like 10,000 people in one show in Italy, and we hadn’t even…we were like, “What?!” And, at the time, it was so a blur, really. Like, you know, I don’t think that we were that stage experienced. We were just lumbered straight in with in-ear monitors, and it was just a whole other experience – I wouldn’t change it for the world – but I also feel like, now, the use of that experience would be so dramatically different because of what we know, of how much more experienced we are, of how we can…[Zoom call stutters], of the use of the equipment, the…Instagram and social media was not as big as it was now, even when we did that tour. Yeah, it was around, but I definitely…the band definitely weren’t using it as much. So, you know, we did the reach, and it was great and it felt organic, and I really do feel like all the fans we got from it were organic – that they’re still people we speak to today, and still purchase our records, they still get in touch with us, they still come to our gigs – but, you know, those opportunities, where you can reach such a huge amount of people live on a stage, is, you know, such a good opportunity and you can always use that to your advantage; and whether, like, that’s what you learn, like, just being on tour. Like, we’d never had a dressing room, we just played – you know, no offence – but, like, the toilet club scene venues, that’s all we’d ever done. I think, you know, we just changed in toilets our whole lives and got ready in graffitied mirrors, and we were like, “There is a full-length mirror in here!” Like, “What?! Where we get fed?!” Like, it was long drives, and it was gruelling – don’t get me wrong, it was not glamourous in any way – but we felt really lucky, and it was a dream come true, and I think we will always be so grateful to those bands who took a chance on us, and I think it gave us strength and hope because we were like, “Well, if these guys think we’re dope, maybe we are! Maybe we can do this!” I think it was the big boost, the big kick up the arse that made us believe in ourselves a bit more, do you think?
Sara: Yeah, definitely. I think it definitely…I mean, yeah, the Garbage ones, that was like five shows, I think – five or six shows – that was like…and I remember the last one we did, it was in Nottingham, and it was so random that we did those shows, really, because basically I just messaged Shirley on Instagram, and I was looking for support slots, and I was like, “That could be a good support slot if that, you know…,” and she got back to us, and I was like, “What the fuck?!” And, like, yeah, we had only released, like, one single and, yeah, it just happened very quickly. And I just remember, like, we played in Nottingham, and I was on stage, and I was like, “Just soak in this moment, because we might not get to do this again, like, it’s highly unlikely. You know, we still need to release more music and have more experience,” but then we did Skunk Anansie, which was a much longer tour after that, so it did feel kind of like, at the beginning, very much like that. And then I think, you know, I think since…I mean, my music career, I think is always quite up and down; you have to be very lucky for it to sort of stay like that [Demonstrates a graph stabilising on her hand], you know, I think there’s very few bands that get that. But, yeah, obviously the pandemic…we just I think had done the Peaky Blinders thing just before…well, a few months before COVID, so people were watching that series during COVID, so they were sort of like Shazaming us and everything, so it would have probably been a good time for us to have tour dates because people could’ve Shazam’d and then come and seen us on tour, but that wasn’t meant to be. But I think now, the only thing from having those experiences is now it does feel like we’re kind of starting again, in a way, but without having those experiences the second time around. We’ve had those experiences and now we have to prove ourselves on our own, so it does feel a bit scary because we have to have that self-belief ourselves now. So, that’s the only thing that I would say.
Kirsty, you were mentioning the fans you garnered while doing the live shows, and I kind of agree. I think that seeing a band live in a lot of ways is unparalleled to listening to them online or watching videos online, for example. Do you find that too, that it’s the bands…sorry, it’s the people you meet on the road that kind of stick with you in the long-term?
Kirsty: I would say yeah. I would say a hundred percent. I feel like…I think, especially in the rock and alternative world, fans are so loyal, you know what I mean? Like, I still love the bands that I listened to when I was younger. Like, I mean, I’m not waiting outside a WHSmith, waiting to buy the CD anymore [Laughs] but, you know…but I would definitely be the first in queue to get tickets, you know what I mean? I want to go…I want to, you know, see where my favourite bands are touring, and I definitely want to go and see them live, and I definitely want to invest in their merch, and I definitely want to support what they’re doing, and I want to do that for new music, as well. I think, like, post-pandemic, I’ve definitely made an effort to want to go and see more live music – like, of newer bands – and discover more new music and, yeah, I just think that when you do…you can really make up your own opinion when you go and see a band live, can’t you? Like, I do listen to a lot…music to me is quite visual, and if I listen to a song, I picture the band or I picture the…or however the song is making me feel, I feel like those pictures when I do it, when I hear it. Then I start to make up fantasy personalities about the band members. So, like, you know that band Dry Cleaning? You know, like, the lead singer, I’m like, “She is so fucking cool. Like, she sings cool, she acts cool.” I actually have no idea what she looks like; I could just google her, but I just haven’t done it, but I know what she looks like in my head…I want to see them live and I want to see them visually for myself, and then you’ll be like, “Oh, I was right” or…I’m pretty sure she’s not an asshole at all, but you know, she could be! [Laughs] But you know what I mean? Like, you just gather those opinions and it’s when you go and see someone live, I think people can be pleasantly surprised, and just you get to see truly how that person performs or truly how those bands work together, like warts and all kind of thing. Like, you feel humbled. I remember going to see White Denim a few years ago, and they played at the Roundhouse, and they had a really bad show. To be fair, like, the lead singer’s pedals were all over the place and he was getting really upset, and they didn’t – I’ve seen them a few times – and they didn’t play a great show, but it felt like a great show to me, because I was like, “I feel what you’re feeling. Like, I can see how upset you are and you’re really struggling through this set. Like, you’re an amazing musician, so you’re not actually, like, making any mistakes, but I feel this passion.” And I was a bit like, “I got to see that!” Like, I didn’t just see the everyday, banging gig, walk in, do it, and fuck off; I saw, like, loads of emotion and it almost made me like them even more, even though they were like, “That’s probably the worst gig we’ve ever done!” [Laughs] But, yeah, it just made me feel more attracted to them as people, and it made me just feel like they were people, you know what I mean? Which is what they are at the end of the day, you know what I mean? They’re not…they’re just up there, playing it, you know what I mean?
Absolutely. I got a similar thing, I saw Snail Mail open for St. Vincent, and a similar thing happened with Lindsey [Jordan] at that. Speaking of live, you guys are playing – I have the dates here – you guys are playing a UK and Irish tour, and the three Irish dates are May 25th, Belfast, Voodoo; 26th, Dublin, Workman’s; and 27th, Limerick, at the Kasbah. Yeah, I was wondering, do you have any expectations for that tour?
Kirsty: What, for Ireland?
Kirsty: We don’t have expectations. It’s our first time there, so we are a bit nervous. We’re excited, obviously to be back out on the road. Yeah, I think it’s all excited apprehension; like, you know, we’ve been working really hard on the new set, we feel very up to scratch with that, so I think it’s just going to be going out there and having fun. The last tour we did, we did, like, a short run for Independent Venue Week, up north, and, you know, that was nothing like the Garbage dates or the Skunk Anansie dates, but we actually sat, and we drove ourselves up there, just in my car, we loaded in, we loaded out, we have had… – I don’t know if you know – we had our gear stolen a few years ago, so we’re, like, super…we, like, take everything with us now, like, loading into, like, a Travelodge and loading out. And we just said to each other on the way back, we were like, “That was the best tour,” because, you know, we’re loving the songs, we were well-rehearsed, the venues were, like, little club gigs and, you know, you don’t have to be on this huge stage of in-ear monitors and thousands of people. It’s fun, but that felt like a good tour, so I feel really excited by this one, especially going to new cities and new countries, because I feel ready. I feel we’re ready to show people who we are. Like you said, Sara, it does feel like a new beginning: it feels like…I don’t feel like we’re rehashing old tricks; I feel like we’re going like, “I can’t wait for people to discover us,” really. I feel like people are going to discover us, not just like, “Oh, I’m watching The Pearl Harts again!,” you know what I mean? [All laugh] But, yeah, excited to go to Ireland. [Laughs]
Same for you, Sara?
Sara: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, definitely excited. Yeah, I’m excited to go back to sort of like mainland Europe and stuff as well, because we’ve got a show in Paris and Belgium, so yeah. And also to play London, because it’s always good, playing in London.
Kirsty: Yay! [All laugh]
Sara: So, yeah, I’m excited, really. So, yeah, and I feel like…yeah, the shows are going to be pretty well-attended and stuff, so, yeah, I think it’s going to be a good little run.
Have youse thought about what the actual show is going to be like, or are you just going to do what you do?
Kirsty: Oh, no, we’ve definitely…I think we’ve thought about this show. [Laughs]
Sara: Yeah, yeah! It’s going to be a mixture of old and new songs, and, yeah, done slightly differently. And I think, yeah, maybe for London, we might have, like, a little bit of…a nice little bit of a surprise there because we’re both based down in the South East, so it’s kind of like our…not our hometown show, because we’re not from London, but, you know, we’ve spent however long down there. So, yeah, I think we’ll probably maybe have a couple of special guests or something or…yeah, and do some cool visual effects or something. So, yeah, I’m excited.
Perfect. Thank you both very much for your time. Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
Kirsty: Um…no. Just, yeah, album’s coming out. This is exciting! [All laugh] Yeah, just excited to push the album, and I’m really excited for people to hear the new stuff, and just I’m nervous about the reaction but I’m also excited about it, you know what I mean? Like, it’s nice to hear you say that it’s different because we’re like, we know the songs so well now, you know what I mean? They don’t sound different to me anymore. But, you know, I haven’t just listened to Glitter and Spit again, you know what I mean? So, yeah, they probably do sound really different, so I’m excited to hear what people think about them, and I feel like the singles have gone down quite well so far, so yeah.
Perfect. Thank you both very much for your time.
Kirsty: Yeah, thanks for having us. It’s very nice to meet you.
Sara: Thanks for having us.
The Pearl Harts’ latest album Love, Chaos is available to stream and purchase from today. Click here to visit their website to purchase a copy, find their social media links and keep up to date with their live events.
Since this interview was conducted, The Pearl Harts have cancelled their dates in Belfast and Limerick, but tickets to their concert at The Workman’s Cellar, Dublin on Friday, May 26th are still available to purchase from Ticketmaster.
Aaron Kavanagh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Post-Burnout. His writing can also be found in the Irish Daily Star, Buzz.ie, New Noise Magazine, XS Noize, DSCVRD and more.