In February, New York BTW the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are releasing their self-titled full-length collection of jangly, noisy indie pop on the most fitting of labels, Slumberland. We recently posted the video for album track “Everything For You,” which might have reminded you of Black Tambourine or other bands Slumberland was releasing in the ’80s/early ’90s.
The quartet’s at Quit Your Day Job today because they also work outside of the band: Peggy’s an editor at BuzzFeed, Kurt teaches music at a day camp in the summer and at a “rock workshop” during the school year, Alex is the editor of eMusic’s Canadian site, and at the time of this interview Kip did marketing at Drillteam, but he just lost his job (yes, the economy even sucks for indie pop bands). After you read their tales of the best and worst viral videos and learn how kids find out about Franz Ferdinand make sure to stick around and listen to “Come Saturday.” (Because it’s all about the weekend.)
STEREOGUM: How long have you been at eMusic?
ALEX: It’ll be one year in February.
STEREOGUM: Did you have anything to do with the High Places release?
ALEX: The wheels were set it motion for the High Places release just before I started. The whole Selects program is probably the most fun and rewarding part of working in editorial at eMusic — getting bands we like some exposure and some (usually much needed) cash. I was proud and excited to be a part of getting Crystal Stilts on board as a Selects band. Those guys deserve every bit of hype and attention. Great people, great band.
STEREOGUM: Can you explain a typical day? Peggy said you do merchandizing, write reviews, etc. What are your specific duties in your job description?
ALEX I’m the editor of the Canadian site, so I choose which albums show up as “New & Noteworthy,” which albums are “Review of the Day,” which features run on the homepage, etc. and I do some back-end twiddling to schedule things to run. On top of that, all of us in Editorial write reviews, copy edit — the standard stuff. Basically I listen to, think about, write about and am generally immersed in music all day, every day. It rules.
STEREOGUM: How did you end up as the editor of the Canadian site? Are Canadian’s pissed? How do you know what will go over well in Canada?
ALEX: The Canada site launched for a combination of business and legal/licensing reasons and they needed someone to work out of the New York office. In I stepped, ready to take on the Toyko Police Clubs of the world. Merchandizing/editing is a bit of a behind-the-curtain job, so I don’t think Canadians had much reason to be pissed. I hope not, anyway! Knowing what’ll go over well is a combination of checking stats/past download behavior for artists, knowing what’s popular in general and working with a label relations team to be aware of exclusives and such. Largely, Canadian eMusic subscribers lean similarly to U.S. subscribers: large-ish, melodic indie rock. Obviously there are some Canadian bands (Broken Social Scene and off-shoots, The Dears, etc.) that do especially well, also.
STEREOGUM: Any reviews you’re particularly proud of writing/or that you think turned out well?
ALEX: I’m kind of a perfectionist, so it’s hard for me to hold one thing up and say “man that was great!” Most recently I was pretty happy with the Josef K and Vivian Girls reviews. It’s sometimes a lot harder for me to write about music I love in an intangible/personal way, but I think those came out okay.
STEREOGUM: Do you have to write any reviews of bands you don’t like?
ALEX: Occasionally I do. I try to be diplomatic.
STEREOGUM: Do you work on this from the road?
ALEX: I actually just got a laptop, so for this next tour, I’ll bring that and do some stuff from the road. It’ll be hard to keep up with the day-to-day things, but I should be able to pitch in on occasional things — small blurbs, etc.
STEREOGUM: What are some of the most popular downloads right now?
ALEX: Most of the stuff that does really well on eMusic is kind of more mainstream indie. So the bigger albums for us this year have been She & Him, Walkmen, Cat Power. The heavy hitters. Right now, for some reason, the Thievery Corp album is doing gangbusters. Also the Raveonettes album sold really, really well — that was a nice surprise.
STEREOGUM: The Thievery Corp? Weird. Any theories why?
ALEX: Yeah we did think that was a bit weird. Riding the wave of the ’08 Trip-hop revival, perhaps?
STEREOGUM: Who’s your favorite Slumberland band ever?
ALEX: Probably Rocketship. It’s hard not to say Black Tamborine, but I actually heard and loved Rocketship first and that sound … man, it’s so simple but it’s so perfect.
Peggy, voice, keyboards
STEREOGUM: How long have you been at Buzzfeed?
PEGGY: Two years as of this past October. The site launched about a year and a half ago. The guy who started the company was actually my high school computer teacher.
STEREOGUM: After graduation you kept in touch with your high school computer teacher? I guess he doesn’t teach anymore?
PEGGY: Well, it was a very small Southern high school. I think he thought I was cool because I listened to Stereolab and Sonic Youth instead of Garth Brooks, and that is a good qualifier to be a trend editor. I contacted him when I moved up to NYC, and then I ended up doing some freelance web design stuff for Huffington Post, which he helped start up.
STEREOGUM: What do your daily duties involve? Maybe walk us through a typical day.
PEGGY: Literally, I surf the internet all day. I have an RSS reader that compiles all my favorite blogs and news sources, it’s something like 300 blogs probably at this point. Basically, I find things like viral videos, cute animals, people that are getting lots of attention for doing things like auctioning off their virginity or getting tased while doing a striptease. Just anything random or anomalous.
STEREOGUM: How much did that person get for their virginity?
PEGGY: She got a million dollars, apparently. There was also a gay banker who auctioned off his virginity as part of a financial bail-out plan.
STEREOGUM: Are you full-time? Are you able to work from tour?
PEGGY: Yep, it’s pretty much a 10-6 job, and I have to actually show up in an office in Chinatown. I’ve used up all my vacation days for 2008 from touring already, so yeah, I’ll definitely be working from this UK tour. I really hope they have wi-fi in pubs.
STEREOGUM: BuzzFeed’s called a “‘trends’ aggregator.” Can you explain how it works?
PEGGY: The goal of BuzzFeed is to be the source of viral media content on the web. So we have lots of statistical analysis that detects whether something is going to take off, whether it’s because of Google search traffic, links from other blogs, or users clicking from our homepage. Not only do we publish our own curated content of buzzy links, videos, and images, but we also aggregate content from sources like Digg, the New York Times, Reddit, and StumbleUpon.
STEREOGUM: When a video crosses your desk are you able to sense if it’s going to be a hit?
PEGGY: I have pretty high standards and most people who use the internet are dumb. No, I’m kidding. Sort of. Most viral videos that people pass around I do find pretty dumb. So if I see something that’s truly funny that can break through my stern Asian exterior and make me laugh, then I do my best to make sure people see it. But those sorts of things are so few and far between that I feel like if I find anything that I can sense might go viral, I’ll post it. For instance, I got a lot of hits on the Montauk Monster trend, but honestly, I had no idea that that thing would have been as big of a deal as it was.
STEREOGUM: I’m curious about some of the most popular recent stories … and some all-time popular items.
PEGGY: Hmm, we get a lot of mileage out of posting about any hot person who isn’t just a hot person. Like, a girl who’s hot … but she’s also a champion pole vaulter! I also love sites like Face Transformer and Yearbook Yourself, or just hilariously-themed blogs like ManBabies or Old Men Who Look Like Lesbians or Erotic Falconry. Also, there was this photoshop contest we did of Disaster Girl that kind of took off with a life of its own. And we collaborate a lot with Ze Frank, who is awesome. Oh yeah, and remember Vagina Power? I still go on YouTube and watch that sometimes. Okay, I guess the internet is kind of amazing. I take back the part about it being dumb.
STEREOGUM: In your opinion: Worst viral video ever?
PEGGY: I don’t really understand how rick-rolling is funny to anyone who isn’t your Great Uncle. Unless maybe you are Kip or Kurt and enjoy rick-rolling with sites like (editor’s note: NSFW!) http://www.lemonparty.org.
STEREOGUM: What is it about cute animal pictures?
PEGGY: Cute animal photos are for everyone and cross all cultural boundaries. You send them to your mom, your girlfriend, your therapist. You would never send a photo of a cute animal to someone and get a response like “that’s dumb” or “thanks for wasting my time, asshole.” Whether you are an eight-year-old girl or a Rhodes scholar, chances are you will enjoy a good cute animal picture.
STEREOGUM: Your staff bio: “I’m a senior editor at BuzzFeed. I like shopping and bubblegum. Ask me about my emo band.” OK, can you tell me more about your emo band?
PEGGY: Yes! It’s called Misery Hates Company and we’ll be opening for Dashboard Confessional (Chris Carrabba will never die!) across Eastern Europe next summer. But for now, I’m trying to focus on the goth band I’m in.
Kip, vocals and guitar
STEREOGUM: Can you explain Drill Team? I was looking at the website and it was non-music marketing w/ clients like Nike, Zune, Toyota, etc. Is this correct?
KIP: Well, Drillteam was originally part of Insound (i.e. all the original employees applied for jobs at Insound, but…). Ever since ADA/Warner bought Insound, we’re independent. I suppose they didn’t want us … all those fancy clients you mentioned from on the website we no longer have — but I do wonderful work on behalf of the sneaker company, Saucony Originals, who employed me to watch people play dodgeball and drink beer at the McCarren Pool Parties this summer. Sometimes I give away free shoes too. It’s a rough job … oh, I also write to bloggers and say stuff like “Incase has these limited edition Diplo/Mad Decent Macbook cases we want to give away–would you like to do run a contest and do that?”
Oh, by the way, we really do have a lot of these 15″ Macbook Pro cases left over — are you sure you don’t want one? There’s like, Abe Vigoda and Telepathe on them too… are you a size 12 shoe, by chance? I got a pair of Jazz O’s at my desk … Yup. It’s a rough job…
STEREOGUM: So why did Insound start it initially?
KIP: It was started to help large companies not be totally awful when trying to get people (like me?) to like their products. But I liked Saucony Originals and Incase before hand, so they didn’t really have to twist my arm too much…
It’s at least cool, as most of our clients are fairly hands off and like, “can you give our stuff away to your friends for us — we feel awkward doing it ourselves.” So we do. Like, most of the time it’s just setting up companies that want to sponsor a fun party with a fun party. Like, Incase will sponsor a Finger on the Pulse party and screenprint a one-off design on 50 tote bags and give away free iPhone and iPod cases to the people there. Or with Saucony it was like, helping them sponsor the Dodgeball this summer at McCarren park– It’s not obtrusive or a “hard sell” sort of thing. It’s actually mostly fun.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been there?
KIP: I’ve been here almost three years.
STEREOGUM: What are your duties?
KIP: I do a lot of online promo stuff — everything from updating our client’s blogs/websites to writing bloggers about various events and promotions. I’m glad I haven’t gotten fired yet (editor’s note: Sorry, Kip) — I think it’s because I bring in cookies a lot and sometimes bagels — they keep me for the baked goods. My boss is rad and has been really cool about letting me go on tour and stuff. And we do still share an office with Insound and get an employee discount, which is definitely nice — especially since they sell a lot of vinyl, and I’m nerdy like that.
STEREOGUM: How old are the day campers?
KURT: I am assigned 6 different bands each semester, which are groups of 3-5 kids with an age range of 9-15.
STEREOGUM: Do the bands have names, etc? Like actual bands? If so, can you share some?
KURT: Yes. This year we haven’t come up with most of the band names, since the kids usually do that towards the end of the semester. As for last semester, let’s see … there was Page One, Call Of Death (which they changed to Silver Titans), The Yoshi’s, Driven To Tears, Midtown Traffic (who are now called Knave’s 13).
STEREOGUM: Can you describe the place a bit? Where’s it?
KURT: The music school is located up in Chappaqua, NY — a pretty hefty commute. The facilities are beautiful and the school has really great gear for kids to practice on (it’s also host to a variety of other lessons including, violin, piano, vocal training, etc.) the concerts are held at a nearby library with a pretty decent stage setup (motion sensitive lights and — always essential — fog included!) and it’s really rewarding to see them perform.
STEREOGUM: Do you ever “sit in” on any of these performances? For instance, show up and do a guest guitar solo?
KURT: Occasionally, the bands are formed without all the positions being fulfilled, like bass or drums, and I’ll have to play that instrument during the rehearsals and also during the performance at the end. It’s cool though because it’s actually really fun playing music with the kids.
STEREOGUM: Is this year-round? If so, what makes day camp different than, say, school?
KURT: Well, during the school year it’s just held intensively every Sunday. But in the summer, it’s held every day, like a normal day camp.
STEREOGUM: But it’s run by the same organization?
KURT: Yes, the organization is just Music In Chappaqua which is a small music school in Chappaqua.
STEREOGUM: I interviewed some other School Of Rock instructor,
KURT: At Music In Chappaqua’s program, there is no application process — you just sign up and pay the tuition fee. Some kids come in having never played guitar before and some kids can totally shred. They’re placed into bands that are at their level/age group or they sign up with their friends and enter pre-formed bands. As far as i know, there aren’t any scholarships for the Music in Chappaqua Rock Workshops.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a background in music education?
KURT: My formal training for this job was actually not in music education, but I have been teaching private lessons for several years. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from NYU in General/Special Education, which comes in handy in that I’m dealing with large groups of kids armed with drum kits and loud guitars — classroom management skills and endless patience are a definite necessity.
STEREOGUM: How many students per class? What are the classes like? Are you teaching a specific instrument? An array?
KURT: I teach every instrument in each band (bass, drums, guitars, vocals, keys). The kids learn cover songs of bands they are into and I attempt to widen their musical horizons with somewhat more obscure music (i.e. The Pixies if they’re into, let’s say Weezer). I also help them write and arrange their own original compositions. The music school Calendar follows the Junior High calendar for the local school district, so there’s three trimesters. At the end of each trimester, there’s either a concert or a recording session that the kids prepare for, for about three months prior.
STEREOGUM: Do the students request specific songs? If so, what are some popular ones?
KURT: As for popular songs kids want to learn … let’s just say AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” and a song by Led Zeppelin are performed in every concert. I think it’s because a lot of the kids’ parents are into classic rock. Occasionally I’ll get a weird request like, “Hey can we learn ‘Take Me Out’ by Franz Ferdinand?” to which I’ll reply, “How do you know Franz Ferdinand? You’re 9.” The answer is always “Guitar Hero.”
STEREOGUM: Do think Guitar Hero at all prepares them for playing a real guitar? The general line on this seems to be “no.”
KURT: Rhythmically, perhaps … If they’re playing on “expert” mode — but there is no correlation between a button press on guitar hero and the actual notes on a guitar…
STEREOGUM: What’s your favorite summer camp-themed movie?
KURT: Wet Hot American Summer!
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is out 2/3 via Slumberland. Right now they’re on tour in the UK. They play a show with the Wedding Present tonight:
12/10 – Belfast, UK @ Limelight %
12/11 – Edinburgh @ Sneaky Pete’s
12/12 -Glasgow, UK @ Captains Rest
12/13 – Leeds, UK @ The Cockpit
12/14 – Nottingham, UK @ The Social
12/16 – London, UK @ Old Blue Last – “Twee as Fuck” $
12/17 – London, UK @ The Lexington – “Fortuna Pop + Spiral Scratch Present” #
12/18 – London, UK @ Forum %
02/07 – New York City @ Mercury Lounge ^
02/08 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie ^
02/09 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat Backstage ^
02/11 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas ^
02/12 – Toronto, ON @ Neutral ^
02/13 – Montreal, CA @ Il Motore ^
02/15 – Boston, MA @ Middle East ^
% w/ The Wedding Present
$ w/ Comet Gain, Liechtenstein
# w/ The Manhattan Love Suicides, My Sad Captains, Horowitz
^ w/ The Depreciation Guild (Kurt’s other project)
[let to right: Kip, Peggy, Kurt, Alex]