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Pure X

“People Just Like to….Have Sex to Our Record!”

Sep 08, 2011 Web Exclusive
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More often than not when people talk about a “summer record,” they’re talking about those with a certain bounce and thematic preoccupation with, in no particular order: beach, sun, fun, boys, girls. Think Best Coast, Foster the People, you know the drill. But if you want a record that really sounds like what summer feels like, especially for those of us who swelter away in urban jungles where you’re sweating nads by 9 a.m., you would be hard pressed to find an album that fits the bill more than Pleasure, the debut full-length from Austin trio Pure X. From its opener, the heavy-lidded and aptly titled “Heavy Air,” it sets a hazy, simmering, unhurried mood that only occasionally perks up (for the single “Easy” and “Voices”) but manages to remain hypnotic, fascinating, and apparently to the ears of more than a few listeners, a soundtrack for sex.

That point would seem to be driven home by the erotica paraphernalia on Pleasure’s cover, by the music video for “Easy” and its follow-up “Surface.” Pure X’s Nate Grace, Jesse Jenkins, and Austin Youngblood were about to head out to shoot that video when we caught up with Grace on the phone, from that little blue island in a sea of red, Austin, Texas.

John Norris: So Nate, Pleasure has been out now for close to two months, and I know people who are still discovering it, and loving it. You’ve got to be happy with the response, which has all been super positive.

Nate Grace: I’m stoked. It’s better than—well I don’t know what I expected. I had no expectations at all. To me, I don’t really understand reviews, people’s opinions, but yeah I’m stoked.

One thing about the record, and I think one reason so many people are getting into it, is that it doesn’t really sound like anything else that is out there, certainly not like most of what is dominating indie rock these days.

I guess that’s true. I mean I don’t really see how we “fit in” to everything that’s out there. I do identify, I guess, with, like, our friends’ bands, but in the big picture I don’t even see how we’re comparable to a lot of what’s going on.

It was nice seeing you guys featured in a New York Times piece a few weeks ago.

Yeah man, because for my parents that was the one thing they could latch on to, and say, “Oh my God I’m so happy you have your success!” And I’m thinking like, “What kind of success do I have?”

One thing about that article was it used the word “obstinate” describing Pleasure. And I thought that was an interesting choice of word, suggesting that it’s a stubborn record, one that sets a mood and maintains it pretty much, from start to finish. Was that important to you to create a whole record with that unrelenting mood throughout?

Absolutely. To me that is what makes an album. We tried to make it cohesive even though it was recorded in different sessions, and really tried to maintain the vibe the whole time. But I don’t know about “obstinate.” That seems kinda weird to me. I mean I guess I can see it, because we definitely have ideas about what our shit should sound like, and develop on the record. So I guess we’re obstinate in that we stick to it. But I think that’s just trying to make a good cohesive piece of art.

Time and time again in reading what people write about your sound, it’s the same words: “woozy,” “hazy,” “druggy,” “narcotized,” “spacey,” I’m sure you’ve seen ‘em a million times. What do you make of those descriptions?

It doesn’t bother me. Like I said before, I don’t pretend to try and understand people’s opinions or the words they use, and people just recycle a lot of the same words to describe things like music.

You were doing solo records just before Pure X. How different was the sound of what you were doing then from the really distinctive sound of this band?

Most of it was four-track, a lot of it was acoustic stuff. For one thing I didn’t have money for effects or anything, so for the development of the sound had to do with, number one, me getting a job and being able to get effects, and number two had to do with my friends Jace and Stefanie who are in this band Silver Pines. And I feel like Silver Pines was at the center of a lot, because Adam who’s in Survive and another band Troller, he was in Silver Pines, and so was Kyle who’s in Survive, and Austin, our drummer, was in that band, and I played a couple of shows with them and hung out with them.

So does Silver Pines still exist?

No, when Sleepover and Pure X started doing their things, and then Survive started, that band kind of fell apart. But anyway that band had an influence on the bands after it. In a way it was an experiment in sound that we all kind of learned from I guess.

So as far as the songs on Pleasure are concerned, had you written a lot before you went in to record?

They were pretty much all recorded as they were written. Some were pretty much made up in the studio. Like the song “Pleasure,” it was an improvisation in the studio.

Some tracks definitely have an improvisational, spontaneous feel to them.

It’s a big part of what we do, improvisation. Most were recorded right before we went in, or actually in the studio.

And the plan was always to record it live to tape?

Well, yeah because the EP was recorded live too, but it was just the way things were going, the vibe we were on. And I think maybe subconsciously it had to do with me listening to a lot of music now that is so fucking multi-tracked and so perfect. They put it on their computers and they work so fucking hard to get it sounding so good, every note. And to me, that’s just not a reflection of life, in my opinion. For this album anyway, that was how I saw it. I’m talking about like painting a picture, I wanted this album to be us, humans, alive, interacting, making it there in that moment, with real human emotion.

You can’t always make out your lyrics obviously, and I saw you recently say if people want to get into the lyrics, that’s great—but that they didn’t have to, and that if they wanted to come to the shows and vibe on the music the overall feel of it that’s fine too. So—how much do lyrics matter to you? And are they something you spend a lot of time on?

I do spend a lot of time of lyrics, and they’re important. But as far as whether people could understand them, on this record I didn’t give a fuck, I just didn’t care. I mean I spent a lot of time on them, and on themes, but it just didn’t matter to me if people could understand them.

Well “Easy” has gotten so much attention, and it’s been described as having dark or bleak lyrics. But obviously musically it may be the most upbeat thing on the record. Can you talk about where that song came from or how it came together?

I don’t know. When I write, I try to just write. Whatever comes out, come out and then I try and work with that. And I edit a lot, I’m constantly editing. I think it takes me a long time to write a song. I feel like I have to play it like a thousand times to get it where I want it, to get the lyrics right where I want them to be. But “Easy”—the second half of the song was an improvisation in the studio. We had only written the first part. I mean if you’re trying to ask where I was when I wrote it….

Or, did the lyrics come from any particular experience or moment?

Well that’s hard for me to say, it’s more a feeling, but one that’s relatable.

It’s not like you could point to a moment and say this song came about at this moment in time…

Nah, it’s not like it came from one certain experience. It came from an amalgamation of experiences and an overall feeling.

Now your friend Eli [aka “Malcolm Elijah”], who directed that music video, I definitely feel like he really nailed it. It carries over the red and black of the album cover and it really captures the mood of the song. How did that come together? Was it mainly his idea, and did you guys talk it through?

Oh yeah we talked about it. Eli plays in [Austin duo] Silent Diane, also he has been playing with Sleepover, who we went out with on a west coast tour. So we were all in the same van for a couple weeks, and yeah we just talked about it, all the different ideas. And I love the way it turned out. Our idea was to reflect the album cover, to kind of reflect the vibe of the song, and deal with ideas of like control and violence and domination, that type of shit.

Definitely the cover has some bondage elements to it.

It’s taken from a bondage mail order thing from the ‘80s. Our friend Chris, who does [Austin indie label] Light Lodge, he went to Japan, he had been touring there. And we had been looking for cover art everywhere and hadn’t found it, and he came back with that and we were like, “Oh shit!” He fucking nailed it.

It is called Pleasure, and I’ve seen people say they think it’s a real sensual record. Do you feel like there is a sensual, sexual side to the music?

I think so. To me, music to me, like spirituality and sex, it’s all the same energy and feeling, they all kind of come from the same place.

Well they’re all transcendent, if you’re doing ‘em right!

Exactly, and to me if people catch the sexual vibe that’s cool. Though I don’t think our record is all that sexual, some songs are.

Depends I guess on what someone’s idea of sexual is.

But it’s weird man ‘cause for some reason people just like to tell us they have sex to our record. It’s always kind of hilarious and kind of “whoa!” but people tell us, I don’t know why. One dude was like, “Man I am the first person to have sex to this record!” I’m like, “Congratulations.”

And you’re about to shoot a new video, which sounds like it’s gonna reinforce the sexual idea.

Yeah it’s for the song “Surface.” Eli is doing that one too and we’ll see what it looks like, but we’re going for kind of an Eyes Wide Shut-ish kind of feel.

So, masks and erotic weirdness?

Yeah maybe. We’re gonna be like serenading this kind of weird party, and we’re gonna be dead or something, and the party, we’re trying to get our friends to dress up nice, which is gonna be hard. But we rented this event space with a big red velvet curtain. It’s gonna be cool.

What are the live plans? I kind of assumed you guys would be out on the road most of the summer with the new record and all.

We kind of wish we were. That kind of had to do with practical shit. At first there was no booking agent that would touch us, and then the record came out and all of a sudden booking agents were coming at us. I was like, “Where were you guys two or three months ago when we could have been setting all this up?” But that’s all settled now. And so in the fall, I think we’re gonna do some fly-ins, play some shows in Chicago, L.A., San Francisco, and we’re talking about CMJ and we’re doing a month in Europe with Sleepover in November. And maybe even a Halloween show in New York.

And you’re recording at the moment too. Is this for a new album?

We might just make it an EP, ‘cause I would like to get something else out there pretty quick. For me, just waiting for this album to come out was too much. We had the album finished in like December. And then we had complications with the name change [from their old moniker, Pure Ecstasy] so we had a period of just not knowing what to do. Once we finally decided on Pure X, things were able to move forward.

How many songs in are you? And do you have any titles?

No, I haven’t even finished the lyrics but we’ve got like four songs. We’ve just been in the studio jamming a lot, doing a lot of improv stuff. But this stuff is gonna is have overdubs, we’re just gonna do whatever feels right to me this time. ‘Cause I feel like with the Pleasure album we did the live thing, now I don’t care, I just want to experiment more.

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Jarret
September 10th 2011
1:05am

Pleasure is such a fantastic album.  I just started dating this wonderful girl in late June and this album has been the soundtrack to our budding relationship.  I often play it on loop on my iPod late night, when she sleeps over, and yeah, it’s a fantastic record to have sex too.  And for sleeping next to someone you care about on warm summer nights.  I’m the type of person who can quickly rehash past emotions and feelings when I hear music that was listening too at that time.  Pleasure will now always remind me of the summer of 2011 and sweet girl that I spent it with.  If I could talk to the band I would thank them for giving me such a great record.  It will always bring back this past summer’s exciting feelings and emotions when I listen to it.  It’s like having a book of great memories that I can always go back to and feel.

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January 6th 2012
2:27pm

They look really cool :)

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