Pearl And The Beard
Article by: Adrian Parrish | Photo Credits: Sheila Griffin (live), Jackie Snow | Posted: 05/15/2012
It is a difficult process to merge three unique talents and personalities into a collective, creative soul. Folk-pop trio, Pearl And The Beard, makes it look easy. While the band is based in Brooklyn, all three members come from very different backgrounds. The band’s guitarist, Jeremy Styles, moved from California to play music and experience New York, while cellist Emily Hope Price moved from Utah to study cello performance in a post-masters program. Jocelyn Mackenzie--who plays everything from drums, to glockenspiel, to the occasional kazoo solo--moved from New Jersey, looking to find a job in the textile field. After meeting at open-mic nights, the three eventually started playing together.
They speak as if it just naturally happened, but anyone who has seen them live will agree that their meeting was a fortunate coincidence.
“I think it’s been good that we weren’t old high school chums,” Styles says. “We had to learn to deal with each other and respect each other on a more adult plain.”
For a three piece band, their overall sound is surprisingly full, with added enhancement from three-part harmonies, (which are contributed by each member), as well as the multiple instruments that each member wields. They range from energetic to soulful on stage--unconcerned with the challenge of mixing up their routine--and even venture to play away from their microphones and sing acapella in the crowd.
In addition to their onstage collaboration, they also share the creative process behind their songwriting. Although one person may bring the song to the table, they all work on editing and refining it.
“What makes a Pearl And The Beard song is that all three people like it,” says Styles. “It makes songwriting difficult, but when it comes out, I feel it’s a great product because it’s been through three different filters.”
Price and Mackenzie agree that the writing process is one of the most difficult parts of their musical career. “You’re waiting for that thing to kick in and sometimes it doesn’t,” Price relates. “You push through until finally, it does.”
“It’s almost like an emotional talk with a loved one,” interjects Styles.
“It’s like a DTR,” Mackenzie chimes in, before Styles adds, “You’re just exhausted by the time it’s done.”
Many of their songs tell stories, but they confide that that’s not always intentional.
“We don’t really go into a song being like ‘We’re going to write a story now,’ it just kind of turns into that,” Price explains. She smiles amusingly as she adds, “It’s like a baby is created. You don’t know what it will become, then later you realize, ‘I gave birth to a...’”
“‘...a physicist,’” Styles finishes.
“I was going to say a goat-head baby,” Jocelyn adds with a chuckle.
Intentional or not, the stories in their songs are moving and are one of the things that make Pearl And The Beard so relatable to their fans. “We all want to live vicariously through something,” Jocelyn continues, “and that’s kind of our way to do it.”
All three members agree that shows are, in many ways, the rewarding outcome of the hard work of writing and recording songs. After recently finishing two separate tours opening for Ingrid Michaelson and Ani DiFranco, they are set to do a UK tour this summer before rejoining Ani DiFranco later this year.
“Both [Ingrid and Ani] have a much larger scale production than we have,” Mackenzie says. “It was really cool to see how that works. It was really inspiring.”
“It gave us some ideas for if we ever get to that level, how we would want to do it,” continues Styles. “The challenge for us is to take a bigger venue and still make it feel small so it still feels like a personal experience.”
“It’s easier to feel alone on a huge stage,” Price admits. “In a smaller venue you feel every eye on you. In a room of 1,700 people with super bright lights, all you see at a certain point is black.”
Regardless of the size of the venue and whether they are opening or headlining, they are clearly enjoying the place they are in with their careers. When asked about what is currently inspiring them for future creative plans, their responses are poetic:
“The past,” Price says matter-of-factly. “Some people are inspired by the present, I’m inspired by the past...I enjoy the 80’s--Tori Amos, old Radiohead, The Cure, The Smiths--and memories from my past; they are still very alive in me.”
“I’m trying to get new perspective,” Styles says. “Just getting out of my own head and writing from someone else’s perspective...Also, listening to music while I’m taking a shower [so that] I can’t tell what song is on--then I get a melody in my head randomly that I could be picking up from the middle of a measure or something.”
“I’m trying to find more space in my head for silence,” finishes Mackenzie. “I over-think a lot of stuff and over-analyze and over-process. I’m trying to leave room in my mind to have quiet and be more present.”
With new perspectives, the past, and a different kind of present, the future looks clear for Pearl And The Beard, who will continue to thrive as three, unique talents, forming one collaborative force.
Pearl And The Beard - "Prodigal Daughter"