In our coverage of Dayfornight we wanted to highlight some amazing local artist who will be performing at Dayfornight. These amazing artist are breaking new grounds in the local music scene and cultivating a renaissance period here in Houston. Dayfornight serves as a cultural meeting point for many artists to be able to showcase some of the best local talent to the world.
We sat down with Mandy a.k.a Pearl Crush and chatted about current projects and the current state of the scene and what to expect at Dayfornight from her.
Say hello to: Pearl Crush
Pearl Crush, the solo project of vocalist, songwriter, and producer Mandy Kim Clinton, is an exploration of identity and expression through carefully composed pop songs. An intersection of electronic, dream and avant-pop, Pearl Crush layers lush guitars, textural synths and intimate vocals over counterpoint drum beats and orchestral percussion MIDI instruments. Clinton will soon be releasing her self-recorded, self-produced EP on Poison Moon Records.
How did Pearl Crush come to be?
Pearl Crush is my pop solo project. It’s my first attempt at recording, arranging, and producing. It started back in mid-2016. My first show was almost a year ago exactly. I had been working on a couple of songs that have since been release on vinyl (7”), and it’s sort of taken off from there.
from the first listened it sounded very mature the sounds like very well arranged do you have a classical musical background or training?
Thank you! Kind of. I learned piano as a kid and then played the oboe for almost 10 years. I think that training definitely influences how I approach music today. I’ve played in several other bands including the Lories (songwriter and front person), and Rose Ette (lead guitarist) and currently am playing in a jangly guitar-pop band, Clare. I feel like I definitely bring my classical music training to the 4-piece band setting. Playing in a large orchestral or woodwind ensemble makes you super aware of what you are doing and how harmony, melody, dynamics, and what you are playing contribute to the song as a whole. Not that those are things you can’t learn or just intuitively be aware of; but those kinds of musical concepts are really hashed in from the beginning when you receive formal music training they become second nature. And ultimately they become really handy, especially once you start producing and arranging music.
So how has the transition from playing in a group to now a solo project transitions been?
It’s been great. It’s been really challenging and also really empowering. It’s hard work, but it’s fun. Producing is the most fun for me.
Its interesting how the contrast from your musical background was in a musical program that puts a lot of stress not to stand out and from talking to other artist it seems a lot of classical players especially trough school programs seems more self conscious about their contribution to bands or more perfectionist when working on solo projects.
Definitely, yeah there’s is a lot of competition baked in to classical music training and lots of emphasis on like the prowess and precision of the musician. I have perfectionist tendencies when it comes to my music, but there’s tension because I also want to challenge myself with my writing and playing. Sometimes that means I write a guitar part that’s too hard for me to play, at least initially. Or sometimes the better melody is just harder to play. Musical expression for a classical musician playing a classical piece is much more rigid and structured than musical or self-expression in rock or pop music, so in that way, what I’m doing now is a lot more open.
from classical to indie pop rock band to this solo project how is the stress level in comparison ?
Haha! Both more and less stressful. When it’s just you there’s less conflict and tension – like ordinary band disagreement stuff. “I don’t like that part.” “I don’t like the way you’re singing that.” Scheduling is easier when you’re solo, but the accountability of playing with other people is good for productivity.
oh yeah, in group project/band there’s pressure to meet up for practice or get a recording done, i imagine
Yeah, versus when I’m only accountable to myself, it’s way easier to put off finishing a song. It’s tempting to say, “you know I worked all day. I’m tired. I can find some time to do that over the weekend.” There’s not that social pressure to get it done because others are waiting and relying on you.
It can also be more stressful to be solo because the project can only be as successful as you want it to be. The songs are limited because of your limitations – creative, social, financial. But then, there’s great power as an artist in actualizing your vision, despite your limitations. Mostly I’m loving having full control in Pearl Crush and choosing when to collaborate and bring others in, but there’s a cost and a benefit pretty much everything.
on the release of the first two tracks first blush and semiprecious stone, what were some inspirations that inspire you or influence you?
I think those songs were sonically very much a product of what I was doing directly before – playing a lot of guitar indie pop and indie rock. I was inspired by female artists like Empress Of and Grimes, both who put out amazing self-produced records in 2015. I really wanted to try it. I wanted full control of a project. I wanted to push myself creatively and develop some technical skills so that I could be more self-sufficient as an artist.
there does seem to have a bedroom recording type quality in the lyrics or tone in the songs but the melodies are very fun and very personal is that on purpose of subconsciously done?
I would definitely say song writing’s a personal process for me. The new stuff I’ve been writing has been an outlet for me to voice my experiences and emotions about my identity and the state of the world. Song writing has always been a way for me to make sense of and process my emotions. I don’t think Pearl Crush will necessarily always be an outlet so closely tied to my person experiences, but at the time I was writing this new batch of songs, and I was really needing to work through some stuff, which I was able to do.
whats are somethings you are currently listening to?
I’ve been listening to a lot of electro-pop, house and some ambient music. I’m always listening to some pop shit. Always just looking for that hook. Yaeji is so good. She’s great at pulling off that super pristine production that comes across as effortless and casual. Her music is really honest and personal but her delivery is really calm. I love it. I strive to be that self-possessed! I’m like the opposite. So expressive. You always want what you’re not. Gotta stay true to yourself though!
your live shows, since you’re no stranger to playing live shows in bands, hows has the transitiong been to now playing live solo?
I like it. I like having more control. I can hear myself singing a lot better than when a bunch of guitars are blaring away on stage! I tend to move around a lot when I perform without a guitar, so it’s more of an energetic vibe. I’m able to interact a bit more with the audience when I perform solo. I love playing music with other people, and I am starting to incorporation other musicians into my Pearl Crush sets, but Day for Night will be a solo set.
it seems like dayfornight is serving as an a cultural umbrella/ambassador to visitors and even locals who aren’t familiar to the local scene but want to explore the cities great musical and art scene, do you recall how it was when you first venture out here?
Well, I started playing music in college in College Station, TX, and there’s not much a scene out there. My introduction to the Houston scene was different than most people’s. I grew up in the suburbs of Houston, but I was terrified of driving on the freeway, so I was kind of stuck out in the ‘burbs. My brother would never drive me in to town to see a show, even if it was a show he was already going too! So, I wasn’t really introduced to the Houston scene until I moved into Houston proper after college. I haven’t been exposed to the Houston scene for that long, but over the short amount of time I’ve been actively involved, there seems to be a lot more going on. People booking their own shows and cross-pollinating. I think musician representation has improved on-stage over the last few years, though I hope to see it improve even more.
The scene here seems very encouraging and supportive in contrast to other cities why do you think that is?
Yeah, the Houston music scene is relatively pretty small, especially given the size of the city, and I think a lot of folks attending shows, especially smaller shows, are other musicians, artist, and creative types. That makes for a very supportive community. When you play around town to an empty room, which happens here more than we proud Houstonians would maybe like to admit, it can feel like nobody is listening or cares about what you’re doing. I think all Houston musicians have at one time or another been in this position, so there’s a very concerted effort to support your fellow musicians from what I’ve seen.
it seems like you keep very busy here in town,being in other bands like Clare? and working with a booking collective?
Yes! I’ve been really busy. There is lots of work to do! Clare and Pearl Crush are playing in Austin in January, and both releasing albums next year. I’ve also been booking shows with the collective DAMN GXRL. We are a small collective and our focus is centering women and non-binary artists in the scene by booking them. We’re also working on a zine to be released next next year. We are all about making the scene a safer, more inclusive space particularly for marginalized people. We like to book in non-traditional spaces. That’s kind of our model, so we have full control of the event. We don’t tolerate any hateful shit at our events.
wow that sound amazing and also how do you find the time, you are also running poison moon records label? how do you even find time to record?! , between pearl crush, upcoming shows,booking collective and being in the band Clare and running your own label it seems like you keep very busy.
Haha. Well, It’s been a busy year. It’s funny. I did an interview with Auntie Bellum Magazine earlier this year, and I was ratting off all of the stuff I was doing. In the back of my mind I was thinking, “you’re gonna be looking back on this year thinking, wow, I’m really burnt out.” It’s kind of true.
its weird how you dint want to really comment on the current state of the local music scene in houston and yet you are probably one of the among the most active figures in the Houston scene.from personal project, playing in various local bands, booking and volunteering in girls rock camp it seems like you are very active in the scene.
I’m of the mind that even when things are great, they can always be better, especially for people you care about. And let’s be honest, things today in America 2017 are not great. I mean, DAMN GXRL formed basically a year ago in direct response to a prominent local booker being outed as a serial harasser of women for over 10 years. And you hear about things like this happening all the time in cis-male dominated/status quo spaces. Cis-men in positions of power getting away with these kinds transgressions. I mean, we’ve really been hearing about it in the news for the last few weeks. Things are slowly changing, but only because people – always the most marginalized – are putting hard, deliberate work in. For them it’s non-optional because they have the most to lose.
in this social and political climate i agree its important to stay in solidarity and be able to call out on the bullshit people be trying to do, its important to be the change we would like to see, in the community here in Houston has been nice to see positive change.
Yes, definitely. The community has been really supportive of DAMN GXRL. We’ve been welcomed very warmly! I just don’t think its mutually exclusive to be critical of something you cherish. I mean, at a very fundamental we are talking about the safety and agency of women, trans, queer and gender non-conforming people. That’s what’s at stake if we don’t make things better for ourselves.
what artist are you looking forward at dfn?
Solange always. Priest. There is so many amazing people playing this year. Perfume Genius, Cardi B, Jessy Lanza. I really want to catch Faten Kanaan, but I doubt I’ll be able to because she plays right before my set.
What should we expect at your dfn show?
I will be performing new material. I have an EP coming out next spring, so I’ll be performing tracks from that. My tracks have mixed and mastered. The low end sounds amazing and full, so they’ll be pumping away for the performance.
any upcoming shows or tours?
I’m playing at Axelrad on December 30th and in Austin at Barracuda on January 7th. I’ve also got some other exciting shows to announce for next year include my EP release show, and I’m planning to tour this coming summer after the EP drops. There will be music videos. There will be a band. Details to be announced, so be on the lookout!
Stay on the look out for Pearl crush at Dayfornight
Saturday 2:50–3:20 Yellow Stage