Sticky-sweet but never cloying, Pearl and The Oysters’ debut album w/ Pearl & The Oysters is equal parts fantastical space opera and cult 60’s beach movie. The band’s sound, which they call ‘laser-gun pop’, is both exquisitely otherworldly and comfortingly familiar. Singer Juliette Pearl Davis’ distorted vocals layer over lush, fizzy synths, bossa nova-tinged grooves, and sunshiney space-age sound effects fit for a sci-fi B-movie. Beachy guitar riffs add a sense of retro nostalgia to the record, making it feel nearly like a cousin to the surf rock hits of the early 1960’s. Bubblegum pop like w/ Pearl & The Oysters often has a proclivity to be overly-mushy, overly-saccharine, and even nauseating, but w/ Pearl & The Oysters is a mature addition to the genre that transcends bubblegum pop’s usual pitfalls. In fact, the sweetness of the record gives it a cathartic property that allows listeners to forget personal troubles and heal through the music.
w/ Pearl & The Oysters was recorded between the band’s hometown of Paris, France and their current home of Gainesville, Florida. It is perhaps this curious combination of cities that allows for the band to masterfully fuse together so many different sounds. While Juliette provided lead vocals and trumpet, her bandmate Joachim Polack provided nearly everything else – including keys, guitar, bass, and percussion. We were honored to have the chance to chat with these two about their album w/ Pearl & The Oysters and what comes next for the band.
MEGAN (MODERN GIRLS): First off, I’m interested in hearing how you two first met and why you decided to start making music together.
PEARL & THE OYSTERS: We met in High School in Paris. We bonded over the fact that we both loved Burt Bacharach and The Pixies equally. We shared a lot of music with each other for a few years before we actually started to play together in College.
M: Tell me a little bit about your own musical backgrounds – what did you grow up listening to?
P&TO: We both grew up in very musical households and studied music in school early on (Joachim started with the violin and Juliette the trumpet). The Beatles had a huge impact on our respective childhoods. Juliette’s father is a musician and she was surrounded by very eclectic music from a young age, going from Joni Mitchell to Chet Baker or Sergio Mendes and Joachim mostly grew up listening to classical music until he discovered Rock & Roll in his teens.
M: Describe your sound to somebody who hasn’t heard it yet.
P&TO: We call it laser-gun pop, but it’s mostly sunshine pop/r’n’b with nods to early electronic music. We love bleeps and bloops! There is some jazz pop in there somewhere. Shout out to Mac deMarco for coining the term “jizz jazz” and making it ok again for indie pop bands to say they like jazz. Long overdue.
M: You guys are based in Gainesville, Florida – and after hearing your record, I can’t imagine it coming from anywhere else in the United States other than the sunshine state. What is your relationship with Gainesville?
P&TO: We moved to Gainesville from France two years ago. We love it and are very inspired by the vibe and the people here. We do indulge in some exoticization of the Sunshine State and that whole myth of the endless summer plays a huge part of our universe. It’s definitely an homage though. For two born and bred Parisians such as us, the prospect of leaving the cloudy skies of the city entertained a sort of sub-tropical fantasy. Even after two years we are still constantly amazed by the greenery and the beauty of the landscapes down here.
M: How do Gainesville and your hometown of Paris complement each other and subsequently influence your work?
P&TO: Can’t shake the frenchness out of us! We were born and raised in Paris and this city will always be home. As our good friends The Dewars would say: “I’m just another sucker for my old Hometown”. We were mostly influenced by the idea of crossing the ocean and travelling to an unknown land hence the space opera imagery. We do love French music from the 70s (Serge Gainsbourg, Francois de Roubaix, Michel Legrand, Pierre Henry…) and it certainly influenced us as musicians.
M: In the era of Trump, I’d love to hear your motivation behind making such a positive, whimsical record. I love how the songs seem to come from a sci-fi parallel universe – a universe that we get a taste of in the “Melinda, Melinda” music video.
P&TO: Like a lot of people, we seek ways to escape the paralyzing dread of this constant overflow of sad news. Without burying our heads in the sand, we try to share love and positivity in the ways that are available to us. But as you say, it’s no coincidence if we feel drawn to outer space.
M: One of the real standout tracks on Pearl & the Oysters is “Vitamin D”. How did that song come together?
P&TO: Very quickly actually. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing. We think it’s the standout track as well, but it really came together quickly. 🙂
M: What were you guys listening to while you worked on the album?
P&TO: Our main influences for the first album were Electric Light Orchestra (only their good songs though), Todd Rundgren (a lot), the album There’s a Riot Going On by Sly & The Family Stone, Stereolab, The bird and the Bee, The Alessi Brothers, McCartney always, and of course The Beach Boys/Brian Wilson. The BB have a great electronic record from the late 70s that keeps on influencing us a lot… We were also listening to a lot of relatively early electronic music (Raymond Scott, Dick Hyman, White Noise), which we absolutely love. Surf rock and 90s rock in general influenced our guitar sounds as well. In parallel, we listened to gospel organ music a lot while working on the album and even though it’s not as obvious an influence, it shows here and there.
M: How do you want people to feel when they see you perform live?
P&TO: Good. Scratch that. Great!
M: If you could play this record on any planet – or moon – in the solar system, which one would you choose?
P&TO: The moon, so we can be the second band on the moon (shout out to Nina Persson and the Cardigans, an underrated bunch).
M: So, what comes next?
P&TO: We’re playing the Okeechobee Music Festival this year, with a crazy line up, which is very exciting. We’ll have a couple of shows in New York after that (3/8 at The Glove, 3/9 at The Footlight in Queens). Other than that, we’re done mixing our second album, and are currently working on a couple music videos. Lots of plans for 2018!
Listen to and purchase w/ Pearl & the Oysters (Elestial Sound / Croque Macadam, 2017) on Bandcamp.
The album is also streaming on Spotify.