In Bloom Interviews: Pearl Crush

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Pearl Crush is a rising talent from Houston, Texas mainly using synths, drums and hypnotic vocals. Consisting of producer and vocalist Mandy Kim Clinton, Pearl Crush landed a set at the inaugural year for the In Bloom music festival. As a breath of fresh air in the music realm, this was no surprise. We were able to get in contact with Pearl Crush and take a deeper look into origins, thought process and influences. With an EP soon to be released in June, we were also able to get a taste of what to expect.

Pearl Crush is pretty unique, how were you able to come up with the name?

I knew I wanted to the word “pearl” in my name. I was, at the time, very fixated on waves and liquid, so I liked the imagery associated with a pearl. I liked that it had this feminine connotation. Pearls are formed out of agitation, and my music oftentimes comes from a place of agitation or unrest. When I think of a mollusk making a pearl, I see this little animal working and working and churning until it makes something beautiful and soft out of this irritant that invaded its shell. The process of making music has always been this for me. Writing allows me to ruminate on things that are bothering me in a productive way, and the result is something precious that I can share with others.

When did you realize music was a something you wanted to pursue seriously?

A couple of years ago. I was playing in my former band The Lories, and it wasn’t going the direction I wanted it to quickly enough. Partially it was the frustration of wanting to be further along in my music career that helped me realize I wanted to make it a larger part of my life. I’ve been writing songs for over a decade but didn’t really have any recorded music, which I was unsatisfied and insecure about. I realized that no one was holding me back from that process except myself. I started writing songs for Pearl Crush a little over a year and a half ago. I bought my first DAW and interface, and recorded and released my first physical record last winter, which was a two song 7”.

It is the first year In Bloom takes place in Houston. How does it feel being a part of that especially being from Houston yourself?

It felt great to be a part of the first In Bloom! There was an energy and excitement throughout the park all weekend. Our moods are so tethered to our environment and climate. It felt like everyone knew the oppressive summer heat was coming, but not quite yet! After my set on Saturday I was able to just relax and enjoy the music with the bayou breeze humming in the background. It was all pretty stress-free, and I’m grateful for the opportunity, especially to play alongside such great local bands and friends.

Was there anybody you were excited to watch at In Bloom?

I wanted to see Lil Uzi Vert, Sylvan Esso, H.E.R., the spectacle that is Broken Social Scene, and a few others whose sets I unfortunately missed.

After performing many times already, are there still moments you get nervous? How do you get in the mode before heading out on stage?

Yes, I definitely still get nervous! I have actually had pretty bad performance anxiety since I was a teenager, but I’ve worked through some of it. I’ve started to enjoy performing, and I hope it continues to get easier. Right before a performance I go off on my own for a little walk. I stretch and do some vocal exercises. It helps to stay focused on a task and to keep my body moving right before I go on.

With your new EP coming out soon, what can we expect?

I’m not quite ready to reveal the name of my new EP yet! It’s coming out in June on the label Poison Moon, which I co-own with ex-punk rocker, power-pop heartthrob Kirke Campbell! The EP is a lot more spacious sonically than the previous release, which created room for more poignant vocal performances. I pushed myself vocally in ways I hadn’t before. I also started incorporating programmed synths and drums into my production. I’ve crossed over to the electronic pop realm.

What was the creative process and some of the influences behind this project?

I started listening to ambient music about a year ago, and it really opened up my ears to electronic production. I was much more focused on individual sounds on this record. Ambient musicians/composers are so great at world-creating and sound shaping. Pop is obviously much different than ambient music, but I was wanting to bring a touch of that into this EP. I’m a very melody-driven writer and producer. I tend not to play with effects that much and like to let the notes do the communicating, but I was doing more tweaking of sounds and textures on these songs.

I wasn’t in the best place mentally and emotionally when I wrote this record. I had been struggling with putting myself out there as a musician, and I was also confronting parts of my identity for the first time in my life. It’s hard to put yourself out there as it is, and it sucks to feel dissected by others who don’t really know you. I’m very aware of the fact that women of color are especially scrutinized by society. We’re often perceived as one dimensional. I feel like a lot of women and WOC feel like they have to be everything, otherwise they’re just that one thing. There are stereotypes about women that look like me, but those tropes are like polar opposites of each other. Asian women are either sweet, submissive and kawaii, or cutthroat, cold and blindly ambitious. Trying to “prove” to others you’re more complex than that can feel like a sordid act of trying to balance on a spinning top. Be nice, but don’t be passive. Be confident and ambitious, but not too ambitious or arrogant; otherwise people won’t see you as relatable or worthy. They won’t care about your art. Otherwise people will just see you as that stereotype, when you actually have so much more to say. It’s a really exhausting thing to want to be seen as a full, complex person by society sometimes. I was writing about these feelings a lot on this upcoming release.

Any words of wisdom for the fans out there?

Know who your people are, and stay true to them and yourself.

Bandcamp: https://pearlcrush.bandcamp.com/releases

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/pearlcrushmusic

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