Photo | Julie Arden Dixon
Denton, in the suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, fostered Pearl Earl’s psychedelic rock.
Band: Pearl Earl, Satan & the Sunbeams, La Phooklillies
Date: Saturday, June 16, 9 p.m.
Venue: The Merry Widow, 51 S. Conception St., www.themerrywidow.net
Tickets: $8, through venue website
While Austin may be the Lone Star State’s most prolific music scene, the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has also provided the world an abundance of fresh, innovative music projects, including St. Vincent and The Polyphonic Spree.
Pearl Earl will be traveling from the suburbs of Denton to give the Azalea City a Texas-sized blast of its electrifying psychedelic rock. While the band’s sound is undeniably familiar, Pearl Earl injects its ‘60s-era psychedelic garage surf style with a dose of rock ‘n’ roll attitude laced with a hint of The Runaways and a dash of the Riot Grrrl movement of the ‘90s. According to lead vocalist/guitarist Ariel Hartley, the psychedelic rock scene has grown quite a bit since Pearl Earl’s beginnings.
“There’s always been some psychedelic, but now it seems like psychedelic music is the popular trend,” Hartley said. “Whenever we started in Denton, there was a lot of folk music and a lot of math rock. St. Vincent came out of Dallas, so you have art rock bands and a lot of punk bands. A lot of our friends play post-punk bands. Then, we play with Acid Carousel, which is another band that I collaborate with. They’re a younger crowd. All of those cats are in other bands that are not only tinged with psychedelia but also with the punk rock scene and garage rock.”
Pearl Earl began to take form in Hartley’s mind during her college years. Influenced in a home filled with the sounds of David Bowie, The Doors and Neil Young, she later discovered more modern alternative such as Tame Impala and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Her college years led to her discovery of “old albums from the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
Until then, Hartley had expressed herself through poetry, but the combination of her musical influences, both new and old, led her to pick up the guitar and start writing. When she first ventured into live performance, Hartley spent time in a band behind the keyboard. However, she had bigger plans in mind. Eventually, fate brought together the members of Pearl Earl.
“Even before I was in that band [playing keyboard], I had the intention to have a project,” Hartley said. “Me and Bailey [Chapman/drums] met through mutual friends. Me, her and Stephanie [Lazcano] the bass player randomly got drunk together one night and jammed. We had a lot of fun, so I thought that these could be the girls to ask to join me in this project. A few years later, we added Chelsea [Danielle], who plays keyboards.”
When the group takes The Merry Widow stage, Pearl Earl will feature cuts from its self-titled, full-length debut. This album is the follow-up to the band’s “Karaoke Superstar EP,” which was recorded by engineer/producer/musician Brack Cantrell. For the past three years, Cantrell has been the go-to studio figure for many up-and-coming bands in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Pearl Earl brought Cantrell back into the studio with them for the band’s first full-length. This time, Cantrell suggested the band also enlist the studio/musical knowledge of Alex Bhore, whose resume boasts time with the groundbreaking rock outfit This Will Destroy You.
“[Cantrell] recommended that we pair up and go to a bigger studio [Elmwood Recording], which happens to be John Congleton’s studio,” said Hartley. “He’s done so many bands. St. Vincent has been there and Angel Olsen, Nelly Furtado and Lil Jon. It’s a very well-known recording studio in the area. Alex Bhore, who is the drummer for This Will Destroy You, is a good friend of Brack’s. He [Cantrell] thought that we as a team would work out well, and it did.”
Cantrell and Bhore successfully captured Pearl Earl’s raw sound and attitude on this debut full-length. Each track shines with pure rock ‘n’ roll energy conjured from the past and the present. Classic reverb, memorable lyrics and unfiltered American rock ‘n’ roll course through the collection. All the while, exciting lyrical and instrumental work beg the listener to commit tracks to memory.
The album’s opener/lead single “Meet Your Maker” sets the album’s tone. This track borrows vocal aesthetics from the early days of The Go-Go’s, set to an instrumental arrangement pulled straight from the psychedelic pop rock of the ‘60s. “Malibu Barbie Bike” and “Take a Shot” are both dreamy garage rock anthems reminiscent of classic B-52’s in both sound and attitude.
The album’s high energy eases for just a couple of tracks, notably “Captain Howdy.” This may be one of the slower songs but its devilish theme makes it a haunting standout. Hartley’s explanation of the song plays out like an exercise in artistic free association. She says “Captain Howdy” began as bass loop she describes as a “weird, Western theme song.” After debating whether to go forward with the track, Hartley says she laid a guitar riff on top, which created more potential for a final song in her and Bailey Chapman’s minds. After discovering that the Captain Howdy type font was used on a Ouija board for one of the band’s music videos, the song’s theme began to take shape, especially when Hartley researched Captain Howdy’s infamous background in both music and in the film “The Exorcist.”
Hartley says the adrenalized chemistry the band experiences in the studio is definitely witnessed in the live environment. She adds they are a band that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the crowd should not be surprised to see “an awkward moment” or two. However, she guarantees Pearl Earl is coming to Mobile to rock, and they hope the crowd shares in their excitement.
“We have a lot of fun, maybe too much fun,” Hartley said. “As a foursome, we’re best friends. We’re more like sisters, because we’re really close and overall adventurous. We’re a down-for-whatever crew. We like adventure, and we’re all pretty friendly girls. We genuinely like to meet people, and we’ve made a lot of good friends together as a group, because we like to party.”