As far as first year festivals go, In Bloom seems to have a pretty robust lineup of locals performing on the four stages of the grounds at Eleanor Tinsley Park although few of the groups have played a traditional upper scale festival prior to their appearance at this festival. Pearl Crush, the Houston indie rock meets bedroom pop project of Mandy Clinton, has not only played a festival before but has an E.P. due this year, as well as other shows on the horizon. The Houston Press chatted with Clinton about where the project's name came from, what she was inspired by when writing the songs, and what people can expect from her set at the festival in March.
Band names in general for the past decade seem to be more born out of compromise than out of creativity. Such isn't the case with Pearl Crush. As per Clinton, "a pearl is this precious, lovely object created essentially out of agitation. A irritant gets inside an animal's shell, and in response the animal creates this beautiful thing. This is what the process of songwriting has always been for me. It's this very personal, self-contained way for me to work out the things that are bothering me. When I started Pearl Crush, I was really fixated on liquids like water and milk, certain colors like light pink and yellow and white. I really wanted to embrace femininity with this project, which was something I haven't always done; and I wanted to explore that side of my identity through emotional pop music. Pearl Crush worked with all of that."
While Pearl Crush has received plenty of attention, the project hasn't been around for an exceptionally long time. Clinton says, "I write, record, and produce all of the music, it's my solo project. I have some musicians who play with me live, but the parts they're playing are written by me. Some of my previous projects weren't going where I wanted them to, so I decided to do something where I had full control. I was really inspired by female artists like Grimes, Lorely Rodriguez and Kate Shilonosova who were writing and producing great solo pop records, and I decided to go for it and figure it out along the way."
Where Pearl Crush is essentially a one woman operation, Clinton also has her own label, Poison Moon Records that self released her debut 7 inch for First Blush. While that's not so rare, she's since dropped plenty of music from the likes of K. Campbell, Bask, and Clare. Asked if she thought that boutique and smaller labels were the future of the music industry, she says "I think there will always be smaller boutique and local labels, but I think there will also always be bigger indie labels and major labels. There are so many bands right now, and the chances of getting on even a mid-sized indie label are pretty slim for most. I think you’ll see more and more artists going independent and putting out their records on their own terms, but I have a hunch that getting signed to a label that has the resources to support touring, get you great P.R., and pay for recording and releasing your albums, is still “the dream” for a lot of artists.
"Poison Moon is a very small operation. Kirke (Campbell) and I rely heavily on the more old school methods of distribution like email blogs, mailing out physical copies of our releases to magazines, public and college radio stations; and then, of course, we work with a digital distributor to get the music on all of the major streaming services because that’s the way most people will be listening to them. We’ve found that once you get a couple of solid reviews, the word-of-mouth thing actually does work. We also believe that touring is a great way to get your music to people outside of Houston. I went on a mini-Texas tour last year after my 7” dropped, and I plan on doing more of that this year in support of my next release."
The two songs that Clinton has out under Pearl Crush, are almost in the vein of bedroom pop mixed with indie rock; the two tracks "are lo-fi, jangly pop. Someone said it sounds a bit like The Cure. Someone else described it as “subtle electronica” having a “C-86 glaze.”
"I was definitely channeling lush indie guitar music, which is essentially what I was writing and playing directly before Pearl Crush," Clinton says. "But for this release I wanted the brevity and poppiness of artists like Colleen Green, The Primatives and Alvvays."
"My set at Day for Night was a solo performance. I performed in this circular DJ booth, surrounded by LED screens, so a big part of the production was the physical space and setting. There was only room for one person on stage, and my movement was pretty restricted.
"The set for In Bloom will be with a full band. There’s an energy I want to convey with these newer songs that can only really be expressed via bodies occupying and moving through physical space, so I’d like to start performing with a band more. There’s no shortage of parts to play with this new batch of songs, and I love playing with other musicians, so I want to bring a couple additional people into the mix for the bigger shows. My next release is a five-song E.P. It’s already been written, recorded, mixed and mastered. It will be coming out on vinyl on Poison Moon Records this Summer. Then I’m hoping to digitally release another couple of songs by the end of the year," she says.
You can stream Pearl Crush in the usual places, or purchase music directly from Poison Moon Records. You can catch Pearl Crush with a full band perform at this year's In Bloom Festival on Saturday March 24. The two day festival will feature sets from Beck, Queens of The Stone Age, Martin Garrix and more, and will take place at Eleanor Tinsley Park on March 24 and 25. Gates at 11 a.m.; tickets $79 to $299.