By Kelly Dearmore
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Jemina Pearl's seen the other acts the music industry passes off as "punk rock" these days—and the fiery front woman for the pretty effin' legit punk rock throwback Be Your Own Pet just ain't buying it.
"I don't think anyone really knows what punk means anymore," she says over her cell phone as she drives around her hometown of Nashville, running some errands before her band takes off on the next leg of a seemingly never-ending touring schedule. "The punk rock definition is very loose and tough to define, but it definitely seems like people think that if you're wearing Hot Topic clothes and you play music loud, then it's punk."
At the moment, Pearl's specifically speaking out against the band Paramore. Fronted by the spunky, pharmacy-store-bought-hair-colored Hayley Williams, Paramore is everything Be Your Own Pet isn't: kid-tested, MTV-approved. And since Paramore hails from Franklin, Tennessee, a town just a few miles south of Be Your Own Pet's own home, Pearl's quite familiar with its act.
And, no, she's not a fan.
"I think that band really sucks," she says—although not before grunting her frustration at the drop of its name. "No offense to them, but it's not punk at all. It's, like, pop music. I don't think they're very good at all."
Pearl's reaction's hardly a surprising one. Whereas Paramore aims for an endearing brattitude, Be Your Own Pet goes straight for the jugular, IV in hand. Listen to the raucous "The Kelly Affair" from Be Your Own Pet's stellar sophomore release, 2007's Get Awkward: It's a two-and-a-half minute, '60s surf rock-influenced ode to "dangerous" late-night parties with horny, drug-taking attendees—and Pearl's aggressive vocals paint it as the greatest time ever. No, it's not an empowering, grrrrl power track like Paramore's hit song "Misery Business." It's an anthem for behaving badly and drinking to excess—just like the rest of Be Your Own Pet's repertoire.
And once you factor in that, at 20 years old, Pearl (she proudly boasts that she won't be 21 until this summer on Get Awkward opening track "Super Soaked") is the oldest member of the Be Your Own Pet crew—guitarist Jonas Stein is 20 too, but bassist Nathan Vasquez and drummer John Eatherly are still in their late teens—it only adds to the aesthetic. As in: "Of course, these guys are romanticizing the party lifestyle; they're still sneaking pre-show drinks in the alleys behind the venues they're playing." Which, y'know, they actually are doing.
"We find ways," Pearl says. "When you're a teenager, if you want to get drunk, you do."
Yeah, you do. Hell, we've all been there. We just didn't so easily and successfully write punk rock anthems about it.
"We're not really trying to do anything," Pearl says. "We're just doing what we love and what we like, and we're trying to play the music that we're into. And hopefully that comes out in our music and our sound."