After a hiatus and a lineup shuffle last fall, the future of Denton favorites Pearl Earl seemed to be up in the air. But now the psych rock group is ready to move forward with an expanded lineup and plan to release their first full-length album this spring.
The band formed in 2014, after lead vocalist and guitarist Ariel Hartley left another Denton act to write her own songs. “I had been writing some songs while I was in another band called Mink Coats,” Hartley says. “At that point, I knew I wanted my own project, and I knew I wanted it to be with girls, because I had never worked with girls before.”
The original lineup included Hartley, with Bailey K. Chapman on drums and backing vocals, and Stefanie Lazcano on bass and backing vocals.
“It was a three-piece initially,” Lazcano says. “Bailey had been playing drums for years, and Ariel had just started to pick up instruments. Eventually, I landed on the bass, even though my primary instrument was the guitar.”
Shortly after, the band added a fourth member on synths, Charlie Beaman. “Charlie joined the band roughly six months after we formed, and played with us for a year and a half, and we went on two national tours together,” Chapman says.
This lineup was not built to last. Tensions rose, and creative minds clashed after nearly two years of collaboration.
The timing of Beaman’s departure, two weeks before they were set to record their full-length album, created uncertainty about how to move forward.
“We had lost a synth player, and that’s a core part of our sound,” Hartley says. “We wondered if we should at least have him record the album. We made the big decision to say, ‘No, we’re going to do this our own way,’ and it’s actually perfect. It worked out better this way.”
"Yeah, this was a huge decision for us,” Chapman says. “Between June and August, everything got rearranged. Now, it’s January, and we’ve actually come to a decision.”
The band has selected a new member, as yet unannounced. “It’s gonna be all girls from now on, no more boys,” Hartley says. “Unless they wanna shake a tambourine and dance.”
Pearl Earl has lost no momentum in the studio. Their self-titled full-length debut has been completed, with a tentative release scheduled for May. For the album, the band worked with both Alex Bhore, drummer of the band This Will Destroy You, and longtime producer Brack Cantrell at the famed Elmwood Recording studio.
“Alex is great, and we all work well together,” Hartley says. “Brack would come in, and then they would work as a duo. It was a great experience, being able to work with Brack again, but also kind of take it to the next level.”
Lazcano reiterates the value of Cantrell’s history with the band. “Having Brack helped a lot, especially with the synth parts,” she says. “Since he had worked with us in the past, he knew what kind of sound we wanted and helped us get there.”
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The band’s core female identity is often a point of contention, they say. “I won’t name the sound guy, but we did have a sound guy say, ‘What are y’all, a bunch of lesbians?’” Hartley says.
The band has been categorized by many as an LGBTQ band. While some members of the band identify as something other than straight, their music is not propped up by their identities. “Our sexual orientation doesn’t define who we are as musicians,” Chapman says. “We just are who we are.”
The music isn’t meant to be gendered either, just because they’re all women, she adds. “I don’t want it to rely on the fact that we’re women. That’s not what our music is about. We hear from a lot of publications trying to paint us as anti-man. We aren’t. We love everyone.”
“There are definitely feminist lyrics in our songs, there’s no denying that,” Hartley says. “[But] at the end of the day, we’re humanists, and we want to bring people together. Not drive them apart.”