Meet Mearl, Earl and Estaban. Just three regular dudes playing a psychedelic rock show at Mable Peabody's the week before Halloween. Upon careful and highly technical inspection, you might notice that these are actually the male alter egos of the members of Denton's Pearl Earl.
The band locks in to a well-influenced and diverse range of psychedelic rock styles, and fuses them together across different songs and even mixes them up within individual songs. Dissonant, effects-heavy guitars and bluesy, syncopated drum beats are held down by winding bass while lilting vocals tie each song together. With two songs out and a full-length on the way, Pearl Earl is a force of nature.
At this cross-dressing show, the band said they had one of the best receptions to their sound so far, even despite a slight wardrobe malfunction ("My mustache kept falling off," singer and guitarist Ariel Hartley says).
Each member of the trio has always had an affinity for a certain subgenre of psychedelic rock or different genres, forming a melting pot that provides a diverse range of song stylings. Progressive rock, Australian rock and blues rock bands have all lent their influence to the sound of Pearl Earl, and each member is also in a different, but slightly related, side project. Because Denton.
"We all have unique tastes, but Pearl Earl is where they all come together," Hartley says.
Even in just the two songs that are currently out, it's clear that the band is capable of a grand variety of song types. "If" features a skipping beat and slightly dissonant chords over a reverberating vocal part. The bass line hums under the mix, provided by bassist Stefanie Lazcano. The song's swing pushes a bluesy tone, but halfway through the wiry parts turn into a giant wall of power chords, wielding a Tame Impala guitar tone and aggression. The transition is crucial, because without it things would stray dangerously close to being repetitive. Drummer Bailey K. Chapman says that that's no accident.
"We know that diversity is incredibly important because there's a lot of neo-psychedelia happening and it can often blend together to be too homogenous," Chapman explains. "We always try to mix it up."
On the flip side, the other single "Karaoke Superstar" is driven by narrative, telling the tragic story of the metaphysical idea of a character that pours his/her heart into karaoke performances. Though the idea is universal, there were a few real-life "superstars" that were particularly inspiring.
"'Karaoke Superstar' started as a drunken joke song, but it's about that old burnout woman or man clutching a PBR and belting out their favorite song night after night," Chapman says with a laugh. Hartley adds, "But, she's a really good singer."
Much of the inspiration came from a country gay bar right across the street from their practice space. The array of characters inevitably inspired this song, based on one of these people as a subject.
Right now, Pearl Earl has two singles recorded and an album's-worth of songs written. The band plans to record soon and have a release early in the summer.
Their performances have generated excitement among local concert-goers and even gotten people to mouth the words to "Karaoke Superstar." They've also got their sights on getting down to Dallas and trying to play at Three Links in the near future. In the interest of increasing the depth of their sound, they've also recently enlisted an unnamed keyboard player to perform live with the band.
"We can add a lot with a spacey harpsichord sound," Chapman says. Hartley adds, "I'd definitely like to get a bit spacier. Not breaking away from '60s, but not having just a girl rock band sound."
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For Chapman, being able to transition from doing more visual art to aural art has been hugely rewarding in getting to play with the band. For Hartley, the primary songwriter, she's enjoyed getting to define the direction of the band and have an outlet for the songs she writes.
"For this project I get to really explore what I want to do musically," Hartley says. "I get to challenge myself to be a performer. And I like being able to see what I can do and what we're all capable of as a band, and as close friends. We're always supportive and lovey."
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