Record of the Week: Pearl & The Oysters “Coast 2 Coast”

Pearl & The Oysters Bandcamp bio reads,

“After winning a free trip to the ★Ostreoid Asteroid Resort★ (from whence came their name) on the back of a dehydrated cereal box, a joyous society of galactic gleaners began making music together under the Neptunian moniker: 𝒫ℯ𝒶𝓇𝓁 𝒜𝓃𝒹 𝒯𝒽ℯ 𝒪𝓎𝓈𝓉ℯ𝓇𝓈. ✩ ☾ ❈❖✢❖”

Here we have the real story. Starting with a picklemonger from Brooklyn to two high school students in Paris who bonded over Burt Bacharach and then moved to Florida with two carry-ons full of tiny instruments and made “Coast 2 Coast” an acid trip of a journey to outer space.

Listen to the story here

Justin Barney: Hello, could you introduce yourselves?

Juliette Davis: I’m Juliette Pearl Davis

Jojo Polack: I’m JoJo Polack.

JB: Is Pearl a nickname?

JD: No, Pearl is my middle name. Truly my middle name and we use it for the band name. It was the name of my great grandmother.

JB: What did she do?

Jojo: I know all the family stories. She was the wife of someone who sold pickles in Brooklyn.

We had this idea of reviving the old pickle recipe and calling it “Pearls Pickles.”

JB: Oh my god I love this. What a back story. How did you two meet and start making music?

Jojo: We went to the same public high school in Paris. We were fifteen when we met. Then we went to college and studied musicology and music education together. At that time we started making music, while in college. We were also living together, and around that time Juliette told me that she was thinking about trying to live in the US for a bit. I applied to a couple programs. I wanted to do a doctorate on Brazilian music and there were a lot of experts in Brazilian music in Florida because it’s the biggest Brazilian diaspora outside of Brazil and many were at the University of Florida in Gainesville. They offered me an assistantship and I moved there. For a year Juliette moved to New York. We had already started working on some of the songs that would become our first album by then and that’s kind of how it started.

JB: Growing up in Paris, I would imagine what you were hearing then was different from what I was hearing in the states. Who was your favorite band at that time?

Jojo: A band that was huge for us was The Zombies.

Honestly, it was a lot of American music. We listened to a lot of the rock revival bands of the early oughts. But also a lot of garage rock of the 1960’s.

JD: We crossed paths at that time. My father was a jazz musician and I had a lot of old soul music taste. I listened to a lot of jazz. When we met we really influenced each other and agreed on bands like The Zombies and Burt Bacharach.

JB: So when I saw you at SXSW I had not seen a band that had so many instruments on stage. And so many tiny noisemakers. I told my friend that y’all sounded like you bought every cool noise maker that is targeted in an Instagram add and found a way to make every one work. How did you decide on incorporating all of those into your sound?

JD: You noticed that we have many instruments. You also noticed that they are very small. When we moved to the US with two suitcases full of instruments.

Jojo: Yeah we both have a passion for little noisemakers. Little toy synths. They are very toy like in the sounds they produce and that’s what we like about them.

We are basically trying to make 70’s pop and hide it under space sounds.

We’ve been refining that over four albums but the taste was always there. We got into Stereolab and the High Llamas and that was a big influence in how to use synth, not for it’s ability to make melodic lines or chords but for it’s sound making capabilities and incorporate that into traditional songwriting.

JB: And it’s fun! Juliette you have so many things in front of you on stage.

JD: Octopus woman.

I used to have a lot of stage fright and I also have ADD pretty bad but having so many tasks helps me focus so much.

JB: You mentioned Stereolab and you have a song with Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab. When an artist has someone else on the song sometime the cynic in me wonders if the artist is buried in the background and it’s just for Spotify but Laetitia isn’t just on the song, she is IN the song. In the song’s DNA. How did that collaboration happen?

Jojo: We met Laetitia years ago. We were doing this festival in Paris that we co-organized with a Parisian label called Midnight Special Records. And we reached out to her drummer who put us in contact and she ended up headlining the festival and it was very magical and we stayed in touch.

JB: What did Stereolab mean to you, growing up in Paris? Them being a notable French band.

Jojo: Honestly, not much because I think we were too young to be there when it was happening really…

JD: And they were never that big in France. Laetitia is the only French member of the band so they were more popular in the UK. They are just now starting to sell out big rooms in Paris. Actually the High Llamas, who are like a sister band to Stereolab was definitely an influence on our music. We shared a label briefly and we got really into that band. They are like The Beach Boys but with synthesizers. Sean O’ Hagan, the lead, was in Stereolab for a minute. Everyone who is into Stereolab I try to steer them into The High Llamas too.

You know how every indie band has that secret influence that nobody knows? High Llamas are ours.

JB: Putting them on my phone right now. Well, we have been playing “Pacific Avenue” and it rips. Where is the titular “Pacific Avenue” that you sing of?

Jojo: There are so many Pacific Avenues in and around LA but it’s more of a feeling in the song. But I remember being on the highway and seeing the Pacific Avenue sign but not seeing any water, so that’s referenced in the chorus. LA has so much sprawl and it’s so dystopian. The planning of this town is so nightmarish. That’s kind of what the song is about too. It’s supposed to be paradise but not quite. We arrived in LA right before the pandemic and that song is about it hitting us and feeling like we are close to the water but can’t quite see it.

JB: I feel like we have to end on a High Llamas song. What’s your favorite song of theirs?

Jojo: A song that we both love of theirs is “The Click and the Fizz.”

JD: We discovered that song during a time where we used to listen to music while we were sleeping and I remember being woken up by this song and being in that dreamscape of not knowing what is real or sleep and being in a dream world that was so real.