Kip Berman (singer/songwriter of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) has begun recording and performing as The Natvral. Drawing inspiration from the lyrical folk rock of icons like Richard and Linda Thompson, Leonard Cohen and Ted Leo, this EP finds Kip channeling his lyricism with newfound intimacy and emotional candor.
This venture is neither solo project nor side project, but rather a chance for Berman to create new music that connects in sound and substance to his present life. Since the recording of the last Pains record in 2016, The Echo of Pleasure, Berman has become a father and traded his beloved Brooklyn for the collegiate charms of Princeton, NJ. As for the name, “I wanted to pick up my guitar and sing songs in a natural way, without all the things about music that aren’t music.”
Lead single “Know Me More” enlists one of his long-standing friends and collaborators, Jess Weiss (Fear of Men). On this ballad of domestic dislocation and partial resolve (“by morning all your venom’s gone, but the poison’s still in me”), Kip sings in a plaintive tone that is sweetened by Weiss’s harmonies and the final “you seem to like me still;” both welcome salves for the singer’s mounting anxieties and doubts.
On “The Violet Hour,” inspired in part by the Susan Sontag short story “The Old Complaints Revisited,” Kip sings of an unwelcome, but enduring love that transcends the political and ideological objections of its participants — an ascetic revolutionary “ecstasies you’ll taste when you’re dead, a decadent dread” that desires “all you want to leave in defeat.”
“Home” is the EP’s emotional fulcrum, signaling Berman’s yearning for something more permanent than the many years of his life spent touring with his band: “I’ve been down every road, and all I want is to turn back home.” Originally performed solo as an encore on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s last tour, it was this song that in Berman’s words, “made me realize this wasn’t a Pains song, but it was something new I had to begin.” But despite its allusions to age and the passage of time on Berman’s psyche (“all I’ve got to show you is written in lines on my skin”), its unyielding romanticism is consistent with his previous work.
The EP ends with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” a nod to one of Berman’s long-standing heroes, and also a thank you to his mom, whose record collection gave Berman endless inspiration and discovery in his youth.
The EP was produced, engineered and mixed by Andy Savours (My Bloody Valentine, Cloud Boat. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart) at Wolf Den Studios London, UK. The songs were recorded live in single takes, to capture the intimacy and spontaneity of these compositions.
Expect more to come from The Natvral as Kip continues on his new musical journey.