I had never heard of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart until I sat down with their biggest fan.
"Oh, is that them there?"
I motioned to a picture tacked to the wall behind me and frowned. It was a pink poster. They were a band. There ended my understanding.
"How was Laneway?"
A 48 year-old man sat opposite me and adjusted his tie.
"Yeah, good. I go to lots of concerts. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are one of my all time favourite bands. And Girls were playing, Laura Marling was playing, I love her. The Possums were there, they’re just great."
I started feeling awkward. I’ll recognise something eventually, I thought half-heartedly.
“I’m listening to Sharon Van Etten, her album, Tramp. I suppose its sort of Indie where it wanders to folk. It’s pretty, really pretty. And the new Spiritualized album called Sweet heart Sweet life, although it’s just got “huh” on the cover. I really like Spiritualized. I know everybody says since Ladies and Gentlemen we’re floating in space they haven’t been the force they once were but in a way, that makes them even more compelling and interesting because they really are just one man – a guy called Jason Pearce who goes by the name Space Man.”
Nope, he lost me at Sharon. I really needed to get out more. To those things, I think they’re called gigs?
"Also Street Chant and James Duncan. Superb. But it's soul destroying because they’ll only sell 500 copies, and it’s just brilliant music.”
Brilliant music indeed and yet I remained one of those annoyingly ignorant people responsible for keeping sales to 500.
“I think the classic condition of my age is that you cling to a remembrance of good times from when you’re, your age…I would typically be expected to listen to the same music from when I was at University and in some respects I do. But I don’t listen to stuff from that time because it just reminds me of the passing of life. I mean they’re all middle-aged and mortgaged and married now…”
And I suppose that’s not something pleasant to be reminded of.
“…Well music is about escape isn’t it? For me I like the same thrill of new-ness that I got when I, you know, 16 or 17. Hearing a band for the first time is as wonderful at 48 as it was at 16.”
I hoped I would too think this way this nearing fifty.
“But I’m not undiscriminating. If a band is crap then I wont like them simply because they’re young and new and being talked up by somebody.”
Yes. I liked this suited fellows approach to discerning good music from the “ironically bad”, seeming to overwhelm bFM presenters and their playlists these days.
I finished counting the twenty-two pieces of children’s art surrounding us, more impressed now that the poster had even managed to find wall space at all.
“How old are your kids now?”
(I needed to be vague, not creepily accurate.)
“They're 11 and 9.”
So how do a nine and an eleven year-old feel about a father who, admittedly, “doesn’t sleep”, constantly trawls the internet for new music and seizes every opportunity to share it with them?”
“I think the problem with children is you want to proselytize. You want to say, listen to this, listen to this… But they want to make their own discoveries, they don’t want to be told what to listen to by their Dad.”
An uninvited smile crept across my lips.
Holiday car trips from Auckland to Wellington saw my father blasting the B52’s way past the Bombay Hills. No right-minded eight year-old appreciates the likes of Rock Lobster when hoping for an Aqua sing-along instead.
“Yeah, well you wouldn’t want to be told what to listen to either…”
“Yeah, no. But, no…So we live with this quite sweet…”
He was picking his words carefully, as though my Dad had warned him about the Aqua tape.
“You know, my son who is nine has very conventional nine year-old boy music taste. He listens to Maroon, whatever they’re called, Maroon 5? And Bruno Mars and stuff and I always say to him “honey listen to this stuff” but he’s not interested in it… He doesn’t want to listen to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart…”
“Well they’re your passion! He has to discover them for himself!”
“They are my passion, that’s right and he’s allowed his own.”
I shuffled some papers I wasn't using and thought about passion. Like, when we use it, and how it like helps us express like what we’re feeling.
I was nervous.
You’d think a laid-back, alternative music loving, 48 year-old Laneway bFM listener would be cool with a loosening of language. Some word redundancies. The odd like. Maybe more common than odd. Surely it’s earnt its’ place in modern language if all the kids are using it?
“Like Omg, well I was just totally like…” It’s just such an odd way to talk. I mean it’s a completely gratuitous, meaningless – and also, where did it come from?”
It was a battle lost before I could like, even try.
“Did it come from Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, I mean do you really want to assert your indie credentials, by talking as some Hollywood-mogul decreed, shopping mall… I mean what the hell is that about?! There’s nothing… it seems… there’s no merit in it. I certainly hope language isn’t pulled back to the barely functional.”
I wanted to know about work.
Work was going well until suddenly a communal squawk bounced in from the office next door. The Soccer was on and a group of very vocal fans were packed inside with the volume up loud.
“My colleagues are lovely people. We all drift in to work by about 9 o’clock and you look at them and you just think, they’re delightful….Some of them are mad…but they’re delightful.”
Did he ever think about having a show with his name on it?
“No, not at all ever. It’s really strange. I don’t use the name unless it’s an email address or something. It's not a name I use very comfortably.”
John Campbell describes his nightly half-hour appearances on prime time New Zealand television as being “the shop-window.” A product which appears only as result of hard work from a very dedicated and talented team.
I nod and realise I really need to listen to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart as soon as I get home.