It’s time to practise your best air guitar moves as we welcome female rock goddesses Pearl Harts into the ellesse My Style My Sound studio.
Best friends Sarah Shaw (Drums/Vocals) and Kirsty Lowery (Lead Vocals/ Guitar) bonded after meeting in a previous band. It was their unexplainable connection with one another and a shared love of heavy rock that made the duo decide to go it alone to form the fast and furious Pearl Harts.
Despite their small size, the pair produce a big, bolstering rock ‘n’ roll sound that could be likened to The Ramones or Led Zeppelin, fused with a punch of attitude and bags of unapologetic girl power. Kirsty’s rugged vocals combined with Sarah’s high-pitched harmonies and are a match made in heaven against the backdrop of edgy guitar riffs and bold drum bangs.
Pearl Harts had already taken their talents on tour with Skunk Anansie, Garbage and Stereophonics before they headlined their own tour this April. Their recent single ‘Black Blood’ has been highly praised by the likes of NME, Artrocker and Clash and features on their aptly titled new album ‘Glitter and Spit’, released earlier this year.
For their #mystylemysound sessions, the ladies have performed their tracks ‘The Rush’ and ‘Hit The Bottle’. Get ready to rock!
We had an in-depth chat with Pearl Harts to get the lowdown on what made them want to go against the grain and become queens of rock ‘n’ roll.
We think you look like sisters, but we know you aren’t! Are you both from the same place?
Kirsty: No, Sarah’s from Scarborough and I’m from Stonehenge. So she’s north, I’m south.
Is there anything in your childhood that led you down the path of wanting to make music as a career?
Kirsty: No, it’s weird. I wish I came from a musical family! You know when you hear those stories from famous guitar players and people who say their family was in music? I think the closest I’ve got to having a musical family is my Dad – he used to pretend to play the guitar in the air. But yeah, [my parents] are not musical at all! They like music and always listen to it though. It was great when my Dad used to blast Meatloaf out of the big stereo system on a Sunday.
Sarah: My dad was really musical. He played guitar and yeah, I was brought up in a musical household. My sister played violin, my dad had a keyboard and guitars around the house. I started playing clarinet when I was 8, but I didn’t really like it and it used to make me really out of breath. I had a bit of an obsession with drums and then my mum and dad really wanted me to play the saxophone because they said “It’s such a beautiful progression from the clarinet” and I really didn’t want to play it. I wanted to play drums! My mum said if I could get some drum lessons at school, then just go for it. There were some free lessons so I had a few and then discovered rock music – mainly Manic Street Preachers, which if I’m ever drunk, I can’t stop going on about them! [Laughs]. I stopped having lessons and then joined a band and that was me really! So yeah, my dad was a big inspiration.
So you upset your parents a bit by going for the drums Sarah? Did you get a drum kit at home?
S: Yeah I did actually. My dad was a rock guitarist anyway so he had loads of records and stuff. I think once I got the drum kit, he was like “Oh, just play along with this song”, so he was basically quite happy to have someone to play along with.
What’s your first and most dearest musical memory?
K: The first album I ever bought – I bought tapes and singles – was Green Day’s Dookie. I think I bought it from NVC and I loved it. I was with my friend and her dad and I played it in the car all the way home. I loved that album and I still love that album.
S: Mine was Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go [laughs]. I bought it from WHSmiths with a voucher that I got for Christmas. I think about a month after that I started playing drums, so those are two things that kind of came together.
What drives you to make music?
S: I mean, I always knew that I wanted to play drums and try to be in a successful band. That’s something that since I started playing was always like, what I really wanted to do. It’s a bit of a cliche but that’s what it was. Then me and Kirsty met each other, which was actually in a previous band and we just sort of clicked really. That band didn’t work out and we actually love heavy music, so we thought ‘let’s just make a band, the two of us’.
K: We didn’t really know what we wanted to do, did we? We were like “Who’s gonna sing? Errrr you will, mate!”
S: You always wanted to be a singer, didn’t you?
K: Yeah it was kind of a fantasy, but I guess it’s not any more. Sarah encouraged me massively to take that barrier down and get out of my comfort zone, because I just used to play guitar. The most I’d do was like a “Hey! Ho!”.
S: Yeah you’ve got a good voice! Better than mine.
K: No, your voice is great! I like your voice.
S: Yours is more punk rock.
K: They mesh well.
S: Yeah. So basically we thought, let’s try a duo. We also went on tour with this crazy feminist choir called Gaggle and that was a few years ago. That experience – it was really really fun – was a big inspiration and Deborah who ran that choir really encouraged us to get into the studio. I think also from that experience and the one from our previous band, we got on so well and became really close friends, it would be really weird to get another band member in really. So we kind of…
K: stuck it out.
S: Yeah, there’s been a few times where we thought we should get a bass player, also at a couple of gigs in the early days.
K: There was a guy who came up to me and said “I don’t mean to be rude, but you’re doing this all wrong and you should have a bass player”. I thought, ‘Do you really feel like you have to come and say that?’ I mean it’s fine if that’s what he thinks but why say that?
S: Yeah people do say that, but we’ve stuck it out and figured out how to make music without an extra person. Kirsty uses her loop pedal and now we’ve kind of decided we’re gonna do this as the two of us. Playing rock music, there’s not many women out there who make that music.
K: Yeah there’s a sense of empowerment.
S: So that’s kind of why we’re doing what we’re doing now.
How do you use music as reflection of your mood? Do you put on sad songs if you’re feeling down or vice versa?
K: Yeah that’s exactly right. I’m one of those. I had an argument with an ex boyfriend recently and I’d been at the pub. I got home and put Jeff Buckley – Grace on. I cried a lot to it but it was so therapeutic. As it was happening I was like “This is so dramatic, why am I doing this? But I feel better now.” Music is so emotional.
S: It definitely is. I think one thing we’ve tried to do with our album is do music for all different moods because we really feel like it’s important to have like an angry song, a happy song, a reflective song.
K: Thinking about the track list for the album, there’s one of each of those in there.
S: I think it’s really important.
K: There’s ‘Living’s Done’ on the album towards the end and maybe it’s not my favourite song, but in some ways it is because I imagine my 14-year-old self jumping up and down on my bed. It’s a really fun, silly song. It’s probably my most favourite to play. If I want to have a good time, I go straight to Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus!
S: Mine’s ‘80’s music. If i’m having a good time or getting ready to go out, ‘80s music takes me to the next level!
Do you still get nervous before a performance and if so, how do you handle those nerves?
K: I definitely still get nervous. I probably get more nervous now than I did before because we started to take it seriously. When you first start in a band, there’s no pressure. You don’t have a record or a fan base of people expecting something. So now that there’s an expectation of how it’s supposed to sound, you have to make sure it sounds like that. Sometimes that’s more nerve wracking. Sarah said to me the other day that I go into a weird quietness before a gig and I need to just be on my own.
S: Yeah, Kirsty all of a sudden needs to make lists and have everything organised, so at that point I’m like ‘Ok, she’s getting nervous now.’. I think it depends really. I don’t really get nervous, but if it’s something where you have to get it right first time like a TV performance or this performance today for example because we have a time restriction, you kind of suddenly start playing along not thinking about what you’re doing. All of a sudden a stupid thought might come into your brain, but you’re thinking so much about what you’re doing you kind of forget everything. It’s weird. We did some really big shows last year and they were really nerve wracking. They were such big stages that you’re kind of removed from the audience and now we’ve gone back to smaller stages where the audience are right there, that’s almost more nerve wracking for me because you’re close to the audience and they can see everything that you’re doing more.
K: I’d totally agree.
S: It is more fun because you’re more immersed in it and it’s more energetic, but it’s different having people just there next to you.
Who are your main inspirations?
K: My favourite guitar player was Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. I like him a lot. I like riff-based early blues, the traditional stuff. I remember listening to Black Sabbath when I was younger and my dad would say “They’re a heavy metal band!” But they’re actually not at all, they’re really bluesy. I guess at the time though, they were considered heavy or heavier metal.
S: I think for me it’s John Bonham. I love his drumming. We really like Fleetwood Mac too for the harmonies. I guess also rock from the ‘70s like NC5 and that garage-y kind of sound. We have all these different inspirations though, like we also like ‘70s funk. It’s not really stuff that sounds like us but it kind of all went into a melting pot of ideas.
K: Someone said that we were like The Beastie Boys bratty little sisters. I love The Beastie Boys and we don’t rap or anything, but they were like a punk band before anyway, so you can hear the influence of the guitar riffs and stuff. That was a big compliment.
Do you ever need to take a break from music?
K: I think I do. With Sarah, it’s like pumping through her veins! It’s a tricky question really because I guess we want to be friends but we also want to be in a band together. So there’s times where we have to just hang out as friends and not necessarily have it always about music. That can be tricky sometimes because if we get drunk together, we always end up talking about the band! I think it’s healthy to take a step back but sometimes it just can’t help but come out.
Lastly, in line with the ellesse ‘Make it Better’ motto – can you give us a few reasons why music makes things better for you?
S: I think it goes back to the question before of how there’s different music for each mood. If I feel really sad or something, there’s some songs that are quite personal to me and if I hear them, even on the radio, when I’m not particularly sad, they reference some point in my life and I might have a little cry, but feel so much better for it. I was driving to the studio the other day and a Van Halen song came on – so back to my ‘80’s rock – and it was the last thing you ever expected to hear on radio, so I cranked it right up and it put me in such a good mood. I think that’s why music makes it better, because it can empathise with you.
K: Yeah, agreed!
FOLLOW THE PEARL HARTS
Pearl Harts album ‘Glitter and Spit’ is out now on all major platforms. Catch them performing on dates across the UK from September.