The Pearl Harts

Hannah Smiles
Mark Hibbert

The Pearl Harts are a kick-ass rock duo with heavy duty riffs that stick. They’re amazing live, with an explosive sound - their mission is to make the biggest sound possible from the smallest lineup. Their dark blues-driven tunes have won over critics and radio DJs on both sides of the Atlantic, with songs about deals with the devil and bad acid trips, and there’s always a big chorus. They’re currently supporting Skunk Anansie on tour. The Pearl Harts are Kirsty on vocals, guitars and loops, and Sara on drums, vocals and samples.


Black Blood

When we meet them The Pearl Harts’ latest track Black Blood has been going down a storm with its live performance video, growling guitar and take no prisoners attitude. It’s available as a free download too. We talked to them about how they get their amazing sound.

Drummer Sara explains the band’s ethos.

The sound that we’re aiming for in The Pearl Harts is to take I guess what people would call a classic rock sound - we’re really influenced by Led Zeppelin, Queens Of The Stone Age, Fleetwood Mac - but we’re using triggers and loop pedal and samples, so we’re trying to take it to that next level.

Live sound is really important

And they definitely are taking it to the next level, with performances that stop people in their tracks.

Our live sound is really important to us, it’s how we started as a band anyway, basically we played live together for a few years and before we’d even written anything we already determined what we wanted our live sound to be. We wanted to involve all the equipment that we’re using at the moment and we wanted to make the biggest sound possible with the smallest lineup. So I think, to us, to come and see us live is definitely what our priority is, to get people interested.

People can’t work out how they create such a monster sound. It’s not just in the writing but also in the way they use kit that’s not usually associated with rock.

There are no backing tracks

We played a gig in London a few months ago and somebody was like, oh who’s running Ableton, who’s running the backing tracks and we were like, well, there are no backing tracks because we loop. Kirsty loops riffs live and I’m playing drums and samples and we’re trying to create the biggest sound we can, but just with ourselves, so we’re not going to let the fact that we don’t have a bass player or a keyboard player hold us back.

It’s a startling combination and some of the responses to their shows are pretty memorable too says Kirsty.

A guy said about us, ‘tiny tiny girls that at first you want to take out for ice cream, but then all you’ll discover is that they’re going to firebomb your car and wreck your house’, which I thought was great!

Because we kind of look quite sweet and innocent, and then we go on stage and just hopefully rip it up.

You’ve got to make it new

Their technical approach may be unconventional, but they are both very experienced musicians and say they love pushing things forward and taking risks live.

People are all like, oh they shouldn’t have samples or loop pedals if it’s a classic rock band, but you know we’re not in the 70s any more, we’re in 2014 so you’ve got to make it new, two people making a sound that maybe a four-piece band would create.

Skeleton Made of Diamonds

So how do they write those songs that stick in your brain?

We have lots of ideas in a melting pot and then we pick out the bits that we like and then Kirsty will add a riff or a melody, or I’m coming up with a drumbeat.

Sometimes it’s real life that inspires them too, says Kirsty.

This new song that we’ve got, called Skeleton Made Of Diamonds, is about a friend of Sara’s who won’t die - not that we want him to die, not at all.

He’s one of these guys, so many things happen to him. I saw him get hit by a car for example and against all odds he survived and is just completely fine actually.

We’ve even had songs that start off with Sara saying, I’ve got this really cool drumbeat that I want to put something to, I want it to be a swing feel and we will run with that. I think the other day I had a riff because I was listening to a lot of delta blues and then we were OK let’s run with that theme, let’s run with Southern American, sort of ZZ Top-esque, and then put some sub-bass in there and all of a sudden it’s not ZZ Top it’s… Pearl Harts!

It’s important to have good songs

But it’s vital that their music is more than just a particular kind of sound and vibe says Sara.

I think it’s really important for us to have good songs, it’s not just about being on stage and making our hair go mental everywhere because that, as fun as that is, if the song doesn’t stand the test of time then there’s not really much point in it really. Lots of people can swing their hair round or thrash a guitar or thrash a drumkit. We invest quite a lot of time in melodies and lyrics.

They have spent plenty of time in the studio too, but are careful not to embellish things too much as they want to keep their music authentic in every environment.

With certain kinds of music, it’s easy to make it in the studio and quite easy to take it from the studio to live and everything’s as it should be and it’s quite perfect, especially with electronic music. But with rock music, if you write it in the studio and then you go to play it live it doesn’t have that energy.

We ask them about their dream support slot, and they say that’s often a matter of heated debate. Any Led Zeppelin reunion would be right up at the top of the list, and Manic Street Preachers are also favourites. Kirsty says:

I would love to support Them Crooked Vultures, because you get a mix. John Paul Jones, you get Josh Homme and you get Dave Grohl, and then all the other people that are around them being awesome, and I think we could rock just as hard as them.

Dave! We’re coming for you!