An evening with the Pierces

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Christopher Irvine got to speak with sister-pop-duet the Pierces during their recent tour.

“Is this on?”

Catherine Pierce leans across her sister, glancing at my precariously balanced iPhone atop the couch’s arm. Allison Pierce, her blue eyes befitting her surname, looks on in bemusement as I fumble with my questions, laughing nervously as I reply: “Oh, yeah, it is, thanks.”

Whilst I sat in the Edinburgh pub ‘McSorleys’ beforehand (the manager took pity on me with free coffee and internet – if you’re ever in Edinburgh I recommend it: 18-22 Clerk Street), I wondered how I was likely to come across to the Pierces. My first ever interview and it’s with two American beauties in the charts? I’ll give it a shot (cuing heart palpitations).

It’s the first night of their 2014 UK tour, so I ask whether or not they were excited. Of course they are. Nervous, too? A little bit, yes.

“Okay, so you’ve just released your new album, Creation.” As if they didn’t know that… Come on, Chris! Get into gear!

I found the album in question to be a surprising hit when I reviewed it recently for SCAN online. It is a powerful contribution to the pop genre, my personal highlight being the fifth track, ‘Come Alive’. The song has a very simple yet poetic line that leads into the chorus’ hook: ‘the darkness you reveal could make you come alive’. I compliment them on the lyric’s philosophical outlook on relationships and ask whether the song conveyed the powerful exterior of one’s self masking the fragility they feel within when exposing themselves so personally to another. Catherine, who wrote the song, replies: “I think you’re projecting, and that’s what you’re going through.” She smiles, charmingly chuckling at my expense, her eyes twinkling (equally as blue as her sister’s, jeez). I grin, telling them that my love life is tumultuous indeed, at which point we all laugh.

That moment recurred in my memory as I stood in the audience that night, watching the Pierces performing my favourite song to a venue packed with adoring Scottish fans. Every song they played was passionate, and though not all were favourites, all raised the roof. It was just like listening to their albums; their performance sounding amazingly similar to their recorded tracks, yet at the same time it was undeniably better.

I suppose my main query was this: how could people so obviously talented be so, well, chilled?

“We don’t take each other seriously,” Catherine says during the interview, when I ask about how they felt they’d progressed in the writing of Creation. Allison nods in agreement, remaining the more reserved of the two, before quickly adding that the album was the “most mature expression” of their creativity to date. I inquire if they felt their gender and their looks had at all influenced people’s perceptions of them in the industry, and whether or not that had limited them in any way. I expect them to be surprised by such a serious topic, but they don’t bat an eyelid.

“People we’ve worked with have always respected us,” Catherine says. “We don’t work with people who treat us badly.”

“Or anyone that would try and make us ‘popstars’,” Allison interjects, “with, y’know, barely any clothing.”

“Some people feel like they have something to prove. When you’re trying to prove something, you’re going to run into situations where you need to prove yourself, and we don’t take ourselves that seriously.” The sisters look at each other and laugh. I too finding myself chortling at the reiteration of this fact, their mutual charm infectious. Catherine continues, smiling widely: “This is fun. We’ve been doing it our whole lives, and it’s great that it’s our career… It’s music, it’s fun, it can be moving, it can be a lot of different things, but we’re not here to prove a point: we just do what we like to do.”

Allison smiles and nods in agreement.

I ask them both what they think about the recent U2 controversy where their new album was automatically downloaded for free onto people’s iPhones. I also point out that the band were paid millions of dollars by Apple to make it happen. Catherine is surprised that they were, in fact, paid, yet Allison does not care either way. She bristles at the mere mention of the incident.

“They’re not Scottish, right? I can insult them?” she asks.

“Irish,” I reply, grinning.

“I don’t like it at all. It makes me feel a bit like – I know this is a dramatic word – raped. It’s intrusive-”

Catherine is horrified: “Oh God- don’t say raped! Do not use that word! People get in trouble for that all the time!”

“You feel… violated?” I offer.

“Yes, that’s a nicer word.” Allison smiles, before resuming with her point. “I don’t like it one little bit. I think it’s narcissistic of them.”

The pair then convey their worries over the music industry’s current state. They explain that the best reason for people to go out and buy their new album is simply because, if they like their music, the only way they can see them continuing to tour and making records is to help cut down on piracy. Stunts like U2’s agitate them greatly because, in their eyes, it gives the impression that music should be free, dooming the livelihood of themselves and other musicians, record producers, stage and tour managers… basically everyone involved in the making of and publicity for an album.

I want to finish by pointing out what should be blindingly obvious to anyone that actually takes the time to listen to the Pierces: they are not average pop. They can actually sing. They can actually play. They can actually write. Those three statements alone should be enough to back up my claim, but they are also articulate, pragmatic individuals who were a pleasure to meet. Seeing and hearing them play live was a humbling experience, as they defied all expectations and preconceived notions that I had held. They are something new and in my opinion, haven’t received the recognition they should have yet. Buy Creation and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Chris Irvine

Scottish.

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