Pearl and the Beard

Pearl and the Beard are three eclectic souls residing in Brooklyn, where they create their special blend of pop and nostalgia-twinged folk. The band is Jeremy Styles, Jocelyn Makenzie and Emily Hope Price - all from different parts of the country; they converged at a series of open mic nights in New York City.

It's clear that they have a strong bond that transcends, as well as influences their music. All three sing and play a variety of instruments, lending their music a compelling breadth. Their 2011 album Killing the Darlings shows off their range and their cello - you gotta hear that cello! - as they weave together something clever and preppy and different. P&B's Jeremy Styles and Jocelyn Makenzie share their story.
Maggie Grimason (Songfacts):Your biography says each of you migrated to New York City from "far corners of the nation." Where are your respective homes? Do you think the influence of these diverse locales have influenced your sound as a whole?

Jeremy Styles: Jeremy "California" Styles, Emily Hope "Utah" Price, and Jocelyn "New Jersey" Makenzie, have more than likely been influenced by the vast amounts of music we have all been introduced to over our lives, and perhaps living in those certain locations colored it a bit, but not sure how much.

Songfacts: For that matter, to what degree has living in New York City influenced your music?

Jeremy: I feel like personally my music would have changed just from me getting older, and experiencing more. I happen to be in New York whilst I get older, so I'm sure this place has changed my perception of things. Being around more live music than a lot of people in the US experience can totally make an impact. And why NOT New York?

Songfacts: How did each of you come to music?

Jeremy: I was in church from the moment I could roll over on my own, and there were always songs being sung. My mom was always singing, and I saw how fun it could be, and how freeing, terrifying, and empowering it felt to sing in front of people.

Jocelyn Makenzie: My father is an experimental musician, and there was always music in my house. I was singing and making up songs as soon as I could talk. Instruments came later for me... Jeremy and Emily actually tricked me into learning how to play percussion. I'm glad they did though.

Songfacts: Are there any perpetual sources of inspiration for you?

Jeremy: Hearing what new folks are doing usually. That and monotone car alarms.

Songfacts: I read that you all met through open mics in Brooklyn. Were you all mutual admirers of one another first? Friends?

Jeremy: I think the admiration came first, then the friendship. But the friendship has now overshadowed anything else, and I just get to travel and make stuff with two of my best friends.

Jocelyn: We were band mates before we were friends. We basically met, connected over the music we were making, and then worked out all of the interpersonal stuff as we went along. Turns out, that process built us into the family we are today. Just goes to show you can't chose your family... your family chooses you.

Songfacts: Where does the name Pearl and the Beard come from? Friends who I have shared your music with have some interesting suppositions.

Jeremy: A traveling band named Circus was in town with tons of games and rides. There was one particular game where if you rang this bell with a sledgehammer you won a free band name. All three of us grabbed the hammer and struck and we smashed the bell, so we got to win two prizes. One was "Pearl" and then we also got "the Beard" so we just put them in the same sack so it'd be easier to carry home, and when we got home they were all mashed together. I'd love to hear those interesting suppositions.

OK, since you asked Jeremy, here's what folks in our orbit came up with on the band name topic:
  • A bald man with facial hair.

  • An obscure ocean freighter reference.

  • Some stuff that's far less family-friendly. A "beard" can be a woman in a relationship with a man presumed to be gay, and as for "pearl," well, there's a classic song by the band War called "Spill The Wine" where they sing, "Spill the wine, take that girl, spill the wine, take that pearl." Harold Brown of War confirmed for us that it was indeed a reference to a part of the female anatomy.
Songfacts: I read a review of your music that used the word "hipster." How do you feel about this label, and if you could summarize your image and sound in a few more accurate words- what would they be?

Jeremy: I'm too fat to be a hipster I think, and I also don't quite look like a time traveler. But I've met people who I thought were hipsters, and they were complaining about other people who they thought were hipsters, and I got confused and realized how non self-aware we can be, or humans desperate need to signify everything they see and hear, so as not to fall into chaos. Image? Extremely attractive, for the girls, at least.

Songfacts: One of my favorite tracks on Killing the Darlings is the opening track, "Reverend." There seems to be references to a bygone genres and traditions in both the music and the words- can you describe the influences of this song, what it means to you, how it was conceived of and written?

Jeremy: Thanks! That song started was just a mix of everyone putting in their 2-5 cents.

Songfacts: Is there a golden age in music that you wish you could go back in time to?

Jocelyn: I just saw That Thing You Do for the first time the other day, and I have to say, I'd go back to any time other than that. I'd go back to the Neanderthal days to hear what they heard when they were first milking sounds from stones.

Songfacts: Are there any tracks on Killing the Darlings that you are particularly proud of?

Jeremy: I think "Sweetness" and "Swimming." "Sweetness" because we've never written like that before. It came together so quickly and in a pseudo-panic. And "Swimming" because I think it's just pretty as all get out and the arrangements really pumped it up for me.

Jocelyn: I'm a big fan of "The Lament of Coronado Brown," actually. Emily's voice on the lead up front sounds so sultry and intimate, and the horns (arranged by composer Jim Altieri) are simply triumphant.

Songfacts: In a perfect world, how would people listen to this album (i.e. alone with a cup of tea? At a party?)

Jeremy: I'm not sure. I've had people say they ran to our last album, and I never would have thought that for that album, but there it is. So with this one, I have no ideal situation anyone should listen to it. Let it unfold how it will wherever you are!

Jocelyn: Ideally everywhere. All the time. Everywhere. Non-stop. No breaks.

Songfacts: The soundscape your music creates is so rich that I could picture stories taking place as I listened. If you could inject your music into any existing film- which would it be?

Jeremy: Oh man, this is tough, because I love watching me some movies. I would have loved to have been on that O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, but also anything with a lot of ice and snow (Star Wars Episode V, Fargo, Snow Dogs, Air Bud 17: Kick Some Ice) in it for our slower songs, or maybe none of those old ones since I look forward to what new things are coming out.

Songfacts: What kind of promotion is in order for this album?

Jeremy: Touring, videos, spilled blood.

Jocelyn: We're working with a great digital promotions company (Sneak Attack Media) for all of our online publicity, and we'll also be touring nationally all year, so please keep checking back for updates or sign up for our mailing list on our website, There's also the tried and true "please tell your friends" method that seems to really be a great way to discover new music, so please tell your friends! On that same note, we're also really trying to use Twitter to it's best advantage... which is an interesting social science experiment that I'm kind of starting to love. Why don't you follow us? @PEARLntheBEARD

Songfacts: What are your aspirations for Pearl and the Beard, and as individuals?

Jeremy: For all three of us to be happy. Individually: to be happy.

Jocelyn: I just want to pay off my student loans and share our music with as many people as possible. If ever the twain shall meet I shall be a happy lady.

June 1, 2011
More Song Writing

Comments: 5

  • Amanda from Newport Beach, CaI love these guys and am so sad to hear that they are calling it quits after November 2015. I wish it was hiatus ... had a sneak peak listen to their album Beast ... i love it.
  • Carley from EhdfrzdpmdquvbmfkoLearinng a ton from these neat articles.
  • Robyn from IndianaI'll definately check this band out. They seem like an interesting bunch of characters to interview. I don't know if I have ever been to this website before or if it has just been updated but I really like the lay out of the page and how this interview was conducted. Great job.
  • Kim from MinnesotaGreat interview Maggie!
  • Jiminy Bean from South Bend, InWell, they seemed to be a mentally lively bunch. The story behind the creation of their band name really made me think of "Big" starring Tom Hanks, personally. Which, as we all know, is only cool for the big ol' piano floor. I almost wished you and the band had touched on piano floors. Maybe they can incorporate a piano floor into their next album? Maybe I should listen to their music before I suggest dubious improvements/addenda?

    Very fun interview. I'd sip joe with these cats, and I don't sip joe for anyone, even myself.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Gavin Rossdale of Bush

Gavin Rossdale of BushSongwriter Interviews

On the "schizoid element" of his lyrics, and a famous line from "Everything Zen."

La La Brooks of The Crystals

La La Brooks of The CrystalsSong Writing

The lead singer on "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me," La La explains how and why Phil Spector replaced The Crystals with Darlene Love on "He's A Rebel."

Julian Lennon

Julian LennonSongwriter Interviews

Julian tells the stories behind his hits "Valotte" and "Too Late for Goodbyes," and fills us in on his many non-musical pursuits. Also: what MTV meant to his career.

Tommy James

Tommy JamesSongwriter Interviews

"Mony Mony." "Crimson and Clover." "Draggin' The Line." The hits kept coming for Tommy James, and in a plot line fit for a movie, his record company was controlled by the mafia.

Lita Ford

Lita FordSongwriter Interviews

Lita talks about how they wrote songs in The Runaways, and how she feels about her biggest hit being written by somebody else.

Superman in Song

Superman in SongSong Writing

Not everyone can be a superhero, but that hasn't stopped generations of musicians from trying to be Superman.