Like lots of nice boys who dig the Ramones and loud noise but not rebellion, Kip Berman once pretended he was someone else. "When I was in high school," recalls the Pains of Being Pure at Heart singer-guitarist, "I used to hang out in the smoking section at the all-night Denny's with the punk kids and talk about anarchy." No one was fooled, least of all himself. "It's hard to get into that scene when you don't smoke, don't hate your parents, and don't mind doing your homework."
In Pains bassist Alex Naidus, 29, singer-keyboardist Peggy Wang, 26, and drummer Kurt Feldman, 25, Berman, 29, found friends he didn't have to fake it with. The Brooklyn fuzz-poppers' charming self-titled Slumberland debut -- bursting with shimmering guitars, boy-girl vocals, and swooning lyrics -- is a candid plunge into the experience of being young and open-hearted. "We love bands like the Dirtbombs, who mix really raw guitar sounds with vulnerability and poppy melodies," says Naidus, who met Berman in 2006 when the two worked at a New York marketing firm. Though their songs have punny titles like "The Tenure Itch" and "Young Adult Friction," Berman says they're not kidding around: "Our songs are not some cartoon version of us. They're our life."
Thanks to that doe-eyed sincerity, they landed a guest spot on Last Call With Carson Daly, played this summer's Isle of Wight Festival, and had their music featured as a download on the Urban Outfitters website. Now major labels are sniffing around. Not bad for a band that formed simply to entertain the revelers at Wang's birthday party in March 2007.
"This sounds so cheesy," says the soft-spoken Wang, "but I was bummed that I didn't have a date at my party. Then we played and I was like, 'Whatever, this is the best birthday ever!' "
"That's not cheesy!" says Berman. "Yeah, it's cool!" seconds Naidus, putting his arm around Wang. Looks like being pure at heart isn't so painful after all.