"There's nothing like strutting down the street feeling like you own the night and its yours for the taking," says Tommy London, lead singer for the Dirty Pearls, a New York City-based band with a lot of hometown pride. "New York City will hijack your heart, so hold on tight." Drawing on the influence of the 70's punk scene, the Ramones and the Clash especially, the Pearls' style of rock is far from pretentious and simply aims to have a good time. It all started when London had an "epiphany" while looking for the rock and roll of his favorite bands in today's scene and feeling unsatisfied. The singer gathered four other musicians who he knew could help to create his vision of raw, unapologetic rock, and the Dirty Pearls were formed. Prepping for a big year of touring and releases, London discussed his vision, his excitement and his love for New York City with Playback.
What's the New York music scene like these days? Where do you feel you guys fit into it?
There's a real solid rock scene happening in NYC right now. The bands on the scene are teaming up and playing large venues such as Bowery Ballroom, Gramercy Theater and Highline Ballroom. This way it's more of an event for everyone involved instead of playing against each other at the small rock clubs. What's ironic is that this isn't happening anywhere else, at least that I'm aware of, and no one is writing about it. What also makes the rock scene so strong in NYC is the diverse styles of music that share a stage together and yet the bands all blend flawlessly, which really helps to strengthen a scene and its fan base. The Pearls fit right smack in the middle of it all, mainly due to the fact that we have a solid balance with our musical style ranging from hard rock, punk and pop all with a pulse and groove.
What makes a band stick out of the pack in contemporary rock and roll?
Hands down it's the live show. I've [heard] bands whose music I might not have cared for, but when I saw that live show and felt their energy, I was blown away and instantly a fan. It's the one thing that can't be created in a digital world, the feeling you get from a stellar live performance that just pounds you right in the chest.
This past year you toured/supported acts like KISS, Andrew W.K., Semi Precious Weapons and Bret Michaels. Those could seemingly be either really similar or really disparate experiences. What were those tours like? Were the audiences really different? Any highlights?
It's actually worked in our favor that rock 'n' roll is the minority in the music industry at the moment. It's helped to give us some really solid support slots with some well-known artists in the rock world. The crowds were slightly diverse, but the bottom line is they all just want to feel the energy coming from the band. All the tours were amazing for us to be a part of but the one show that really stands out was when we got to open for the biggest band to ever come out of NYC...KISS! I mean come on! How sick is that?
You've started playing bigger venues to accommodate your bigger audiences, but still play at smaller ones as well, what do you love about the smaller NYC venues vs. the bigger places you've played?
In New York City, we have sold out the Bowery Ballroom and Gramercy Theater a few times. They were great and amazing shows for us but there is an intimacy to the smaller rooms where you really get the opportunity to connect to all your fans. That's where you really feel that energy off the people and vice versa. It's amazing to be that up close and personal with your fans and hear them roar.
Is the songwriting for the Dirty Pearls a group effort?
The songwriting usually starts with myself and Dirty Pearls' guitarists, Tommy Mokas and Johnny B. But it's definitely the collaboration between the three of us [and] Doug Wright (bass) and Marty E (drums) that creates and develops The Dirty Pearls sound.
Your debut album comes out this May; will it be a relief to finally have it out in the world?
Our debut album, Whether You Like It Or Not, was set to come out in May but we decided to postpone the release until September or October. Instead, we are going to release our debut single "Who's Coming Back To Who" on a three-song EP and hit the road in support of that this summer, then keep the tour rolling into 2012 following the release of our first full-length album.
Where did you record it? And what was the process like?
We recorded the album at Avatar Studios in New York City with producer David Kahne (The Strokes, Sublime) and engineer Joe Barresi (Weezer, Wolfmother). It was our first time working with a producer of David's caliber and he whipped us all into shape! We had countless rehearsals with David to narrow down and develop the right songs for the album, then straight into Avatar [to] record the album. The whole process took us about six months to complete.
You released your two previous EPs on your own, is there a big difference between that and gearing up to release a full-length album?
Totally. This full-length album was done on a major level both writing- and production-wise. We worked with one of the best producers in the world who helped us develop a solid sound and radio-oriented rock singles. Now it's time to take it global.
Would you ever consider signing with a label, or do you prefer doing it all on your own?
It all depends. If the deal is right and they fully grasp what we are trying to achieve both musically and marketing wise then I'm sure we would consider a label.
Your single "New York City Is A Drug" shows a lot of NY pride in saying that you "need a fix" of it, what is it about New York City that you love so much?
The real question is what isn't there to love about New York City? New York City has an energy that is indescribable. It comes from the people, the street, the air and the attitude. There is seriously no other place in the world like New York City.
What are your plans for the rest of the year after the album's out?
We are going to play a few festivals between now and into the summer. From there we will jump onto a steady nationwide tour to support the release of our debut full-length album, "Whether You Like It Or Not". We are determined to bring back the spirit of rock 'n' roll. Get ready.