Worship The Whip: Be Your Own Pet Interviewed

Worship The Whip: Be Your Own Pet Interviewed

Nashville’s Be Your Own Pet had a career during the Noughties which loosely resembled their chaotic live sound at the time: fast, loose, loud, and purposed with grrl liberation. They left a sizable hole in their wake, calling it quits in 2008 after two studio albums, a self-titled debut on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label and the high school bull ring of follow up ‘Get Awkward.’

Being pushed past their capabilities as a young band, Be Your Own Pet felt the full force of industry pressures. They were on the brink of entering the life-engulfing Warped Tour for one, then there was the misogynistic media, and unfavourable responses to Jemina Pearl as a frontperson from audience members they’d encounter on the road. The blonde teen would headbang, squeal and yell “you’ve got me on a leash, a damn damn leash” until the cord was cut.

From mid-2000s to present day, Pearl is now a mother to two, her oldest Lula is ten years old and Be Your Own Pet have a third album, ‘Mommy’. After spending more than a decade apart, working independently, Be Your Own Pet’s members haven’t strayed far from each other. One practice down, lead single ‘Hand Grenade’ was penned and the ball was officially rolling, reuniting for the first time since leaving London Heathrow airport in 2008. It was like the chemistry and absence of Be Your Own Pet set their return in stone long before its four members were even aware of it themselves.

Speaking to Clash, Jemima Pearl explores the tension between past and righteous present.

What was it like reconnecting with people you first got to know as kids, now as adults?

We went through so much together when we were younger, but I don’t think any of us had the emotional maturity to process it correctly, like in a healthy way. It’s nice that we’re all adults and have such respect, and much more care and understanding for each other, than I think we ever did back in the day. We had all kind of loosely stayed in touch over the years, especially me and Jonas (Stein, guitar) because we both stayed in Nashville pretty much, and we have so many friends in common, but then I hadn’t seen John (Eartherly, drums) in so long.

How did the idea of playing together again come up in conversation?

Me and Jonas were talking about getting our records back in print, and then from that we talked about playing a couple of reunion shows. Then post-pandemic, John came into town. I think, on the way to us all hanging out, we realised that the four of us hadn’t been together in one room since breaking up. That was a bit more of a bigger deal than we realised.

From that conversation of talking about reissuing, we all floated the idea of playing shows and everyone was into it. Then Nathan (Vasquez, bassist) was like, I only want to play shows if we write new music too, which wasn’t on any of our minds to start with. Jack White knew that we had practiced a few months later, and then I saw him at the Third Man Records Christmas party, and he was like, do you guys want to open some shows for me? And I didn’t even ask the boys, I just said yes!

What has it been like coming back into this industry as a band?

I think it’s exciting. It’s nice to share our perspective now. The thing that is hardest to get used to is the social media presence and the demands on a band. Our label obviously wants us to be on TikTok and they want us to be making content. So that, I think, is one of the weirder things because that just wasn’t a part of it at all when we first started in 2004, we had a Myspace page at some point, and that felt like a really big deal. So that’s the hardest part to get used to, but I’m just so happy to be here honestly.

Your song ‘Good Time’ is the ultimate FOMO song. Is this from your view as a mother, and the expectation surrounding having children and settling down afterwards?

I think society has so many expectations of women and mothers, especially of what a mother should and should not do. I think, also there is internally (expectations), at least I went through this, especially with my first child Lula, where I felt I had to be a totally different person. I have to throw away all these things that I used to be, and I have to just be a mom. I think I had to go through this whole process of understanding, I don’t have to completely change who I am, just because I’m a mom… I can still be into punk rock and all this other stuff.

I think also, in a lot of alternative spaces there isn’t room for mothers. You think of dads going out late at night, but no one really bats an eye, a mother doing the same thing, there’s a lot more judgement. Also, I just thought it would be funny to write a song about seeing people on social media doing stuff, and when you wouldn’t have said yes, because you don’t have a babysitter, but it would have been nice if somebody had just asked.

I noticed in your song ‘Big Trouble’, from your new album ‘Mommy’, you sing about anger and still being angry. What have you learned in your life and career about expressing anger as a woman?

I think when I was younger people responded very negatively. I literally use it as a lyric in the song, but I was getting interviewed once and this journalist who was a man said why are you so angry? What do you have to be angry about? I was just like, what do you mean? Do you understand the world that we live in?

I think female anger is very powerful, and I channel it onstage and, and in my music. I feel it’s more accepted now for women to have a full range of emotion, more than it was on the first go around that we had. I also think that people love to dismiss younger generations. Now, I’m not the youngest generation, but at the time people wanted to dismiss our concerns or our anger, or frustration with the way society was, and I think people have a lot more respect now for younger people. Young people are leading protest movements now, and it’s incredibly inspiring. And I think millennials have been kinder to Gen Z than Gen X was to us.

And obviously, you’re playing these shows now, and you’re having both types of people at your shows – so that must be interesting.

I think it’s cool. We played this festival in Atlanta and there was a woman who’s probably around our age and she had a teenage daughter, and they were both fans of the band. So, it’s cool that there’s still teenagers who are discovering our first records and really connecting with them, which is awesome because that music was made by teenagers for teenagers. So, the fact that it’s still connecting with teenagers today makes me happy.

What was the influence behind your single ‘Worship The Whip’?

In America we’re really having this terrible slide towards fascism and at the same time, we’re idolising these billionaires like Elon Musk, and people are simping for them and fighting their battles on social media. It’s like, Elon Musk doesn’t give a fuck about you yet, here you are on Instagram arguing on his behalf. I think it’s insanely bizarre. I think it’s this certain type of personality who act like they want to dominate others, but they truly want to be dominated. 

Was that something you experienced yourself using social media?

I have my own Instagram account, and I feel like all of us sometimes when we’re bored, just get into these Instagram or TikTok k-holes. You start reading all these shitty comments people leave and I’m like, why am I reading all of this and digesting it? I think in the South, where we live, there’s just certain, mostly male personality types presenting this toxic masculinity. It’s an exaggerated form of masculinity, but at the end of the day they just want to lick Donald Trump’s dirty shoes.

How are you guys feeling about your UK shows, are you looking forward to coming back? What are you most looking forward to?

We were just in London in June, and we had a blast. We’re excited to be in the UK on our record release week. We’re playing All Points East on the day the record comes out. We have such a special place in our heart for touring in the UK, and we’re excited to go to Scotland again. We were embraced overseas way before our own home country caught on. We’d already toured the UK four times, or something. I’m glad that we’re going to get out of London to do some regional stuff.

‘MOMMY’ is out on August 25th. Be Your Own Pet are on tour in the UK this month, including All Points East on August 25th.

Words: Emma Way

Photo Credit: Kirsten Barnett

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