Back when the world was wondering if Y2K was going to destroy us all, Reuben Glaser and Jesse Ebaugh were sketching out traditional Delta blues and acoustic ragtime in clubs around Cincinnati.
As crowds grew, so did the noise. To compete, Pearlene had to plug in, and in doing so, they stirred some punk vitriol into their bluesy, 80-proof concoction and pounded out a more violent sound, one that featured heavy doses of slide guitar and fuzz-toned bass.
They released a self-titled album on the indie label Sympathy For The Record Industry and Murder Blues and Prayer on L.A.?s Dim Mak label with guest drummers and the assistance of the Soledad Brothers.
Their latest, For Western Violence and Brief Sensuality, breathes and exhales sulfur, slathering thick, greasy sonics all over the blues with swirling, metal-tinged psychedelia, Southern gothic soul and a dark undercurrent of menace bubbling up from the nether regions of hell, or Mississippi.
Glaser talks with Goldmine about the change in direction.
Goldmine: Where does the name Pearlene come from?
Reuben Glaser: The name got stuck in my head from the old blues tune. A lot of people associate it with the Son House version of that song,
which I like, but it was some other obscure version that I had on a compilation long ago. It just kind of stuck.
GM: You began playing as a duo, doing acoustic delta blues and ragtime. At the time, did you envision yourself and Jesse in a bigger band like Pearlene and going electric?
RG: Well, we didn?t really envision anything at that point. I think we were more in a seeking-and-learning mode. We were just interested in the idea of those old songs, getting new life on stage. We were playing finger-style music with cool, ratty old instruments and at a point (luckily), it began to get loud at those shows. It was kind of when we got to the place that we were spending more time trying to create volume than focusing on our playing that we gravitated back to electric instruments. It really did start accidentally or at least unconsciously in a way
GM: Being from Cincinnati, was John Curley (Afghan Whigs) a natural choice for producer?
RG: Well, this was really the first time we had done any recording outside of the confines of our own living/practice spaces, so we knew we?d need someone with whom we could communicate easily. We also figured it was time to involve someone outside the group whose opinion we respected. John, apart from being an extremely talented and technically gifted engineer, has the ability to stay laid back and focused at the same time. We needed that. If we were going to have to spend a considerable amount of time in a room with someone I?m glad it was John.
GM: ?Watch The Way? has that slow, crashing kind of feel, with that eerie organ burbling underneath. Is it indicative of the direction you wanted to go with this record?
RG: Yeah, it was a strange grayish kind of period for us ? not in a negative way, though. I don?t know, a lot of the songs were written in the fall of 2004 around the time of the unfortunate ?re-election? of what?s his face. That?s not to say that this is a particularly political record, but it did have its impact on me. We are at war, and probably will be for the rest of my days.
Also, our first two records were kind of rushed both musically and in terms of turnaround (both coming out with in 6 months of each other).
From a strictly musical standpoint, the addition of the organ also provided the opportunity to explore some different terrain. Most of these songs were written on piano, and that was different from the guitar d