AN INTERVIEW WITH PEARL CHARLES
I was first drawn to LA based musician Pearl Charles because of how she embodies the 60s and 70s musical counterculture within the 21st century. Looking like she stepped straight out of the summer of love, she radiates late nights on sunset strip and free spirits adorned in suede and bell bottoms. Her music transcends multiple genres, from hints of sounds that were once inherent to the psychedelic generation, to classic country folk rock, to straight up rock n roll. Her songs are a reflection of a time of revolution and experimentation, but Pearl brings the values of these past eras and transposes them into the modern world, through her dusky vocals and desert dreamer mind frame. Beneath layers of haze and smoke, you can hear her vocalize on the phases of the moon, and perhaps hear how the desert has inspired her work, which we discuss in this interview, as well as mind expansion, spirits in Joshua Tree, and the inner connectivity of society.
How has Joshua Tree National Park inspired your music?
I didn’t know much, if anything, about Gram Parsons when I started going out to Joshua Tree at a young age, but for some reason I constantly felt drawn to listen to the classic country music that I later found out influenced him so strongly. When I finally learned the story of his life and death, which if you don’t know you can read a little about here: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/flashback-gram-parsons-dies-in-the-desert-20140919 - and fell in love with Gram’s music, I found out about his significance to the area and realized that it was his spirit guiding me towards the same music that I can now say has influenced me as strongly as it did him.
Your fashion sense is very reflective of your music style. what’s it like getting to dress up and model in all of that incredible vintage clothing? any other hobbies?
I would definitely say vintage fashion is a second love of mine, I love fully immersing myself in the eras that really inspire me and feel like fashion is definitely an art in and of itself. I also love getting into nature and camping, whether it’s Joshua Tree, Big Sur or even further!
What are you most attracted to about the 60s and 70s? in terms of music?
The ‘60s and '70s were such a rich time for all of the arts and for political and social change, as well as the combination of two, though not always overtly so. Rock and roll was still relatively new, especially compared to now, so there was such a wide open landscape for experimentation. I personally believe that there was a psychedelic revolution going on at that time and people’s minds were being opened like crazy. The Manson murders and Altamont were really a death knell for the hippie movement and I believe played a huge part in distracting us from the positive change that movement was making at the time.
I love the song and music video for "Mind’s A Mystery." What are some of your methods of opening up your mind?
Well I definitely won’t deny that I love mind expansion and psychedelics are an easy pathway to that, but I also love meditating to achieve those same effects. I also feel like playing music is a great tool to bring your consciousness to the next level because you are completely immersed in the moment when you’re doing that and that is essentially what we are trying to attain with both psychedelics and meditation.
You seem to be very linked to your hometown of LA/have pride of where you’re from. What’s it like being a musician in a place full of musicians? Is there a lot of pretense?
I love LA, my parents moved here in the '70s which I am insanely jealous of because it must have been awesome! I just feel like so much amazing music has come out of here, and California in general. Sometimes LA gets a bad rap for being too Hollywood, which I think means artificial and perhaps self-serving, but I have found that there is an incredible community of musicians and artists here who truly support each other.
A trend you wish had never died?
I feel like most of the trends that I wish had never died luckily have been recently revitalized! In this digital age there is a community for everything specific that people are into, especially when it comes to fashion, so everything is pretty much alive again, including some things that maybe should have stayed dead! ;)
Artist /song/album that makes you feel a heavy dose of nostalgia?
Well any of the bands I like from the '60s & '70s immediately transport me back to that time when I listen to them, whether it’s The Doors while I’m driving down Sunset Strip or the Eagles while I’m up in Laurel Canyon. I try to catch sets from the bands of that era that are still playing like Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, etc. but in terms of new bands I think Austin Psych Fest aka Levitation has done a great job honing in on artists that recall those times like Allah-Las and Tame Impala.
What’s it like being a musician in the 21st century?
I think there are a lot of pros to being a musician in the 21st century, from the ability to look back at years of amazing influences in an instant to the ability to record and mix digitally, which has made things a lot easier when it comes to working in the studio. But just like what I said about the best and worst things of modern culture, when it comes to music, just like photography, there is something about the analog experience that cannot be duplicated digitally.
interview by AL SMITH
photo by MELODI MEADOWS