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Jemina Pearl on Reviving Be Your Own Pet From the Space Between Then and Now

This article was originally published on Respect My Region


Be Your Own Pet formed in Nashville 20 years ago, yet they’ve only been active for six. After releasing two highly successful records that added gallons of fuel to the garage-rock resurgence of the 2000s, the four-piece called it a day just as they were beginning to blow up. There were a number of reasons behind their decision, most notably lead singer Jemina Pearl running out of patience for how she and other women in the music sphere were being treated by participants of the culture as well as those in charge.


Still a teenager when the band started out, she was only 21 by the time they were done. It wasn’t until 14 years after splitting that BYOP remerged as an opening act on Jack White’s impassioned Supply Chain Issues Tour in 2022. One thing led to another from there, and what was initially meant to be just a few reunion shows crescendoed into the release of their long-awaited third LP this summer.

Jemina Pearl w/ Be Your Own Pet in Los Angeles | Photo Credit: Karan Singh

Soon after Mommy was unleashed in late-August, Be Your Own Pet set out on a headlining tour across the United States for the first time since their initial run over a decade ago. Pearl, who has since become a mother and started a family, took a moment to discuss bringing the group back to life during their stop in Los Angeles earlier this week.  


How exactly did you guys get back together? The story goes that Jack White summoned you …


Jemina Pearl (JP): We had been talking about possibly reissuing our albums on Third Man Records because they’d been out of print for a long time. Through that, [guitarist] Jonas Stein and I were like, “Why don’t we play one or two reunion shows for fun?” A month later, the pandemic started and that conversation pretty much came to a halt.


Two years after that, [drummer] John Eatherly was visiting Nashville to see his mom, so we thought it’d be a good idea to meet up talk about the reissue and maybe playing those concerts. We hung out for the first time in years since leaving the airport after our last gig and we hadn’t all been in the same room in that long. I think we were all kind of nervous but we immediately fell back into this comfortable space, and then [bassist] Nathan Vasquez was like, “I only want to do this if we write new songs.”


I hadn’t even thought about that … because Jon didn’t live in Nashville at the time, we decided to get together when he’d come home for Christmas and try playing some of the old stuff. These things can go really bad but it was like riding a bicycle once we got back, and we immediately started coming up with new ideas at that session.


I went to the Third Man Christmas party later that night and Jack White knew that we’d practiced, and that’s when he suggested we open for him … I didn’t even ask the others and just went, “Yes!”


What’s it like hitting the road after all these years?


JP: We played a handful of shows with Jack last year, but we’d never played an arena before. Festival stages back in the day, sure, but not venues so large. After that, in March, we went to South by Southwest and did like a million shows, which was wild — you know, jumping back into it full steam. We also did a full UK tour when the record came out, which was fun, but it’s different in your home country.


The culture of music changed a great deal during the group’s time apart — what’s something you like that’s different today and what’s something you don’t like?


JP: It’s a lot less misogynistic than when I was younger, and I feel like I’m being treated with a lot more respect than I ever got back in the day. Maybe it’s because I’m old now, I don’t know, but the questions and comments and even the things people would yell at me while I was on stage — none of that happens anymore. People would be like, “Show us your tits!” and this one time I got interviewed, I was asked if I was a virgin. Now, I’m not saying the landscape today is perfect, but there’s a huge difference from what I experienced the first time around.


Something that’s harder to deal with is there’s so much more pressure for artists to promote themselves and have a social media presence. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but none of that really comes naturally to me, so trying to keep up with it feel like a lot.

In all fairness, an entire generation did pass through during the band’s break.


JP: You’re right, so many artists today are constantly creating new content. Like with TikTok videos — props to influencers because that demands a lot of time and work; it takes me like two hours to make something that’s not even that good. I’m just not the type of person who is constantly online, you know?


During the decade-plus that Be Your Own Pet took time off, were you still thinking of ideas that you refrained from acting on because you wanted to save it for the group?


JP: Honestly, I never saw this happening in the interim … sometimes, I still can’t believe we’re doing it. I’m always jotting down ideas, but I never thought of them as things that would work for Be Your Own Pet. It’s only when Nathan brought up writing new songs that I even started thinking of a new record and it all just felt wide open once again, but I wasn’t sitting on stuff in the meantime.  

Why is the new album called Mommy?


JP: We didn’t know we were going to call it Mommy till it was done nor did we know the cover art would look like like that till we did it, but I kind of put it together through the writing process. I was basically trying to comment on motherhood because it feels like moms are relegated to this supporting role that’s consumed by taking care of others. Then there’s daddy, which is considered all sexy and powerful and dominant, so I wanted to turn it on its head because nothing has made me feel more confident and radicalized in my politics than being a mother.


What were you working on before the reunion?


JP: I had a band with my now-husband, Ben Swank, called Ultras S/C that we did for fun. Then, I had another band called Rayon City with a group of friends, but even that was very much a hobby. Also, I released a solo album right after the band broke up, which my label put a lot of pressure on me to get out immediately. That was wild because I got to work with Thurston Moore and Iggy Pop, who is such an inspiration.

Lastly, are there any artists you would recommend our readers and your fans check out?


JP: I love this band from Atlanta called Upchuck — they’re like a punk and really great. Then our friends from Nashville, Snõõper, who I also love plus they’re on Third Man Records too — their lead singer used to nanny for us and watch our kids.

Something that’s not new that I’ve been listening to a lot because they did this special group of shows are the Exploding Hearts … anybody who doesn’t know them is really missing out.

 

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