Tag Archives: JEMINA PEARL


JEMINA PEARLRocking all over America since age seventeen, contentious bad-ass punk diva, Jemina Pearl, hit the ground running in the now-defunct Be Your Own Pet before hijacking their drummer to co-compose a few tunes as lead guitarist in a solo venture she only hoped would satisfy loyal minions. The oldest daughter of churchgoing Jesus-worshipping hippies whose father played in a local rock and roll band, Pearl’s cutesy snot-nosed tomboy image and volatile onstage disposition proceed her.

Drawing listeners in with prudently smoothed-up pop gloss while saving her best stripped-down punk gunk for closure, Pearl’s wide spectrum of songs show off a versatility only hinted at in her former band. Using glam-rockers Lou Reed, David Bowie and Suzi Quatro as well as ‘60s girl group pioneers, the Shangri-La’s, for inspiration, her impressive debut, Break It Up, gains mainstream viability due to Iggy Pop vocal collaboration, “I Hate People,” a combative snip circumventing novelty status thanks to Pearl’s vicious misanthropic sneer.

JEMINA PEARL 'I HATE PEOPLE'Piss and vinegar run through Pearl’s coarse veins on pissy fuck-offs such as “Undesirable” and loose-y goosey glam slam, “Selfish Heart.” Similarly, ‘black tears’ stain her pale face on the guitar-rumbled “No Good.” On the more sensitive side, innocent love trinket “Heartbeats,” melodic pop charmer “Band On The Run,” and leathery black-hearted Joan Jett-enticed decree “Looking For Trouble” manage to ‘cut a little deeper.’ Meanwhile, “Ecstatic Appeal” could easily pass for a coquettish Go-Go’s new wave knockoff.

But it’d be unfair not to mention co-composing multi-instrumentalist John Eatherly, whose resourceful musical designs bolster Pearl’s venomous words of wisdom. As Be Your Own Pet’s mightily frenzied stick-handler, Eatherly provided raucous bottom end to Pearl’s rascally rampaging raunch. For Break it Up, he brought in fully formed song ideas perfectly suited for possible paramour, Pearl. Look at it this way. She’s sly seductress Mae West on a bender and he’s the guy willing to serve toxic potions to his bold gal pal. So come out and see ‘em some time.


It seems as if you put the most conventional tracks up-front for greater accessibility while the greasy punk-snarled fury Be Your Own Pet dwelled in reinforce the albums’ backend.

JEMINA: We just tried to figure out a good flow.

JOHN: That way the kids will keep on listening. It may be more accessible. We were listening to a lot of ‘60s pop, getting into Classic ‘60s pop formulas for structure and hooks. That, in itself, was somewhat mainstream.

JEMINA: We’re really happy with it. We’re not necessarily gunning for a bigger audience.

Fervent confessional opener, “Heartbeats,” relies on ‘60s-styled drum rolls and conventional love song etiquette.


JEMINA: I feel that’s more ‘70s-oriented. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for awhile and she hadn’t seen me play since Be Your Own Pet and saw us play and said, ‘Dude, it’s really awesome. You finally got to do all the stuff you love that you couldn’t do with them. It totally sounds like glammy ‘70s rock.’ That’s what it sounds like to me more than ‘60s pop. Maybe it’s a combination of ‘60s pop structure and orchestration with glittery David Bowie/ Suzie Quatro affectations.

Your latest songs seem more heartfelt, sensitive, and mature. Are you more in touch with your inner feelings?


JEMINA: Last year was really gnarly. The best way to deal with fucked up shit is to write about it so the lyrics dealt with messy situations I was in. Maybe it’s more heartfelt. But I wouldn’t say it’s prissy shit.

You got label colleague Thurston Moore, Sonic Youth’s guitarist, to lay down some licks for “Band On The Run.”


JEMINA: Thurston played noisy backup guitar. He broke a string on that song and I said ‘Go get yourself another string.’ He said, ‘Why? I’ve got five more.’ He played the guitar up and down without the broken string. There’s not a lot of Thurston soloing. It’s like his version of a solo.

JOHN: He’s wandering around surfing the guitar.

How does John Agnello’s production on this solo project differ from what Steve Mc Donald (of Redd Kross) did for the Pet records?


JEMINA: Steve jump-started me to work on this record. After Be Your Own Pet broke up, he told me not to sit on my ass and to start writing. We grew up with Steve, but working with John was nice. We started at square one. He let us do what we wanted to do but tried to rein us in whenever it got too… He tried to keep us in check.

There’s a sassy contentiousness that seems to follow you wherever you go. You project black-hearted drama onstage.


JEMINA: I don’t know if I love controversy. I’m trying to be true to myself. I stick to my guns and don’t let people fuck me over. Like the time at Mercury Lounge (fronting Be Your Own Pet), that guy was heckling me, being mean, and came up onstage and I said, ‘What’ve you got to say to me now?’ He’s like, ‘I love you.’ He leaned in to kiss me and I said, ‘No!’ I slapped him across the face and then he proceeded to grab me. Immediately, the boys used their instruments as weapons. The club didn’t throw him out though. I have a tough girl image from growing up in a rough neighborhood. It’s not the same now. But drive-by shootings, transvestite hookers, and crackheads burning down houses were my favorite hits. But I’d rather not paint a sob story.

Does “Nashville Shores” touch upon your old neighborhood?


JEMINA: No. It’s closer to the airport in South Nashville with an amusement park and water park on a sandy lake. It’s really white trashy. Our bassist used to work at Nashville Shores as an alligator mascot one summer. It’s a joke to write a song about accepting the fact of where you grew up. You grow up hating where you live and just want to get out of there. Once I actually left, I thought Nashville wasn’t so bad.

Why’d you move to Brooklyn like a large percentage of well-known underground musicians recently have?


JEMINA: I always loved New York.

JOHN: We already had a bunch of friends here. It’s amazing. It made the most sense. There’s always something going on and I like that I don’t have to park. Everyone I work for is up here.  

“So Sick” is a virulent snipe I thought may’ve been a delectable Pet leftover.JEMINA: We were listening to the Plasmatics one night and thought it’d be fun to write a song like that. Also, I fucking hate having to have a computer to check e-mails. Now, everyone wants me to do a blog and twitter. Everything sucks! YouTube stars and modern life is gross and nasty. When we play shows, everybody’s so busy taking pictures with digital cameras instead of actually having fun enjoying the show. There’s so many great pix of ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s artists. But now it’s a clusterfuck of immature people who buy cameras and think they’re a photographer. That’s my mini-tirade. It’s great that MySpace made music so accessible. But there’s also such a downside. It clutters up the atmosphere – not to sound elitist and snobby. It takes away the mystery.

“Selfish Heart” is a two-minute punk slammer that seems totally impromptu.


JEMINA: It was pretty much written in two seconds. John had a guitar part reminiscent of Devo and I started to come up with a melody quickly about a dude I was dating. Those songs are usually my best.

Did you get to meet Iggy Pop after he added vocals to “I Hate People” in a separate Miami studio?


JEMINA: I met him in 2006 at an All Tomorrows Party festival Thurston curated. He was really friendly and said he saw me in Spin. He knew about Be Your Own Pet – which totally blew my mind that my hero knew me. I was more than a blip on the radar. He was my dream guy to work with. Then Thurston and Kim sent him the song and he sang on it. We didn’t sing together, which was bittersweet, because I didn’t get to sing in front of my idol on the same room.

In general, how do the arrangements differ from Be Your Own Pet?


JEMINA: We have more freedom. There was a strict sense of formula. Sometimes when one person stepped outside the line in Be Your Own Pet, someone would be ‘What was that?’ We wanted a wider variety. Now, there’s only two heads.

JOHN: I wrote a lot on tour with them, accumulating a bank of songs. Musically, I had all these new ideas figured out and Jemina wanted to use them.


-John Fortunato


FOREWORD: Despite all the critical underground exposure and popularity Be Your Own Pet got in its short tenure, its volatile front lady, Jemina Pearl, put an end to this terrific punk band in 2008. Could this radical chick overcome the reckless partying for a second shot she rightly deserves?

Could there be a better punk-devised outfit coming out of Nashville these days than the charmingly vicious bohemian quartet, Be Your Own Pet? Sure they may be politically naïve, socially ambiguous, and economically challenged, but as rebellious post-adolescent dervishes, they’ve secured a spot at the upper echelon of radically aggressive idealists.

Meeting at noteworthy Nashville School of the Arts as wet-behind-the-ears teens with familial ties to music (Country-based singer-songwriter Robert Ellis Orral’s sons are departed founding members), the impressionable punk brigade have continually wowed audiences nationwide.

My first face-to-face encounter with Be Your Own Pet was following a terrific November ’07 Mercury Lounge gig, where cutesy platinum blonde vocalist Jemina Pearl was so fucking drunk her head was lodged between the brick wall and bathroom floor of the basement backstage lounge. She’d just given it her all during a deliciously roughhewn 45-minute set, prancing the wooden stage with a reckless shambling prowess perfectly befitting the noisy rollick longhaired fleet-fingered guitarist Jonas Stein, nimble Afro-domed bassist Nathan Vasquez, and daringly dexterous drummer John Eatherly furnished. Pearl was so trashed she blacked-out, carried off to the band’s touring van by security and never to be seen again this frigid autumn eve.

Nonetheless, the spunky spitfire made an audacious impression beforehand, blasting out lovesick lyrics and frosty philandering phrases like a fierce lioness, threatening anyone disliking opening Stones-y band Used To Be Women to lick her asshole, mercilessly putting down her jaded hometown, and falling ass backwards twice during the final segment. She recollects everything leading up to the final drunkenly deranged dropdown episode.

Though it’s doubtful her Catholic father, Jimmy Abegg, a former guitarist better known as a video director-photographer, would approve, he never smothered his daughter or pressured her to attend church against her will. So where’s the salacious stage rage and unbridled frenzy coming from?

“Ever been to East Nashville in ’92? The shady part of town?” she asks with a teasing smirk. “I’m a teenage girl – well now I’m 20. I need to grow up.”

Although there’s no sign of petulance, frustration, or tortured-artist venom to be found prior to a febrile February ’08 performance, Pearl matter-of-factly explains getting into a recent altercation with a boisterous pub bum.

“I got in a fight at a place called Spraywater ‘cause this guy was trying to touch me. I said, ‘I don’t know you.’ He called me a bitch so I got kicked out for beating the shit out of this horny guy.” She then adds, “I think I’m gonna try to take boxing classes.”

If overwhelming fame comes her way, and it certainly may, she better get used to people wanting to touch, feel, and plug her, especially since the natural beauty jokingly provokes confrontation. Case in point: an hour after our conversation, the sexy heartthrob’s performing again at the Merc, boasting how ‘this is our sober show,’ when halfway through in a gasping out-of-breath voice, she invites any random patron onstage for combat. Scarily, a tall, bear-like, bearded man enters the fray stage right. But instead of trying to fight Pearl, he leans over for a kiss and gets socked in the face by our lovable black mascara-lined, red lip-glossed, party-shirted vixen. The fully buzzed fellow falls into Stein’s gear, stands up wearily, shakes Stein’s hand, then disappointedly disappears.

“That’s punk rock,” someone nearby chortles.

A frantic filly with bratty snot-nosed brashness who gobs onstage, Pearl proudly struts her stuff live, galvanizing mannerisms from “X Offender”-era Debbie Harry, X-Ray Spex gyrator Poly Styrene, and X-rated grunge scavenger Courtney Love. Albeit somewhat shy, insecure, and demure whilst chilling out, there’s a healthy confidence beckoning within. Her hardcore rants, snippy chants, and garrulous descants provide a spastic cartoonish mess-around given fiery pizzazz by the efficient arrangements, flawless execution, and blazing determination of her male counterparts.

Stein, whose dad Burt manages several high profile artists, strokes his axe with ferocious fervor, leading a rip-roaring rampage rhythmic raiders Vasquez (whose pa is famed Tejano Jazz guitarist, Rafael Vasquez) and Eatherly (Stein’s partner with bassist Max Peebles in impulsively ancillary trio, Turbo Fruits) mutually and murderously enforce.

On Be Your Own Pet’s viscously gnarled eponymous ’06 debut, the feral foursome (anchored at the time by percussionist Jamin Orral) relied on primal garage fury to put across candidly wicked 2-minute-and-change snapshots. Signed to Thurston Moore’s boutique Ecstatic Peace label, they became a frontrunner for the entire contemporaneous Stooges-invigorated manic rock insurgence. Pearl’s anguished caterwauls, nervy carnal subversions, and queasy self-destructive anxieties slammed into the pervasively terrorizing vertebrae-rattling assault of unendingly masticated power chords and profuse roughrider beats.

Pearl’s ‘having a blast’ throwing tantrums, laying it on the line with real or imagined riotous acrimony, yelping about being an ‘independent motherfucker here to take away your virginity’ and readily able to ‘burn your house down.’ She’s a thunderously crackling stormtrooper on nasty rambunctious fuck-offs such as rancorous abolition “Love Your Shotgun” (nastily, hastily craving ‘a room at the Hyatt!’) and darting rail “Bunk Trunk Skunk,” gruffly huffing, puffing, and spewing verbose aspersions. Buzzsaw guitar, rubbery bass, and bustling traps fortify pulverizing snipe, “Girls On TV,” while angular six-string sassafras rips through bashed cymbals on demanding dominatrix decree “We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol” (whence Pearl bites Karen O’s scarifying Yeah Yeah Yeahs styling).

Stein contends, “I haven’t listened to the first record in awhile. We play the tracks live, but I forget the essence of the studio sound. We’re better writers, more experienced now.”

Building upon that momentum, Be Your Own Pet’s ambitious ’08 sophomore endeavor, Get Awkward, avoids being a smashing letdown, even though sponsoring major label, Universal Records, dubiously pulled three of its most maliciously vital tracks. Dizzying hard partying runaround, “Super Soaked,” crassly spurts piss and vinegar. Choppy rhythms induce “Bummer Time,” a chain-sawed heartbreaker with Sham 69-filched oi boy chants. Moody menstrual mayhem ostensibly conjures “Bitches Leave.” Conversely, a newfound sensitivity (previously breached on the Pretenders-tinged serenade “October, First Account”) deluges the straight-sung heart-shattered payback, “You’re A Waste.”

But why should their record company concern themselves with the hollow death threats of a few tunes when the sex-minded weapon, “The Kelly Affair,” expounding a bad breakup, promotes pill-poppin’ promiscuity? Inspired by ’70 sexploitation spoof, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and sung as the main character, Kelly Mc Namara, it relates real life animosity towards a jilted ex.

Pearl defiantly insists, “Drugs are apparently o.k. But excessive violence is deemed offensive. One left-out song dealt with how I hated everyone at school. They thought it promoted school shoot-ups. Another had the line, ‘I’m gonna choke myself with a telephone chord,’ so that caused problems. Also, “Becky,” a slow ‘60s girl group song, is a fake murder ballad where I’m mad at a friend so she gets a new best friend I kill and then go to jail.”

Luckily, all three discarded tracks will show up on an EP XL Records will soon unleash. However, one could argue that censoring these rogue warriors unfairly neuters their essential cagey onslaught and brain-eating savagery (courtesy of punkabilly raid “Zombie Graveyard Party”). Haven’t the powers-that-be heard formative ’03 single, “Damn Damn Leash,” on tiny boutique label, Infinity Cat? Sans homicidal vehemence, it’s still an exhilarating DIY exhortation condemning the relentless wrath of an extremely possessive lover.

So I daresay, don’t hinder Be Your Own Pet’s meteoric rise from the Volunteer State’s weary tomb with pointless anger management. An inebriated, vengeful loudmouth from the wrong side of town just having fun is better than a stifled juvenile delinquent crying suburban blues with a couple thousand bucks to spare and an expansive trust account.