“You’ve got to understand the vibe in Austin,” explains Pure X guitarist and singer, Nate Grace. “There are a lot of ‘professionals’ here, and going downtown to play a club, you end up dealing with people trying to be ‘professional,’ and that will kill the vibe.” Grace’s Caulfield-esque derision seems to reflect Pure X’s general attitude towards making music and the importance of authenticity in their music—as if being polished were the ultimate in phoniness. Which makes it both fitting and slightly ironic that they chose to live-record their debut album and call it Pleasure. It’s a haphazard approach that is based largely on a casual sensibility and an aversion to dogma.
Grace, along with singer and guitarist Jesse Jenkins and drummer Austin Youngblood, began playing together two years ago, going by the name Pure Ecstasy until they were forced to relinquish it to a professional cover band from San Francisco. “If you look them up, they are definitely the real Pure Ecstasy. They play, like weddings and Bar Mitzvahs,” Youngblood jokes. “They even sang the national anthem at a Giants game!” But for a band that seems uncomfortable with self-categorization and genre tagging, their conciliatory title of Pure X seems to suit them better. “I like Pure X,” Grace offers. “Pure ‘blank’ is how I like to think of it.”
Being forced to change your name would probably irk most bands, but there’s a sense of righteousness to Pure X’s laissez-fare attitude. Even though their sound is strangely familiar, it isn’t in any way generic. The heavily reverbed chorus of ooooohs and aahhhs and dreamy drawn out guitar jams could easily fade into the background, if it weren’t for their rawness and their ability to delight in a sad song. When offered a slew of adjectives that could possibly describe their sound, the band instead favors abstraction. “It’s like these kind of grey washes but with a bit of lightning in them. Stormy music,” Grace says. In many ways, this is what distinguishes Pure X: their ability to capture the feeling of making music, be it ambivalent, vague or ecstatic. “The approach is pure in that we go in and play the songs and record them as we play them,” Grace explains. “I guess that’s an undiluted way of recording, and maybe in that way you get a less watered down effect.”
Each song on Pleasure has its distinct timbre, but the album builds to an overarching moodiness, one that can vacillate from optimism and lightness (You know you’ve got all you’ll ever need/ To get to where you’ve got to be/ So as long as you’ve still got breath to breathe, baby, just keep on walking) to utter despair (Swear I must’ve done something wrong/ Cause I’ve been feeling like this so long/ Something’s got to change) over the course of three songs. Is it melancholy? “Oh no, dude, I’m happy!” Jenkins insists. Is it wistful? “I honestly do not know what that word means?!” But when I tell him it means longing, he finally concedes, “Yeah, I could see that, I guess… There’s always something else out there you need.”