It’s almost impossible to read a Hookworms-related article without the mention of some psych-behemoth in a comparative form but ‘Pearl Mystic’ probably paid more heed to the contemporary cosmic haze of Pure X than it did Spacemen 3. It opened up a side to them that hadn’t – and, most interestingly, still really hasn’t – been seen by the band in a live environment. What ‘Pearl Mystic’ did was split the scope and potential of the band wide-open. The ferocious, life-sucking vortex of ‘Preservation’ will strip paint and burn through sound-desks, but in the context of the album it is sandwiched between two of the albums finest but slowest moments: the dense, atmospheric groove of ‘Since We Had Changed’ and the lullaby-like ‘What We Talk About’.
The band has proved that knocking out psych-stompers comes easily to them and of the nine songs on their debut only three really fit into that category. ‘Pearl Mystic’ is a bold record; one that’s spent the year challenging peoples’ perceptions of Hookworms before they even fully had chance to establish one.
“We had absolutely no idea if [‘Pearl Mysic’] was any good,” recalls SS, one of the band’s two guitarists, thinking back to the album’s February release. “I remember doing an interview before it came out and just having no idea of the kind of reception it was likely to get.”
“I was worried too because it had a lot of slow burners on it,” says MJ, keyboardist, singer and producer. “Now that’s fine because most people know us from ‘Pearl Mystic’ and they know that’s how we are, but before a lot of people viewed us as just a rock band, so I was really nervous about the slower songs being on there.”
Some superlative press and hype surrounding the LP soon hit new highs.
“It was sold out before it was even released,” MJ recalls.
“It got a 10/10 on Drowned in Sound and that was when a few realisations started to creep in,” says SS.
“That was the week I went to master the Menace Beach song at Abbey Road,” says MJ of his spin-off band. “The ‘Psych for Sore Eyes’ comp [a limited 7” from Sonic Cathedral that featured exclusive Hookworms track ‘The Correspondent’] came out and got a 9/10 on Drowned in Sound and then ‘Pearl Mystic’ got 10/10, I remember that. So that was pretty frightening.”
Things then got “really weird” and “really intense.”
MJ: “We hadn’t played in a while, so we went out and played in these 200/300 capacity venues and we sold them out and that was really confusing for us because we thought we were maybe overreaching, so that was really surprising.”
The band then followed up ‘Pearl Mystic’ almost instantly with the non-album single ‘Radio Tokyo’ for the Too Pure Singles Club, which again sold out instantly, and it was around then that labels started to really get involved.
“[In 2011] we told them all to go away,” says MJ. “We shut them out, made ‘Pearl Mystic’ and gave it to Gringo. We didn’t even tell Gringo we wanted them to release it; I just emailed them saying, ‘hi, we’ve made this record. I wonder If you’d like to put it out?’ and that was it. So, yeah, I just shut all of that out and I think that helped us. I think some people took it as though we were trying to play the music industry, as some people do and it was just like, ‘no, we’re not bothered’. However, it got to the point where the people talking to us and the things they were saying, we thought we should at least entertain this. It sounded interesting. I was less than enamoured with the music industry at the time and I wasn’t sure how our band would fit in with it all and I didn’t want our band to end, which worried me about engaging with that. We could have signed with a hip buzz label two years ago, released a single and then broken up because we were being made to do things we didn’t want to do. It happens to loads of people and I didn’t want it to happen to us.”