North Texas Daily

SXSW 2023: Pearl Earl displays Denton-derived sound

SXSW 2023: Pearl Earl displays Denton-derived sound

SXSW 2023: Pearl Earl displays Denton-derived sound
March 25
13:00 2023

AUSTIN, Texas — Spacey, synth-filled sounds make their way across the crowd of The Velveeta Room. Fronted by Ariel Hartley — university alumna, lead vocalist and guitarist — Pearl Earl debuts a personal live show with their five-piece South by Southwest performance.

Featuring their usual set up of a guitar, bass, keys and drums, university alumna and Pearl Earl member Chelsey Danielle swapped her keys for a “xylophone synthesizer” to add what she considered to be a “fuller sound” to Pearl Earl’s typical live set.

While this was their first five-member SXSW set, it was far from Pearl Earl’s first performance at the world-renowned festival.

“We definitely have seen a trajectory of growth each year that we’ve been asked to do South by,” Hartley said. “We’ve been here about four or five times. […] The more that we’ve put out songs, the more mature and thought out and technical they are as we’ve grown over the years.”

Neo-psychedelic rock group Pearl Earl began in Denton in 2014 when Hartley decided to join forces with Bailey K. Chapman, university alumna and the band’s drummer and vocalist, as well as bassist and vocalist Stefanie Lazcano to bring her bedroom-written songs to life. Since then, the group has evolved a rotating membership, which has included all female-identifying members.

“To me, it’s really important to work with other strong independent women,” Chapman said. “We have continued that spread through our band for the most part, and in the way that we function within the community of music.”

Two years after its founding, Danielle joined as the group’s keyboardist. The percussionist said she found the group to be one of the most open and communal atmospheres she has been a part of.

“I think a huge one for me is that I actually get to dance around — I get to have a good time,” Danielle said. “I feel like I’m with my girlfriends, whereas in a lot of other groups that I’ve been in or been hired to be in, it is that professional relationship. […] There is something that’s been special with Pearl Earl, with the people that I’ve been around for the last six years. It’s like a whole journey that we’ve had together.”

Musical artist and Pearl Earl member Teddy Georgia Waggy said part of the freeing, comforting aspects that come with taking part in the group originates with the feeling of community within it. While each member has grown as an artist both within and outside of the band, they still connect over the “pack mentality” they share while performing and traveling on tour.

“There’s this weird feeling of like, ‘I’m being sustained and supported, even though I’m like cramped in a van for nine hours and I’m really uncomfortable, but I’m with my pack,’” Waggy said. “There’s something that’s comforting and reassuring about that at the same time.”

As an all-female group, the members of Pearl Earl are no strangers to facing obstacles as women in music. Chapman was recently subject to derogatory comments before a show and called the male perpetrator out while on stage soon afterward. She said she found the experience empowering, as other attendees later praised her forward efforts. 

“We find a lot of strengths in our pack as women, we all identify as women and we really kind of like fun strengths and showing other women like how it’s done,” Chapman said. “We’re not here to put other people down, but we are here to put people in check, in their place. […] Leading by example, and learning how to say no and learning how to be in those situations — it’s taking time — but we’re all getting really confident.”

Danielle said she and her fellow musicians have also been ridiculed because of their age. She finds this to be an industry-wide misrepresentation that her fellow male musicians do not encounter equally.

“I don’t think it’s right, because I know a lot of my friends who are guys who have been doing this way longer than me,” Danielle said. “They don’t get the whole, ‘Oh, you’re too old to play drums’ bit. So I feel like that’s one thing that in the industry I would like to see change.”

Danielle hopes that the representative efforts of Pearl Earl and other artists continue to share one universal value: at the end of the day, it is about the music.

“It does not matter how old you are, or what your gender is or what you identify as — just play,” Danielle said.

Featured Image Pearl Earl poses outside of Hotel Vegas in Austin, Texas prior to a show on March 16, 2023. Maria Crane

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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