"Pearl-essence": The Refreshing Music of Pearl Earl

We have a plethora of music acts here in Denton. The running joke has always been that when you meet someone new, you exchange your bands' CDs with the introductions. Each Denton band is of course dripping with talent, but it’s possible to get lost in a sea of similarity. Pearl Earl is an exception to this Denton phenomenon.

Pearl Earl is comprised solely of female musicians. Ariel Hartley plays guitar and lead vocals, Stefanie Lazcano handles bass, Bailey K. Chapman plays drums, and Chelsey Danielle is on keyboard; Lazcano, Chapman, and Danielle also pitch in backing vocals. Each member brings something interesting to the band’s overall vibe. As a unit, the band works together to create a feeling of camaraderie that harnesses their psychedelic surf-rock sound. The all-female dynamic “just feels right…we can talk to each other better [as an all-girl band],” says Chapman. Danielle agrees, adding, “We understand each other more…especially with sound.”

Pearl Earl didn’t just form overnight, and the band’s name actually defines its creation. Hartley developed the band’s name through extreme thought. 

“I like to think of Earl as an androgynous character, and the ‘Pearl’ relates to the idea of how a pearl is formed. You have to wait a long time for a pearl to happen,” says Hartley. (It’s also a fun tongue-twister while intoxicated: you may find your mouth attempting the words “Pearl Earl,” but actually saying “Pale Ale,” which would be appropriate in a drunken state.)  These women started as individual musicians or by working with other local bands, but eventually came together to express their true music ideals. 

Each member began their music careers in similar ways. Hartley began writing poems that ultimately turned into lyrics when she picked up the guitar. Playing in her first band Mink Coats led her to the realization that she wanted to start her own project with a few musicians she had seen around. “We would just jam together, and one day I knew that these girls were the ones I wanted to ask to do this band with me,” explains Hartley.  

Chapman played in a band while attending art school; she had decided to just focus on school until Pearl Earl came to be.  

Lazcano, bassist and self-proclaimed damage control/damage creator, began her music career in high school. 

“I was grounded a lot in high school so I just started playing with friends, and when I moved to Denton I started playing in a lot of local bands,” she says. 

The newest member of the group, Danielle, is a classically trained musician who graduated from the University of North Texas. Danielle played around town in other bands mainly as a percussionist, but stepped in as the band’s keyboardist when a former member left.  Danielle and Hartley had the same biology class at UNT, but didn’t really get to know each other until later. 

“I met Chelsey five years ago at a sweat lodge, and just saw her play around town and always jammed with her, so when we needed a keyboardist, she stepped in,” Hartley says. The entire band agrees that adding Danielle gave the band a fuller sound. 

As a group, the members work together to create unique melodies that complement Hartley’s detailed lyrics. Hartley is the lyricist of the band, while the other members provide input in creating and developing songs. 

“Every song is different. We might just have keyboard parts or guitar. Some songs I don’t know what is going to happen, so we come together to certain parts that will spur the song in a different direction,” she says.  

Their sound is ever-evolving. The first album was created with a 1960s organ-heavy psychedelic vibe that changed direction after the band lost their original keyboardist right before recording. The band got some help from Alex Bhore, who works at Elmwood Recording and plays drums in This Will Destroy You, and Brack Cantrell of Dojo Baby Records and drummer of Bad Beats.  

“We didn’t want to copy his part, so myself, Brack, and Alex had to come together and write new synthesizer parts for the keyboard parts and finalize the sound,” says Hartley.  

After two years, the band has transformed. While working on the second album, the band began to unfold their style using a synthesizer under the influence of psychedelic rock and classic rock. 

“The second album will have a spacey, synthesizer feel,” says Danielle.

Seeing Pearl Earl live at Harvest House last Thursday displayed the band’s progression from where they began over two years ago.  The band opened with their song “Cosmic Queen,” which set a pop intergalactic mood that even Bowie and The 5, 6, 7, 8’s would have loved.  Each song was played with value and gave their audience music and visuals that can only be described as “pearl-essence.”

When asked what is in the future for Pearl Earl, the members have a few things planned on their calendar. The band would like to incorporate some acoustic sets in the future. “Acoustic adds a clear and personal vibe,” explains Danielle.

The band also plans to tour around the country after their second album comes out in May. Like many local acts, Pearl Earl wants to reach out to a wide audience with their release. The band plans to have the second album come out on MP3, CD, vinyl, and even cassette for the true hipster '90s babies. They have also applied to play at a few festivals, and specifically women’s and gay pride festivals. 

“I feel like our music can speak for all of these different audiences that are out there,” Danielle says.  

Pearl Earl holds their own in and out of Denton. It is apparent that each member works together both as bandmates and best friends. In turn, these four consistently produce fantastic music for their audience. Check out Pearl Earl and look for their second album to debut in May.

Photo by Ellie Alonzo
Header image design by Brittany Keeton