Perennial (photo courtesy of the band)
Perennial hails from New England and makes intense, chaotic and beautiful noisy experimental art punk. They released their excellent second album, In The Midnight Hour, last year and I absolutely loved it. Ahead of their upcoming show in NYC, vocalist/multi instrumentalist Chad Jewett was nice enough to do a Q & A with me over email to talk about the band’s sound and influences and a bunch of other things. Take a read below and catch the band on Sunday 2/26 at Purgatory along with Frida Kill and Beeyotch.
Tell me a bit about the band, how you got started, who you all are, why you decided to form.
Perennial is Chelsey (electric organ & vocals), Chad (electric guitar & vocals) and Wil (drums). We’re all from Western New England. Perennial came from a really sincere desire to form the kind of band we all wished existed. There were all these artists and sounds and aesthetics that we really adored, and we formed Perennial as sort of an art project to put all of that stuff together: 60s soul and 90s Dischord stuff and free jazz and electronic music, and so on. We always dug bands that had matching outfits, so we have matching outfits! That sort of thing. When we’re designing flyers or album art we get to channel our love of French New Wave style, etc…
And finally, we wanted our live show to be the heart of what we do: something really dynamic and exciting and memorable. We play for about 20 minutes each time, and the goal is to never stop moving that whole time, to always make sure that whatever we’re doing on stage is exciting and engaging for the folks kind enough to watch us play. We want to earn the time people give us.
I know it’s perhaps a bit trite to ask about influences but I genuinely always want to know. I hear a bit of Q and Not U and Black Eyes in your sound, are those bands or that “crew” of Dischord bands something that has informed your work or is that me projecting a bit? I also hear elements of the hardcore/jazz fusion of The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower in songs like “Lauren Bacall in Blue,” and “I Am The Whooping Crane”
All three of the bands you mentioned are huge influences, and honestly are pretty foundational to our starting the band: 90s Dischord, the more angular post-hardcore and dance-punk stuff of the early 2000s; those are the sounds and bands and aesthetic movements that we’re enamored with. We’re so glad you mentioned the jazz elements on the new record. That was a big focus for us crafting In The Midnight Hour as an album: making a punk record that could also bring in all these other sounds and approaches and layers.
In terms of influences, I’ll try to keep the list as brief as possible, knowing of course that it could be a thousand bands long!
The Blood Brothers, MC5, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Hives, Otis Redding, The Jam, Stereolab, Wilson Pickett, Small Faces, Ornette Coleman, Black Eyes, Beat Happening, Q and Not U, Sam Cooke, The Make-Up, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Eric Dolphy.
You put out your second album last year, In The Midnight Hour, which I really loved! What was the process of getting that together like with the pandemic looming/in full force? Did that affect anything in terms of the writing or recording process? I imagine that must have been pretty hard if not impossible to ignore.
Thank you! We’re so glad to hear you dig the record! We had the album about three-quarters finished before the pandemic hit. Once it did we took a step back from actively recording for safety’s sake and didn’t really return to the studio until months later. That was hard, as was not being able to play shows for a while since live performance really is our raison d’être, but it did mean that we were able to really listen to everything just for the sake of listening. It forced us to pause and give what we had a bit of time to settle in our minds and to see what we liked and what we might want to update. So once we were back in the studio in 2021, there were some choruses we changed, or parts we substituted or different approaches to sounds to finish the album. The album we ended up putting out was better for having the extra time to just sit with it.
What is your song writing process like? There’s a lot going on in the songs, how do you determine who does what for each?
Generally one of us will come to practice with an idea: it can be a riff or a vocal part or even just a goal, like “I want something that sounds like The Clash,” and then the rest of us start helping build it from there. For the recorded versions of songs it’s the same philosophy: we think of the songs as collages that we’re all adding elements to. Chelsey has suggested drum parts; Wil has written guitar riffs, etc…
The live versions of songs are generally more minimal; more immediate and streamlined. Chelsey and I are generally running around and jumping off of things and dancing, so we condense the more complicated stuff and keep the heart of what the song is.
What are your plans in 2023? Any new music in the works?
We have a few East Coast tours of varying duration planned for the summer and autumn, and we’re currently working on the full-length follow-up to In The Midnight Hour.
We also may or may not have a 7” that we may or may not be announcing soon.
Perennial (photo courtesy of the band)
What music/artists/books/podcasts/shows are you excited about right now?
Right this minute I’ve been listening to a lot of Saint Etienne, The Jam, Sonny Rollins and Blur. I just got done reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte for the first time, which was a trip. I’m currently reading a book about the history of London, which is really interesting. Chelsey is currently reading Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. My podcast routine is pretty much The Best Show, Comedy Bang Bang, some educational stuff like In Our Time, and the occasional music podcast.
What do you get up to besides the band?
We’re all pretty avid film and literature buffs. Chelsey and Wil are also big Nintendo devotees. Mostly we read books, listen to records, hang out with Perennial’s mysterious fourth member, Wasabi the Cat.
Are you involved in any other projects musically or otherwise?
It’s pretty much Perennial! We average around 4-5 shows a month and are in various stages on two different recording projects for Perennial, so it takes up a lot of our creative time and energy. Luckily, we really did start this band as something flexible enough aesthetically to be able to explore and try out lots of different artistic ideas, so it works nicely that way.
The world is a tough place these days, it’s hard to stay motivated a lot of the time. How do you stay inspired to keep going despite all the bullshit of life and the challenges of being independent musicians?
Honestly, a huge part of it is the three of us love being around one another, love making music together, love driving to shows and eating snacks at 1a.m. and looking at one another right after playing and enjoying that feeling that we all put our all into those past 20 minutes. I never get sick of working on Perennial. It’s a joy for us.
Any parting thoughts?
Thank you for the great questions!
In The Midnight Hour is available now via Bandcamp.