I’ve been listening to A LOT of records in recent weeks prepping SOMETHINGGOOD’s Top 25 Albums of 2017 list and few packed the punch of The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves, the powder keg of a debut from New England art punk three-piece Perennial.
Their sound is explosive, but the brilliance is how efficiently the band doles it out. Only three of The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves’ 12 tracks exceed the two-minute mark, but every single song (such as “Dissolver”) is packed with emotional highs and thrilling moments.
Perrenial is Chad Jewett (guitars and vocals), Chelsey Hahn (keys and vocals) and Wil Mulhern (drums). The three graciously fielded SOMETHINGGOOD’s questions on their avant-garde sound, the joys of making an album, their future plans and a few other things. Keep reading…
SOMETHINGGOOD: You’re billed as “the new sound of the avant-garde.” How do you describe the Perennial sound?
Chad: I think our sound is all about energy and imagination. We try to learn from the records and bands and movements we love while also making sure that a fast, loud song is never just a fast, loud song – that there’s something new there, something challenging.
SG: I believe you all have played in other bands before Perennial. What’s special about this particular lineup? How do you fit together as a unit?
Wil: With this lineup, we have more freedom to be spontaneous and rough around the edges. The songs don’t have to be performed perfectly, which makes for a fun, raw live experience.
Chelsey: My longest experience in a band before Perennial was while I was in Lion Cub, which was with Chad (our guitarist) and so I was already comfortable playing music with him. I have been friends with Wil for many years and knew that he would be not only a fantastic drummer, but also a wonderful bandmate, which are two reasons we asked him to join us. We like hanging out together AND love making music together so it works really well. We all challenge each other to be better humans and better musicians and we’ve had added to or edited each others’ ideas as we write. I don’t know how to play guitar or drums but I have suggested things that they might not have done that work really well that we have ended up using and vice-versa for me!
Chad: Wil and Chelsey are brilliant. The breadth of their musical knowledge, the scope of imagination they can bring to writing and performing is what makes Perennial work.
SG: Your debut LP The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves is a stunning listen with — as the title suggests — a lot of symmetry and recurring themes. Is it a concept album? Is there a message?
Chelsey: Thank you! I wouldn’t call it a concept album exactly, but it did allow us to explore a heavier sound than previous bands and be experimental (spoken word, recordings of birds and found sounds like the scraping of the screen I use for screen printing). We also used this album to reflect on the sense of place we feel in New England and to have a dialog with our surroundings and the built environment.
Chad: If there’s a concept, it’s about discovering how to live in a challenging world.
SG: The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves was your debut record as Perennial. Did you learn anything during the writing and recording process? Are you a better band having gone through it?
Chelsey: Yes, and yes! This was the first time I really recorded vocals and that was a huge learning opportunity for me. I had barely begun singing live before we recorded so how I sing live is how I might have wanted to record the songs, but I am happy with how they came out, I just had more time to explore my voice in our live shows than I did while recording. I think that we learned more from the mixing process than recording. I think that mostly self-recording did allow us to explore our songs in a more drawn out way than we might have in a studio session, which means we are happier with the final product than we might have been.
Wil: We learned what we wanted our sound to be. Our previous bands made melodic and polished sounding music. Writing and recording this album taught us how to make abrasive and noisy music.
SG: The majority of songs on the album are less than two minutes in length. Was this a conscience decision?
Chelsey: I don’t think so, I think we just kept writing songs that were fast and when we demoed them we were surprised/amused at their length. Short songs are really fun for us live but I think we more fell into it than tried for it.
Chad: We always write with a focus on live performance. The versions of the songs we craft in the studio are meant for a rewarding headphone listen, but ultimately, we want songs that will be cathartic and compelling when played live. A quick, carefully whittled song means we can push ourselves to perform it with the energy it deserves.
SG: What are you plans moving forward? Are you working on new material?
Chelsey: We want to play more shows, go on more tours and keep writing. We have a lot more to say. We have a lot of new material at least partially written and it’s been a lot of fun as we grow as a band. We plan to do a split with our label-mates, Mineva and tour with them in the summer of 2018 which we are really excited about.
Chad: We’re working on a new record and we’re really trying to see what other sounds we can fit into this loud, angular, frenetic sound of ours. Post-bop jazz, Stax and Motown soul, British Invasion garage, minimalist concepts – we want to push ourselves, and to make sure that we’re finding ways to explore sounds we love outside of the typical corners of post-hardcore and post-punk.
SG: Who are you listening to?
Wil: The National, Sleep Well Beast; St. Vincent, Masseduction; and Beck, Colors.
Chad: Otis Redding, Eric Dolphy, Escape-ism, Bratmobile, Richard Hell & The Voidoids and Erase Errata.