The Noisy Joy of Perennial: Mixing Arty Punk with Urgent Lyricism
RIYL: Fucked Up, No Age, Cloud Nothings, Pere Ubu
Perennial’s debut EP, Early Sounds for Night Owls (2015) encompasses a sudden exhilaration one might feel upon realizing that the night is young and there is still much left to explore. It’s eager, willful, and inspired.
Organist and vocalist Chelsey Hahn explains, “A lot of our ideas come to us in the afternoon and evening. For music purposes, we are night owls, but I am not a super late-night person.”
Guitarist and vocalist Chad Jewett continues, “Nighttime as an idea or a mood is really interesting to us. That’s a big part of it – nighttime seems like it’s full of possibility and freedom.”
Perennial continues to harness these concepts of freedom, individuality, and joy in their followup LP The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves , which celebrated its one-year release anniversary this past summer.
Take, for example, the noisy and unpredictable track “La Fugue Pour Béton Brut,” which serves as a riff on the hyper-functional Brutalist style of architecture. The track is a commentary on the American education system (“God bless these machines for living / Wire these walls for a modern sound”) in how it should be free to anyone to study subjects of their own choosing.
“[Brutalist buildings are] purely functional buildings that are publicly funded, and best-case scenario, are there to make access to arts and information and education as widely accessible as possible. The song is dedicated to the idea that world-class education should be free to anyone who wants it or needs it,” says Jewett.
Like “La Fugue Pour Béton Brut,” the track “Evergreen un deux trois” is another power-blasting, punchy track with a French title, which Jewett says “adds a certain intrigue.”
“There are poets like Baudelaire that I admire…it’s something that always appealed to me when I was younger. It adds another layer.”
In “Dissolver,” a track with a driving rhythm and punky, jammed-out riffs, Jewett shouts:
This is the symmetry of autumn leaves
These are the trees all torn at tattered
This is the symmetry of autumn leaves
This is the only beat that really matters
The “symmetry of autumn leaves” is an image that appears not only here, but in the title track as well as the last track, called “The Leaves of Autumn Symmetry.”
The people of Perennial explain: “We open and close with the same musical phrase in a cacophony of sound. We’re thinking cyclical in terms of the whole album and revolution in terms of change. A lot of our lyrics are thinking about progressive issues and changes in life…The album begins and ends with the same song with clarinets, guitars, and the organ. They’re deliberately mirrored on the album.”
There are only four lyrics to the track “The Leaves of Autumn Symmetry”: “Make me new / Sew the shards / Your harvest moon / Your heart in bronze.” Other tracks like “Hippolyta” are left purposefully vague: “Hippolyta Hippolyta! / The Queen of New England / Hippolyta, we only come out at night!”
“The reason we’re not specific with what we’re talking about is the same as not wanting to purchase things that have years on them,” Hahn elaborates. “It frees it up so it can still be relevant and not have a specific date or something similar on it.”
Perennial’s angular, noisy, post-punk, experimental sound pairs well with interpretive, poetic lyricism in tow. Hahn’s organ playing ranges from groovy and smooth, like on the intro to “The Witching Witching Witching Hour Blues” to frenzied and unrestrained. She has harnessed the full range of a typically somber instrument in such a cool, creative, and purposeful way.
They say, “We like to mix really loud bombastic energetic stuff with quieter moments. It’s a nice range of sensations. Another purpose would be just to share our joy because we love making music and it’s a way we embody joy.”
All members of the band share the task of songwriting, including drummer Wil Mulhern. Perennial are currently working toward fleshing out new material, and are playing live shows this fall. Don’t, however, expect to see them play at a bar or any venue that is not all-ages.
“The places we end up playing are living rooms, barns, art galleries, and all of those are more interesting than a bar,” Perennial says. “When we play at those types of places, people are there to see the music exclusively, and it’s more fun and safe for everyone.”
Perennial say they’re working on getting both louder and quieter in their new material, as well as incorporating soul and jazz elements. And if anyone can complete a task like that, it’s certainly them.
Catch Perennial at these upcoming shows this fall:
September 21- SHEER QUEER Fest 2018 [Boston]
October 16 – Space Ballroom with Calvin Johnson and Ian O’Neil [Hamden, CT]
October 31 – Couch Yeti Cover Halloween Show [Middletown, CT]