- Put Your Back N 2 It - OLE-964 - 2012-02-21
- Learning - OLE-942 - 2010-06-22
Perfume Genius is Mike Hadreas, a Seattle songwriter whose jarring 2010 debut album, Learning, was called “an album of rare, redemptive beauty…one of the most uniquely endearing and quietly forceful debut albums of recent years” by Drowned In Sound, and established him as one of the most singular songwriters today.
The bulk of Learning sprung from a time of self-imposed isolation in his mother’s suburban home following a period of trauma and self-destruction. The album was actually mastered from second-generation MP3s, as Hadreas had lost the original recordings, and this distant, abraded sound reinforced its harrowing tales and haunting melodies.
“No secret/No matter how nasty/Can poison your voice/Or keep you from joy.” – Perfume Genius, “Normal Song”
Though Learning’s voyeuristic window into Hadreas’s experiences resonated intensely with many people, his new album Put Your Back N 2 It is much more universal, addressing intimacy, power, family, secrecy, and hope not just through his impressionistic lyrics, but the music itself, which is as lush as Learning was stark. It’s a gorgeous soundtrack for anyone trying to keep it together in everyday life, and about moving forward.
“I don’t want it to seem like I’ve been through more than other people,” Hadreas says. “Everyone has stuff. Staying healthy can be more depressing and confusing than being fucked up. But I want to make music that’s honest and hopeful.”
The hypnotic songs on Put Your Back N 2 It are tender and moving, but they are also surreal and grand, recalling at times the universality of lullabies and hymns, faraway folk songs, the dramatic arc of a film score, and the almost spiritual quality suggests a kind of opiated gospel. He cites as a primary influence not one of the indie icons to which he’s sometimes compared (Cat Power, Bon Iver, Thom Yorke), but The Innocence Mission (“not their sound, but their timelessness”).
The following is something about each song on the album, in Hadreas’s own words:
AWOL MARINE: This is from some unedited homemade basement porn I watched, with an old man and some hustlers. You can see or hear them doing drugs off camera. They leave the camera running before and about ten minutes after the "scenes", and I am sort of obsessed with watching the before and after. One guy told the cameraman he was just doing the video to get money for his wife's medicine. Then there is a close up of his face. The old man always explains that he will edit out the guys' faces but he never does. That is the specifics of where it started, but I was also trying to show the desperation, demoralization and soullessness that comes with addiction, and what you’re willing to do to get what you need.
NORMAL SONG: I wrote this for my friends and family that feel like damaged goods after some of their experiences. Even if you didn't have a hand in what happened to you, somehow when you get older the lingering ickiness can feel like your fault. But that’s poison, not true. Heather is not a big nasty secret, my mom is not a big nasty secret, Heather is not the first 25 years of her life, I am not 16 hours at the Sheraton. I just wanted to write a straight up, normal song about it.
NO TEAR: My circumstances have gotten a lot better and sometimes I’m scared that if they go away, I won’t be able to carry on being healthy. There have been three times where I felt like if the music thing tanks, if I end up alone - everything will still be OK. So i wanted to write a song to remind me and also to remind Heather's crazy ass that she doesn't need a man to do right by herself.
17: Almost every gay man I have met has body image issues. They are all tripping! I think it is an easy place for your brain to dump everything. A lot of times you have no idea why you feel so shitty, so you can pick at your face. I named it 17 because of teenagers, who are always tripping and killing themselves. It is basically a gay suicide letter, so...sorry about that. But I was not always interested in listening to anything triumphant when I was a teenager, or even that it gets better. I think that is really valuable but sometimes I wanted to hear that someone felt exactly as grim and bleak as I did, and have it written out for me. That is important too, and not an invitation.
TAKE ME HOME: I wanted to write a pop song about hookerism, so if it was in a commercial or something I could say that song is about hookerism. It’s about that old feeling where you are out of money and options and just combing the streets for anybody that will take you wherever and you will do and be whatever they want and completely annihilate yourself as long as they keep feeding you drugs and you never have to move. Also I was just trying to write about in relationships when you are willing to give up everything and erase yourself for the other person, because you are so scared of being alone.
DIRGE is an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem from 1921.
DARK PARTS: This song is about my mom. I was worried about showing her, but she cried through the whole thing. I wanted to take something from her life that wasn't happy, and turn it in to something triumphant, to remind her how strong and beautiful and loved and important she is. She doesn’t like the last line and says that her dark parts belong to her alone.
ALL WATERS: Why are straight women always walking with their hands in the back pocket of their boyfriends’ jeans? Would I do that all the time too if I didn't have to think about it? Alan and I hold hands in specific parts of the city and sometimes outside of those parts. But there is always a little ‘catch’; no matter how much I think the shame and fear is gone, there is always a little something in the back of my mind. I am almost embarrassed sometimes when we are holding hands, and that fucking infuriates me. I can't even imagine that hesitation ever going away, and that makes me very sad.
HOOD: This is about when you feel like if someone really knew you, they would leave. Very revolutionary.
PUT YOUR BACK N 2 IT: I wrote this for Alan before we got together. It’s about how if you show me everything and I really, truly know you, I will never leave. I wanted to write a gay love song with two men singing together. It is also about gay sex. There is not a lot of grace or tenderness in early homo sex sometimes; I wanted to teach Alan that we can still do the right thing and it will be really warm and cool. I wrote it and had Alan sing it with me before he knew it was about him.
FLOATING SPIT: This song is about overdosing and going to the other side, about a few times where I thought I was close to doing that. Who knows if I was or not, but I certainly felt like it. I was also thinking about if the Neverending Story took place in a bathhouse, what that would look or sound like, and what would the creatures would look like? Probably a lot of floating spit.
SISTER SONG: I was imagining someone leaving all the things in someone’s room the same after that person had died, or that they were going to rehab and their family and friends would hold down the fort while they were gone.
News From The Matablog
Having aired new material recently at SXSW ("The minimalist and aggressively electronic-driven track was harder, weirder, and darker than anything we've heard from him yet. Will Perfume Genius make his Yeezus in 2014? Let us pray." said Pitchfork ), Mike takes the show on the road for a newly announced Japanese date in addition to the End Of The Road and OFF festivals this August. The upcoming Perfume Genius shows look like this, with more in the works: June 21-22, 2014 - Hostess Club Weekender - Tokyo, Japan (Tickets) August 1-3, 2014 - OFF Festival - Katowice, Poland (Tickets) August 29 - 31, 2014 - End Of The Road Festival - Wiltshire, UK (Tickets) https://twitter.com/perfumegenius https://www.facebook.com/perfumegeniusofficial
The following is a (nearly) complete list of what our dear friends EMA, Fucked Up, Perfume Genius, Kurt Vile and The Young are doing in Austin, TX this week (on stage, anyway). Please be advised that events marked "*" are considered official SXSW presentations and will likely require a badge, wristband or cover charge for entry (unless you are so incredibly good looking that such requirements are always waived on your behalf). I wish you a very pleasant week in my town of residence and thank you in advance for not parking in front of my fucking driveway. EMA Wednesday March 12 Flamingo Cantina, 5pm (Under The Radar) Thursday, March 13, Mohawk (inside) 4pm (Stereogum/House Of Vans) Friday March 14, Central Presbyterian Church, 7:20pm* (Pitchfork) Saturday March 15 Elysium, 11:30pm * (Switched On/Moog) Fucked Up Thursday March 13 - Mohawk, 2:15pm (Stereogum/House Of Vans) Thursday March 13 - Scoot Inn, 4pm (Converse/Thrasher) Thursday March 13 - French Legation, 6pm (Pitchfork) Friday March 14 - Empire Control Room, 5:15pm (Blundertown) Perfume Genius Thursday March 13 - St. David's Historic Society, 7:30pm* (Turnstile Music) Kurt Vile Wednesday March 12 - Cheer Up Charlie's, midnight* Thursday March 13 - Weather Up (1808 East Cesar Chavez), 2:30pm Thursday March 13 - Clive Bar, 8pm* Thursday March 13 - Red 7, 12:50am* The Young Saturday, March 15 - Yellow Jacket Social Club, 2:30pm Saturday March 15 - Museum Of Human Achievement (Third Man Records), 4:15pm
March 13 at Austin's St. David's Historical Sanctuary will mark a) the first Perfume Genius show of 2014 and b) a chance to hear post-'Put Your Back N 2 It' material for the first time. Not that we know the evening's repertoire in advance or anything. The show is presented/programmed by Turnstile Music and will also feature performances from Christopher Owens, Gruff Rhys, Cate Le Bon and others. We'll be updating you on other Matador artists' participation during SXSW shortly, but at the moment it looks as though EMA, Kurt Vile, Fucked Up and The Young will all be playing during the music portion, while Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks and EMA will in town the prior weekend for SXSW Interactive. When we've got everyone's schedules in full, we'll share the info.
Today Pitchfork TV brings us a worthy third entry in the most memorable, affecting series of music videos from any album this year (the album in question being Perfume Genius' exquisite Put Your Back N 2 It, available for purchase). Directed by Patrick Sher, who has worked with PG before: Perfume Genius' headlining tour of North America begins today, and ends in the band's hometown of Seattle on October 27 with a very special appearance at the Frye Museum. More info on that event from the Frye: As an artist in the exhibition Mw [Moment Magnitude], Perfume Genius is exhibiting his videos Hood and Learning (Live) and giving an intimate in-gallery performance at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle on September 27, 2012. Mw [Moment Magnitude] is a cross-platform project of twenty-four exceptional Seattle-based artists from a wide range of media including music, dance, visual art, literature, performance, and design. Space in the Frye galleries is very limited; tickets for the concert are free and will be available beginning Tuesday, October 16 at noon PST. The exhibition runs October 13, 2012 to January 20, 2013. For information go to fryemuseum.org/perfumegenius. North American tour dates: Friday 05 - Toronto, ON - 918 Bathurst Space Saturday 06 - Montreal, QC - Il Motore Sunday 07 - Somerville, MA - Johnny D's Monday 08 - Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg Tuesday 09 - New York, NY - Le Poisson Rouge Thursday 11 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's Friday 12 - Washington, DC - The Hamilton Saturday 13 - Carrboro, NC - The ArtsCenter Monday 15 - Nashville, TN - The High Watt Wednesday 17 - Forth Worth, TX - Fort Worth Modern Art Museum Thursday 18 - Austin, TX - Central Presbyterian Church Saturday 20 - Phoenix, AZ - The Crescent Ballroom Sunday 21 - Tucson, AZ - Club Congress Monday 22 -San Diego, CA - Irenic Tuesday 23 - Los Angeles, CA - Masonic Lodge At Hollywood Wednesday 24 - San Francisco, CO - Swedish American Hall Friday 26 - Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater Saturday 27 - Seattle, WA - Frye Art Museum
Perfume Genius kicks off his fall tour today in Minneapolis, not just with his show tonight at Fine Line Music Cafe, but with a live instudio performance at the venerable Radio K. The set starts at 4:00PM EDT/3:00PM CDT, and can be listened to in a variety of ways. Those of you who inhabit the Twin Cities can tune in at 100.7FM, 104.5FM, or 770AM, and listeners worldwide can listen in at radiok.org. Perfume Genius Fall 2012 Tour (Dusted supports on all dates, except for 10/20 & 10/21 with Bowerbirds) Tue October 2 – Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line Music Cafe Wed October 3 – Chicago, IL – Logan Square Auditorium Fri October 5 – Toronto, ON – 918 Bathurst Space Sat October 6 – Montreal, QC – Il Motore Sun October 7 – Somerville, MA – Johnny D’s Mon October 8 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg Tue October 9 – New York, NY – Le Poisson Rouge Thu October 11 – Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda’s Fri October 12 – Washington, DC – The Hamilton Sat October 13 – Carrboro, NC – The ArtsCenter Mon October 15 – Nashville, TN – The High Watt Wed October 17 – Fort Worth, TX – Fort Worth Modern Art Museum Thu October 18 – Austin, TX – Central Presbyterian Church Sat October 20 – Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom Sun October 21 – Tucson, AZ – Club Congress Mon October 22 – San Diego, CA – Irenic Tue October 23 – Los Angeles, CA - The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Wed October 24 – San Francisco, CA – Swedish American Hall Fri October 26 – Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater Put Your Back N2 It on the Matador Store Perfume Genius on Facebook matadorrecords.com/perfume_genius