Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Square Zeros #2: Stephen Perry (The Planes, Big Quiet, Hearts Bleed Radio, Epinephrine)

It's only fitting that Stephen Perry would be one of the first musicians we'd feature on Square Zeros because the idea to start this blog really originated in an interview he did with our band Sunset Guns for his blog Hearts Bleed Radio. An aside about Derek playing hardcore in high school led to the revelation that it could be really fun to interview adult musicians about their early musical efforts. Six months later, here we are. Thanks, Steve.

I became aware of Steve about a year ago when two of my bands ended up on bills with his band Big Quiet in the length of five days. For those who play music in Brooklyn, you know that our thriving rock and roll scene — envied across the globe — regularly ends up feeling like it's only composed of fifteen bands made up of different configurations of the same twelve people. Case in point, Steve drums for Big Quiet, but plays guitar and sings in The Planes with some guys who play in other bands. It's definitely not surprising to see the same musicians again and again.

Stephen Perry ripping with his high school grunge-punk band, Epinephrine.

What leapt out at me was to find that even within this tight-knit crowd, Steve revealed himself to be something of a hub, a booster. Through Hearts Bleed Radio, he sets up showcases for local and traveling bands with an eye toward support and publicity, which can feel like a miracle in this world of lazy booking. He also routinely interviews the musicians involved, creating the sort of conversations that build community. Thanks again, Steve.

After all that, it seems almost wrong now to dissect the guy's high school band, Epinephrine, but you know, welcome to Square Zeros. The trick is, Epinephrine is actually pretty solid. Despite a few lyrics that had Steve rolling his eyes a decade later and some misinformed production decisions (recording clean, then adding distortion in Cakewalk? Ugh, I really cringe because it hits so close to home), the early 90s loud-quiet-loud songwriting of "Gap Ad" and "Had To Be" still hold, because loud-quiet-loud songwriting is still an awesome and valid thing to do.

That said, listening to The Planes — for whom Steve is the primary songwriter — shows a little continuity and a lot of maturation. Epinephrine is lo-fi and chaotic; The Planes are lo-fi, but immensely hooky and melodic. The youth energy is still there — this music still rocks — but in a song like "Last Night" (off The Planes October 2013 release Echo Forever/Forever Echo), the aggression has given way to the more thoughtful sound of longtime musicians, albeit musicians with clearer avenues to alcohol.

So thanks, Steve, and I'm looking forward to interviewing you again so we can hear Craphead. I think I safely speak for Derek and myself in saying we're absolutely dying to hear Craphead. Sorry, readers, but you're going to have to listen to the interview to parse that one out.

— JM

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