Perennial, a New England-based genre-defying punk band, is ready to burst out of COVID times. Their sophomore album In The Midnight Hour is out now, a rollicking fun blast of dance-punk and post-hardcore that’s as melodic and joyous as it is abrasive. Plus, the whole album fits into your lunch break! The album combines the mid-’70s experimentation of abruptly short punk songs with the mid-’00s heyday of dance-punk without sounding like a relic from either begone era. It’s an extremely fun album that I already find myself returning to for repeat listens.
The group consists of multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Chelsey Hahn and Chad Jewett, and drummer Wil Mulhern. In preparation for the album’s release, we sat down with Chelsey and Chad to discuss the album’s recording process, influences, and dream gigs. Check out the interview below, and stream the album!
Allston Pudding: So what brought Perennial together? What’s the origin story for you guys?
Chad: Well, we had just, we had all known each other for a long time. We also grew up in the same general area in Western Mass and had been friends for a really long time. We had just sort of began talking about, well, the kind of bands that we always sort of wanted to see, or like we were talking about sort of sounds that maybe we weren’t hearing that often at the time. This was like late 2014, early 2015. And so we just sort of started thinking about like, alright, well, if we formed a band, well, what would it sound like? Or, you know, what would our approach to it be? How would we think about it so that we had goals and an idea in mind to pursue? And I think that’s mostly how it began.
AP: So what does the band’s songwriting process look like? Is it more of a sit down and write thing type of thing, or is it just kind of in the studio jams and all that?
Chelsey: Well it’s a variety of things for sure. Sometimes we, you know, come together to practice for maybe for a show, uh, if shows were happening, and you know someone would have part of a song and then we would kind of workshop it together. I think that’s most of the songs Will [Mulhern] our drummer has written, you know, all the parts for a few songs because everybody’s sort of multi-instrumentalists. And then we usually write the music and then the lyrics – I feel like that’s usually a follow-up question related to the songwriting, but sometimes it’s based on a mood or an experience and you’re trying to capture it, if you capture it musically and then you try to capture it lyrically.
Chad: It’s usually – one person sort of bringing an idea and then as a band, we sort of, we workshop it. Occasionally stuff will come up just while we’re practicing. Like in between songs somebody starts playing a riff and we build around it, but usually there’s sort of an idea that gets brought to the table that everyone collaborates on.
Chelsey: We’ve never been the kind of band that went to practice or somewhere, in order to write songs, it kind of happens as we’re practicing. Before COVID times we played three to five shows every month, and so we were together a decent amount and that helped us come up with parts and work on parts. But yeah, it was usually during practice, we’d be like, ‘oh, I had this idea too let’s, let’s see what we can do with this.’ It was less scheduled, maybe like bands go into a studio planning to write an album together, but ours kind of came a little bit more piecemeal, I think.
AP: Your music is fairly vocal heavy, like there’s a lot of weight put on the vocals. You guys do like a lot of, kind of a trade-off of lines as to who sings what, a lot more than other bands that have two singers might. Is there any sort of approach to that or is it just kind of like, ‘I’m going to sing this line you sing this one here?’
Chad: I guess within the songs, I think it’s just, it can be fun to do live. A lot of the choices we make are because we really focus on putting on a good live performance. So, a lot of our songwriting will get filtered through that thought of like, what will work live and be interesting for people to watch in person. And then I just think, it’s just an extra sort of tone or an extra sort of layer of effect that you can have on a song, if the song starts with Chelsea singing a verse, then all of a sudden the next verse, it’s me singing. You know, it’s not just the second verse now. It’s like it’s a new camera angle or it’s a new lighting effect or whatever metaphor you wanna use. And then yeah, there are definitely bands that do that that I’m always excited when it happens. Blood Brothers are a big influence for us and they are similar that the two singers of that band have fairly different voices tonally so it just makes it really rich when they’re singing the song together.
Chelsey: We don’t have a lot of songs that just one of us sings, that’s true. And I do think it’s a lot about the live setting or it’s like, ‘I really liked these lyrics, I really want to sing them’ kind of thing. Yeah, it’s fun that way.
Chad: Sometimes it can even be practical. Like if it’s a song or a part that has a lot of words, then the other singer can sort of take over the next part because we know that live we’ll need to sort of be catching our breath or, one person can recharge while the other person’s singing, and then there’s still plenty of energy in each song because we have these moments where the other person can pick up the vocals.
Chelsey: And some of the recorded music versus what we do live is a little bit different. And so it’s kind of fun to not have like, parts that are just like one person’s part and it’s kind of more shared.
AP: So you brought up the Blood Brothers a minute ago. One thing that stuck out to me when I was listening to the album was that it reminded me of Be Your Own Pet. I saw you mentioned BYOP as a big influence, and that’s actually, I read that after I listened to the album. What else do you think was a big influence on this album?
Chad: That’s uh, quite a list!
AP: I can take an abridged answer!
Chad: Yeah I can throw stuff out, I think A Fever To Tell by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a big one.
Chelsey: That was my first thought too. What else? I don’t know. I mean, there’s a lot of like jazz elements to it and like, sort of thinking like sixties style music, I think. I don’t really feel like I approach a new song or a new album thinking about other albums that I am intentionally trying to honor.
Chad: Yeah, sometimes it’s just like, the stuff that catches our attention when we’re sort of listening to stuff and we’ll think, ‘wow, that’s something we’d like to, we’d sort of like to try out’ sort of the way that that was approached. So, there’s a record by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, it’s his double album, Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus. That record came out in sort of the mid-2000’s and something that I really liked about the record – and it’s one of the other albums that’s sort of a really, really big influence on In The Midnight Hour – is that the punk half of the record, Abattoir Blues, it’s all just sort of based in like three chord, garage rock type stuff that just has all these really interesting studio choices piled on top of it, so there’s all this great electric organ, and because Chelsey plays organ it was sort of a cool inspiration for us. And there’s a choir on a lot of the songs and the lyrics are really interesting and draw on all of these literary references and stuff like that. So that record was a big inspiration in terms of how you can make a punk record, but not really necessarily approach it in that way. So, yeah, that’s another big one. You’re saying a lot of sixties bands, the Sonics, uh, the Creation, so those are some big ones. Crimes by Blood Brothers, as a guitar player, that record is a huge influence. So those are the ones that jump out.
AP: I also picked up on a lot of like, spooky stuff – haunted houses, witching hours, skeleton dance, things like that. What kind of role does that play in the music? Or is it just, you know, fun.
Chelsey: Well, first of all, we love Halloween
Chad: It’s true.
Chelsey: That was my initial thought was just like, Halloween rules, but yeah, I think because we had the delay of 2020, it gave us a lot more time to sort of reassess what we were originally thinking about and talking about [with the album]. And I think maybe some of the darker times in the world have kind of played into that a little bit and sort of reflecting on, you know, just life in general.
Chad: Yeah. I think sometimes it’s just, sometimes you’re just evocative and it catches your attention to have a title that’s already sort of setting a mood or setting a tone before the first note even plays. Like the idea of a haunted house for instance, I really liked that idea because you can think about it as something that’s scary and foreboding, and you want to avoid that haunted house that everyone has stories about, or it’s something that’s sort of a fun and thrilling and you’re excited about it. And so, that sort of idea of all these perspectives on concepts like that was just an interesting thing to explore. Like almost every song on the album is sort of about nighttime in one way or another. It’s sort of the scary movie version of nighttime where things are foreboding and then haunting. And sometimes it’s just the opposite, the nighttime as exciting and liberating and full of poetry. So a lot of it comes from that. I like when albums feel like they have a theme that they’re getting at, even if it’s very general.
AP: So it seems like a few of these songs date back a few years. How was the recording process for this album? And was it affected by COVID?
Chelsey: Yeah a little bit.. Yeah. A lot of the songs we’ve been playing live for a little while, but that’s sort of how we workshop songs so that’s pretty normal for us. In terms of COVID, I mean, we were pretty much done with the album, or a version of the album, at the end of 2019, the very end of 2019 and yeah, we had a bunch of things that got canceled obviously in 2020. We kind of had a long time to reflect and we made some changes. There were a couple of major changes that we made that we wouldn’t have probably made, obviously, if we put it out in 2019.
Chad: Yeah, definitely. We recorded two songs at the end of the summer of 2018, just to sort of test things out, and then recorded most of the rest of the album from 2018 to 2019. And then we basically felt like it was done besides mixing changes here and there to little choices at the very end. But at that point it felt like we were wrapping up the album because we had spent a long time on it, not because we necessarily thought it was done. And then COVID came around and we decided there’s no point in releasing this record now because we won’t be able to play shows. It’s so much of who we are that we just decided to wait. And then by the time it became sort of safe to begin thinking about playing shows and thus made sense to put out the record, we had some new ideas for a couple of songs. And so then, now it felt like we were putting it out because it was actually finished and we were actually happy with it, as opposed to before where it’s like, ‘ah, you know, I guess we should put this out now.’ It’s like, ‘alright, this is the version of the record that it should be.’ There weren’t huge changes, but there were choruses that got rewritten or little things like that, but they ended up being some of our favorite moments on the record because we just had time to double check everything and see if we were happy with this version that was going to be out there forever, once it was released.
AP: So I saw you brought Chris Teti for production. What kind of thing did he exactly bring to the band? Because his primary band [The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die] doesn’t, I wouldn’t say they sound like Perennial! So I’m curious if he had an influence there.
Chelsey: Chris, he’s an amazing engineer. And so he helped us, you know, if we had a vague idea, like we want to try this insane thing in this song, he’d be like, ‘oh, alright. I can figure out how to do that.’ And just like, let us actually hear it, which is very helpful because an idea versus actually hearing it really can change things. He brought a lot of support and he played a little bit on the record. He would make some suggestions or give some feedback when he really thought like, our sometimes zany approach was going to be a little bit too zany!
Chad: I guess Chris was a very kind and insightful editor for when we could all sort of feel that a direction we’re going in with a certain part or a certain sound that wasn’t eventually going to make the cut anyway. So Chris was very good at sort of seeing those things coming or being a great sort of, we could turn to and be like, ‘is this working? Should we try something else?’ And he would just very kindly say ‘I think we should try something else.’ But at the same time, when we first contacted Chris, who we have known for a while, we had sort of pitched the idea of, ‘alright, we want to make this record that’s going to be fast and have short songs, only be like 20 minutes long, but we want it to be this really dense and layered and textured album where we could really explore all the genres that we listen to and love that aren’t post-hardcore, we could try all this stuff and try all these interesting things, sonically.’ And I think Chris was excited about that idea as a producer, as an engineer. There’s equipment we were using and pedals we were using and instruments we were using that Chris hadn’t got a chance to use before because it doesn’t often come up for someone who oftentimes is producing like punk and hardcore music going ‘alright well this part’s going to have electric piano and like wah-wah pedal, or we’re going to bring in this stuff.’ I think that was a lot of fun for everybody to sort of see how much we could experiment with the formula or what we could make work on this short punk record.
Chelsey: Also, Chris really was able to push or drag really amazing vocal performances out of us. He did a really nice job with being incredibly patient and saying, ‘you can do that better,’ until our voices were completely destroyed, which was awesome. I’m so thankful for it. Those are my favorite songs on the album. You know, the next day I couldn’t talk.
AP: So you mentioned that the live show is such an integral part of the band. What would you say is the best, or maybe the craziest show you guys ever played?
Chelsey: I’m trying to think. We played a college basement show a couple of years ago, and I went into the crowd during our last song where I just sing, so I usually take the mic off the stand and go into the crowd, and I lost my shoe during that, and that was pretty wild. It was pretty fun. What else? We played in a storage unit one time, that was really fun and weird. I think the spaces that we play, and who we’re playing with, really make a show stand out.
Chad: Yeah, if we’re playing with folks that we’re friends with or if the audience is kind and engaged, that’s all that really matters to us. You know, we’ve played shows we were absolutely thrilled about that were in a random place for five people, but everything just felt positive and felt constructive. That’s sort of enough for us.
Chelsey: I really love all the shows that, you may have talked to the bands on the internet beforehand, and then you feel like you’ve been friends for years at the end. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of being in the scene is just the long-term friendships and support that comes with it.
AP: So beyond the album’s release, what else can we expect from Perennial in 2022?
Chelsey: Hopefully we can go on tour. That would be ideal. I mean, we have written a few, maybe four songs since the album has been out, or like four pieces of songs.
Chelsey: So yeah, more songs, maybe. I don’t think we’re going to probably get into the studio this year, but we’re a band that likes to play shows while we’re still recording or like, we don’t really take a break from that, so hopefully. Basically the long and short is more shows!
Chad: As many shows as is possible and safe is the plan because that is the main reason we didn’t put out the record last year, we wanted to be able to play as many shows as possible around the record. That is definitely the plan.
AP: And honestly, as a show goer, I think that’s my plan too. As many as possible! What would be the dream gig for you guys? Any venue or bands to play with?
Chelsey: I mean, we’ve played with some bands already that we really love. I think that if we can play in 2022 with Bacchae again, the band from DC, we played a couple shows with them last year and I truly feel like we have been friends with them for years. It was kind of amazing. Venue…I mean, there’s a venue in Connecticut that we used to play a lot that is closed now, if we could have shows there again, that would be amazing, and in Western Mass at Flywheel [Arts Collective], we played a lot of shows at Flywheel.
AP: Yeah that was the last venue I went to before COVID actually!
Chad: So hopefully they find a new space.
Chelsey: But they’re still doing things! What about you?
Chad: Oh, I’d want to, I want to play with Fugazi cause then it would mean that Fugazi would have to get back together.
Chelsey: There we go, that’s a great answer.
Chad: So it would both be fun and for selfish reasons of wanting to see Fugazi live!
Chelsey: I mean really, if we could, I would love to play with the Hives because they’re my favorite band to see, although I think that would be fairly intimidating.
Chad: That’s competition right there, that’s a serious live band.
Chelsey: But I think it would push us too, that’s what happens. So that would be pretty sweet.
AP: Well that was all I had, I’m looking forward to the album’s release, I really love the album, so I’m glad that people will get to hear it soon!
In The Midnight Hour can be purchased and streamed on Bandcamp, and watch for upcoming shows!