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Interview Conducted by Erin & Caitlin Jones
Photo Credit: Erin Jones

This was probably one of our favorite interviews. Talk about a group with history, talent and direction. They know what they're doing and they're happy to share. Their ability to provide insight and details from recording to their customized on-site light displays was enthralling. Regardless of their celebrity-type status with festival-goers, they were completely down to earth and enchanting. You can tell they plan to continue to do their thing, they way they envision it and are happy to be in their own driver's seat, so to speak. They are their own managers, and from what we can see, they are doing just great that way. Congrats to this group for their flawless performances. 

Do you interact with other guests on Jam Cruise?

Matt McDonald: Yeah there is no real backstage. There is one media/artist area for a quite place to do interviews, but other than that there is no artist area.

Do you stay the whole time on Jam Cruise?

Matt McDonald:  We’ve always stayed the whole time, some artists fly back. It does make it difficult to do anything afterward.

Where are you headed next?

Matt McDonald: We have a couple of weeks off actually. We are getting ready to record a new album so we’ll start preparing everything at home for that… start making the album on our own. On different scales, we all have our own in-house studios. We all know what we’re doing at this point. We’ve all been doing this for years. Instead of having a producer say, ‘I think you should do it this way.’ We’ll bring in a fresh set of ears after we’re done recording when we reach the mastering part. Someone whose opinion we trust.

How long will the entire recording process take?

Matt McDonald: Most of the summer, probably even into early fall. We’re hoping for a November release for the album. We want it to be more than just the basic album. We’re going to model where you give it away, or people can donate, but then we’ll have different tiers, where we have the special additions that has more songs but also a documentary, posters that are signed, add more and more features for the hard core fans. One of the things we want to do with the digital downloads is have the liner notes that you don’t really see that often anymore, that used to be inside the album. But we’ve had a pretty generous offer from someone well known that has offered to do the liner notes for us so we definitely want to make that part of the digital package as well. We manage ourselves for the first time, so there’s nobody telling us what we can and can’t do.

perpetual groove wakaHow does it feel to manage yourselves?

Matt McDonald: Awesome. Honestly, I think all of us were a little nervous at first, but we have a great booking agent, we have an amazing publicist and really that’s all we need.

Albert Suttle: We’ve been doing it long enough that we more or less know what’s going on. Knowing is half the battle….the more you know, knowledge is power.

Is there someone who takes the lead on the song transitions, or is it organic?

Brock Butler: What we do right now is write the set list out and talk about the transitions on the set. We’ll discuss if we should we go right into it. Some songs could have a very long section that we can let build, but when you are on time constraints, we just go right into it, so most of that is worked out ahead of time. Especially in a festival setting when you want things to move.

How is the set different at festivals versus intimate shows?

Albert Suttle:When you have a show that is playing for three hours, you can ease people into it, but at festival you have to just go or you got to hold them or they will walk away.

Brock Butler: It’s a real trick to not be too aware of time and also, last night we had some things getting switched over from the band before us, and there were a couple of things that add time transitioning. Instead of just plugging in and going, it felt more like trouble shooting.

Do you prefer a festival or private show?

Matt McDonald: There are pros and cons to both. What I like about festivals, we come in a lot more aggressive right off the bat, versus a normal show where we have two sets and we try to setup the full Perpetual Groove experience. Here we are part of dozens of other bands, so we just try to do what we do best for 90 minutes. There are pros and cons to both. I like at a real show that we have time to get there early, set up, and bring in our production and no stress as far as getting everything right in the monitors.

Brock Butler: One thing I do like about a festival like this is all the other bands performing pushes us. You can’t just go up there and go through the motions because everyone wants to bring their A game. If it’s music you like, it translates into our own set as well.

Albert Suttle: Music isn’t’ inherently meant to be competitive, but we’re human beings, so we’re going to go out there and play. For musicians, when you are at a festival the other bands bring their A game too, they may be wide eyed, but they are ready to go.

perpetual groove waka 3Brock Butler: We’re trying to keep up with the kids.

Matt McDonald: I do feel old at times. I saw a girl singing lead earlier that looked like a child. This band never looked that young.

Brock Butler: Even in our 20’s…I got a thing on FB last week that said ‘I love Perpetual Groove, I think you went to high school with my mom!’ and I was like what was your mom’s maiden name?

Adam Perry: Papa!

Brock Butler: Oh yeah, I remember her all right. Biblically.

Does the importance of the light show come from the video production background?

Brock Butler: For me, it definitely does. Even in the music itself when I describe it, I like for it to have a cinematic quality to it. I have an image in mind when I’m writing. Matt Mercier does lighting for us and is a talented kid.

Do you direct the lighting tech or let them have their vision?

Albert Suttle: Occasionally we might give him direction; some of it may be financial. For a particular show we can only spend so much, especially if it’s a smaller show. But last weekend we had our own festival and we pretty much just told him to go crazy. He brought in 40-50 lights. Our old lighting guy Jason Huffer, was a genius in his own right, it was two sides to the same coin. Jason would get out his computer and would make CAD drawings and very engineering style. He would know distance he had between each light, and Matt just comes out and says I’m going to put this here and this there and you step back and say that looks amazing. There are both good; they are just different.

Brock Butler:I like Matt’s approach, when he’s afforded the time to look at what he has to work with and then put it in. It’s always a battle with lighting designers, you always want to provide them with as big a canvas as their vision allows them, but sometimes you get to a venue that you can only bring 8 lights.

Albert Suttle: We don’t want restrictions imposed on us for our artistic integrity, and we don’t want to impose that on anyone else. But sometimes you have to say let’s reign it in a little bit, because 40 lights in a (little venue) wouldn’t look that great.

If you played straight, how long could you go?

Brock Butler: Honestly….3.5 hours.

Albert Suttle: We actually did that at Wakarusa one year, when it was in Kansas.

Brock Butler: For Adam, when it’s outside and it’s muggy, calluses can be pulled off his fingers. He would play for hours and hours, but his skin would fall off of his fingers.

Albert Suttle: And for us it would depend on the set list too. If we went out and played for 3.5 hours of our mini-marathon songs, I would be done by hour two. A couple of years ago when we did Amberland, we didn’t have other bands, so we had played for 3 hours on Friday, another 5-6 hours during the day on Saturday and then we did a late night on top of that. At one point I turned to Brock and said I’ve got one more in me and then I’m done.

Brock Butler: When I’ve done my solo, acoustic things, I think I’ve gone 4-5 hours. When I say I went that long, I function, doesn’t necessarily mean I should have played that long.

Matt McDonald: This last weekend at Amberland, we did at least 6-7 hours and then Brock had Brockfest on top of that, so we can play that many hours, but to go uninterrupted you definitely hit a wall, mentally and physically, especially in Albert’s case. Creatively you have to take a breather, even if it’s 15-20 minutes.

perpetual groove waka-2Is there a favorite international destination you’ve played?

Matt McDonald: For me it was Japan.

Adam Perry: I think I really enjoyed the culture experience of Japan, but I had more fun at Amsterdam because I recognized the actual characters (of the words and signs around).

Adam Perry: We never got over the jet lag in Japan.

Brock Butler: That, but also when you walk out of the hotel and you literally can’t read. We had a translator with us, but there are times when you’d like to just go walking, hop on a train somewhere, but I’m like I don’t even know where the fuck I am.

Adam Perry: We had a Friday night off in Tokyo and I was rooming with Brock, and we were like, ‘let’s go baby, Friday in Japan’ and by 8pm we were out.

Albert Suttle: Adam made the point that getting into Tokyo is like being in the 4th grade again because you couldn’t read anything.

Matt McDonald: I think the audience was the part for me (In Japan). When we played Amsterdam it was Jam in the Damn, so it was a bunch of Americans. Versus Japan we knew no one at all. So you go into these packed rooms and they are enthusiastic about us, they knew the words, they were singing along and then the way they were really attentive listeners. When the song would get quite it was almost freakish because they were really listening.

Brock Butler: I thought we were bombing.

Matt McDonald: I remember one of our songs we played a week later in Philadelphia and it was the same quite section of the song and there were these two ladies up front and just blah blah blah blah over the music. Culturally (Japan) seemed to appreciate it more.

Brock Butler: It was strange, when we played the first song in Japan, over here when people dance it’s a very outwardly thing, but over there due to limited conditions to live, everything is internalized. So we are wrapping up the first song, we’re at the big finish and normally you hear the ‘woohoo,’ but in (Japan) there was not a sound, the song ended and still not a sound for a second because they didn’t want to clap until they absolutely knew the song was over. I thought we were sucking. You get so used to people shouting, even to the point of rudeness. You get to a quiet part of the song and you hear someone shout for a different song, or the song you are playing.

Albert Suttle: Yeah, they shout for a song we just played….

Adam Perry: Sure, we’ve wrapped up a song and they request the song we just finished. [Laughing].

Who else are you excited to see at Wakarusa?

Brock Butler: I would’ve liked to see the Avett Brothers, but we are directly on top of them. I hope to catch a little Edward Sharpe.

 
 
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