Clip: Joe Pernice interview
Sweet and lowdown
Joe Pernice's melancholia gets a melodic pop candy coating
By Michael C. Harris
When it comes right down to it, the Pernice Brothers are what life's all
about: good days, bad days, heartbreak, falling in love--you get the
picture. Despite frontman Joe Pernice's glass-half-empty perspective, he
can't help but keep an eye peeled for a little joy, a little bit of
happiness tumbling his way.
>From his alt-country days as one of the Scud Mountain Boys to his morerecent "Pet Sounds"-leaning Pernice Brothers records, Pernice's smart
lyrics and indelible bent for melody have made him one of today's more
revered but unknown singer-songwriters. (The Pernice Brothers is
essentially Joe Pernice's solo project, though older brother Bob Pernice
does play guitar with the five-piece backing band.)
Last year, Pernice stepped away from his guitar to pen the short book "Meat
Is Murder," an acclaimed reflection on the classic Smiths album. (The
subject was apt--Pernice's songs have sometimes been compared to the
Most of your songs have a melancholy edge, even the upbeat songs. Are you
really such a sad sack?
I think I've always had an attraction to the darker lyric side. My wife cut
out this very funny New Yorker cartoon and gave it to me. There's a glass,
and one guy's talking to another guy and he says, "Your problem is you
think this glass is half trying to kill you." I don't operate everyday
[like that], looking at "the horror" of it all ... For some reason, that
little space on the spectrum inspires me to write music.
I noticed on your Web site you said you were "practicing casting my vote
for the 2004 election." Still practicing?
Oh I'm practicing everyday. I can't wait for this election. I'm trying to
keep my politics out of my music, but it's getting harder and harder. We've
just got to get rid of this guy. I love America, but there's been so much
damage done to this country over the last few years.
Any political Pernice Brothers songs on the horizon?
I love talking about politics, but I get very emotional. I end up punching
my fists and becoming infuriated. That doesn't really serve too well when
you're trying to write a song. I've tried to write a few political songs,
but they weren't very good. I'd love to write a Woody Guthrie-type song.
With the success of "Meat Is Murder," are you interested in further
Before I signed a record contract, I was finishing my Masters of Fine Arts
in writing. Music just took up a bunch of my time -- making records and
touring. The offer to do a book just fell in my lap. Doing it really
ignited my love for writing. I'm trying to write a new book right now,
actually. I'd like to do the two things together because they complement
each other and the way they fit into my life.
I hear you're a Red Sox fan. Were you itching for a Cubs-Red Sox series
Don't even talk to me about that. Could you imagine if that had happened?
What would the loser be like? The losing team would've just had to disband.
Or the series would end in a tie!