Perfume Genius Wants To 'Keep All The Good And Leave All The Bad' In New Album

Jun 1, 2020
Originally published on June 1, 2020 12:54 pm

 

The band Perfume Genius is out with a new album called “Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.”

The New York Times calls the record “thrilling.” Pitchfork says the music “glides between sublime melodies and grimy, guttural dissonance, embracing the joys and burdens of the human body and its innumerable intangible yearnings.”

Lead singer and songwriter Mike Hadreas says it feels “strange” to release new music during a global pandemic, but “it feels good to have something out.”

“It feels good to feel the outside world a little more,” he says. “And have the music be connecting to people and knowing people are listening.”

Hadreas says what makes this album different from his previous music is that he is singing directly to people. 

“I think there’s some songs that I’ve made before that I sing at people or I feel like I’m witnessed singing for myself on the recording, but these songs I wrote for other people and to them,” he says. “And I was thinking about the person listening while I was singing and even performed in a way, and even held the microphone almost like I was singing into an ear.”

Watch on YouTube.

Interview Highlights

On the first song on the album, “Whole Life” 

“I feel like everything good in my life has come from a real shift and as the result of a real like change of direction. And I could either feel that that was happening to me while I was writing and around the time that I was writing this record or I was trying to force it. I just want to move toward something else and shake off where I’ve been and shake off where I want to go even and just, you know, keep all the good and leave all the bad.

“And I’m used to how I live, for better or for worse. And you get attached to ways that you deal with things, ways that you think about things, even if they’re not necessarily warm or serve you very well. There’s still comfort in them because they are practiced. It always feels like sort of sad to let behaviors go, even if they’re bad, if you’ve done them for a long time.”

On being subject to homophobic attacks and harassment as an openly gay teenager in Seattle’s suburbs

“I got mugged and I got, you know, harassed in high school, and it was pretty relentless and full on. And essentially, I just stopped going to school and just smoked outside of it for months. I mean, I don’t know if I had it any better or worse than anybody else, but definitely enough for me to be processing it for a while and enough to make songs about in order to try to conjure up those feelings that I pushed down about it.”

On the song “On The Floor,” which is an upbeat funk and pop song with somber lyrics 

“I guess what I was thinking about is how a crush or any sort of unrequited love can feel really selfish, eventually, and it just becomes like this obsession that lives on its own. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the other person in the end. But at the same time, where it started was like genuinely caring for someone else and feeling love. And then I mixed that in with the feeling of a crush when you’re younger, especially as a queer person, that can be mixed with a lot of guilt and shame, because who you love and who you have a crush on, maybe you’re not supposed to or you’ve been taught there’s something inherently wrong with that. But at the same time, it still feels warm and joyous and thrilling because you love someone. And those two things existing at the same time is really confusing.”

On expressing himself through dance 

“I think part of it is the simplicity of it. I mean, I’m talking a lot about processing feelings and emotions, and I talk a lot and I write a lot and I get sick of that. And sometimes there’s something really uncomplicated about just picking someone up and throwing them across the room. I mean, we’re doing it in a performative, artful way, but it’s still, you know, selfishly very therapeutic for me. And I don’t have to talk anymore. I don’t have to think about it. And I felt like I was just guided by instinct and feeling.”

On how he plans to bring this album to the world in the middle of a pandemic 

“I don’t know. I’m still figuring that out. I had a lot of ideas for videos for the stage show, and, you know, there are a lot of people involved in it and it takes a lot of people to do all this, and also, you go to a lot of places to do it. And all of that’s kind of been taken away. So I’m trying to figure out how can I have ideas that feel as inspired or are good in this current situation instead of trying to jam old ones into it? They’re not going to really make sense. You know, I don’t want to livestream just to do it because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I want to make sure what I am doing, like a concert from home, which even just saying that is bothersome to me. Maybe if I had like fog machines or something in here. But I don’t know, pointing a camera on myself in this house at this time period just feels very much like something I don’t want to do.”


Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Tinku Ray. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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