Grateful Web recently had the opportunity to speak with keyboardist Matt McDonald, and bassist Adam Perry, of Athens, Georgia based Perpetual Groove. The guys talked about their style of songwriting, Matt's time away from the band, their love for Colorado, and why PGroove's music can best be described as 'Trance Arena Rock.'
GW: First question is for Matt. When you left the band in 2008, did you gain new perspective on the songs and musicians you’d been with for so long in Perpetual Groove? Did it allow you an outside perspective looking in and how would you describe any change in style in your music?
MM: I did not. When I left Perpetual Groove in 2008, my eyes and goals were set on other interests outside of music. I started taking on lots of gigs as a studio musician here in Athens, where most of my work was on country albums. The most noted album I was on was Brantley Gilbert's "Halfway to Heaven." Newt Carter, PGroove's former FOH engineer, is who brought me in on that album, and I thank him for that opportunity and experience to this very day. It was a pretty amazing, I learned a lot about the industry and how folks outside of the mostly grass roots jam scene do business and work as artists. Very cool to see how the rest of the industry operates.
Fortunately, all of the guys and I in PGroove grew closer in our personal lives when I was not in the band. Adam and I especially spent more and more time together, our wives are close friends, and both of us have young boys, both of which whom came during my time outside of PGroove. When I came back, the "outside perspective" definitely kicked in. We knew/know we're a jamband, but none of us really listen to jambands. I think that is what sets our writing and performance style apart. We're not afraid to perform and write songs that do not fall in the typical "jamband" format. We actually write lyrics that mean something, sometimes, dare I say, even poignant, and we write songs that might fall more under the indie or rock format. Not every song is written with the idea of it being able to "jam," the ones that we do improv on are the ones where that happens organically. There's never any focus on writing a "jammy" tune. There's always a focus on writing a good song, if that happens to be conducive to "jamming," then that's one that will get that very treatment live.
AP: With Matt taking his leave of absence, Hruby stepped in, even working on the album “Heal.” The band went through a few changes with his added dimension. How did he alter the music, and what is having Matt back do for the band. They both have very different playing styles. Ruby has a more staccato approach where Matt tends to put layers and more of a mood to the music. Both are fantastic players and a lot of fun to make music with.
GW: I remember a show in Ft. Collins back in 2011 when Albert was ill and couldn’t play. Big Gigantic’s Jeremy Salken joined on drums, and the show went to places most never expected, including a hefty portion of hip-hop with Brock rapping to “California Love” and “Dirt Off your Shoulder.” Are unique evenings like this a result of trying to keep your own interest in the music and touring lifestyle fresh or to the personnel change?
AP: We have a lot of musical influences and letting them shine through in the music is one of my favorite things about this band. That night gave way to some interesting musical meshing for sure.
GW: I know cover songs have always been a staple of your performances, with tunes by Paul Simon, Jay Z, the Chemical Brothers, Aha and countless others at your disposal. How do you go about choosing a cover to play during your shows with such a wide variety of artists and genres?
MM: We've all brought different covers to the table. It's pretty easy, if it's one everyone is into then we give it a spin and see what happens.
GW: You’ve been labeled as a Jam Band for years, but there is no denying the intricacies of the types of music you play. How would you define yourselves these days to new listeners and concertgoers unfamiliar with your material?
MM: We understand we're a "jamband" and embrace the audience that comes with that genre. We're a rock band that will make you dance, pump your fist, and maybe even inspire you along the way. I've always found that the term that our hardcore fans gave us works best, "Trance Arena Rock."
GW: Since moving to Boulder for college in 2006, I haven’t missed a show at the Fox, whether I was working on stage or dancing in the crowd. What is it about Colorado that keeps you guys coming back year after year, and how does the music scene differ from that of Athens?
MM: Boulder and Colorado are a bit more of a "live" music scene whereas Athens is a music scene that often takes place in home studios and small dirty clubs. Both are awesome. Colorado has always given us massive amounts of love and support from very early on. It has some of the best and most attentive listening audiences in the country. I think the recent election probably points to many of the reasons we love the people of Colorado. Forward thinking and enthusiastic people populate that beautiful state.
GW: While on the subject of the music scene, are there any bands out there right now that you are really into?
MM: We just played a show with Black Taxi in Tampa, those guys are amazing. I've been listening to a lot of Whitley and Niko Vega lately as well.
GW: Lighting has always been a big part of Perpetual Groove shows. I saw Josey, one of your past LD’s, at the Georgia Theatre a few months ago. Who is the current lighting designer and what kinds of visual display techniques are being employed?
MM: Matt Mercier is our LD. He's been doing an outstanding job this year. Matt is young and eager, two things that make for a great creative relationship. Matty Lights, as we call him, is always open to suggestions and like I said, eager to try new things and new techniques. I think he's really going to fall into his own with Perpetual Groove in 2013.
GW: Is there new material in the works, and what can we expect if so?
MM: You can expect a new PGroove album in 2013 with all sorts of new tunes still unreleased. Hopefully, late April early May we'll have something ready.
GW: Last but not least, could you give us some insight on the evolution of Amberland, and what we can expect to see in the future of Perpetual Groove?
MM: Amberland is going to be completely rethought. Doing it on Memorial Day weekend was great when it was a small backyard BBQ, but with Hangout, Wakarusa, and Bonnaroo all falling in the surrounding weekends, we need to move it if we want to make it what we believe it can be. We're looking at Labor Day for next year's Amberland, but nothing has been set in stone at this time.
Perpetual Groove is getting back to basics. The four of us are very fortunate to have the career we do, and now the four of us for the first time truly have the reigns in our hands. The four of us have done this for just over ten years now together. We have big plans for 2013 and plan to make the next ten years even better than the last.