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Perfume Genius on confidence, rage & hateful tweets

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Seattle-born Mike Hadreas, most commonly known by his stage moniker Perfume Genius, is not your regular entertainer. After making an impressive debut in 2010 with his LP, Learning, Hadreas returned two years later with Put Your Back N 2 It, cementing his place as a revolutionary, emotionally-affecting showman. Delicate, yet emotionally intense in both their nature and delivery, these two albums were a beguiling introduction to the man that is Perfume Genius.

Two years down the track, and a controversial YouTube rejection in between, the singer/songwriter has made a bold comeback with the stunning new record, Too Bright. Its grandiosity and assertiveness a stark contrast from his previous works, Hadreas' latest offering generates a figure that is a far cry from the reserved, vulnerable artist that first entered the music scene four years ago. Confidently delving into topics such as gender, race and sexual orientation, Too Bright is a bewitching, emotionally intense journey that is sure to delve into the inner psyche of any unsuspecting listener.

Upon his return from a three week touring stint across Europe, Hadreas and I had a chat about the new album, negative feedback, his influences and everything in between.

You’ve just returned home from your first tour of performing songs from Too Bright. How did everything go?

It was good, although I’m not really used to it anymore. I didn’t really feel clicked into the whole routine- waking up really early, going to bed really late. There’d be a lot going on and then I’d have to do a photo shoot and try to look, like, cute while I’m sweating. I gotta up my game perhaps and have a beauty regimen. I feel like I need handy wipes or something.

Was it mainly new material that you were touring with?

It was a pretty equal mix from all three albums. I guess I didn’t want to play too many new songs because I didn’t want people to hear them first in a YouTube video. Not that I think anyone cares enough to put them on YouTube but sometimes they do that. Also, my drummer lives in Paris and my guitar player lives in the UK, and we now live in Seattle so we have really limited rehearsal time. I wanted to make sure we had time to rehearse the new stuff before we play it, especially since there’s more elements now.

quote4Yeah, you have a lot more instrumentation this time around as opposed to your other records. Is it exciting to have a backing band on stage with you?

It is! I guess now it’s just naturally a little more complicated. I didn’t grow up in other bands so I’m not really used to it. It’s a little nerve-wracking because it’s not just me singing behind a piano anymore, keeping things really minimal. I feel like I know how to do that, whereas this is risky and new. As much as it’s nerve-wracking, it’s also fun.

There’s obviously a lot of difference in the stage set-up for your previous, piano-based material, compared to your new material that requires the inclusion of a backing band. How do you find it, alternating between such contrasting materials when you’re performing?

I kind of have to map the setlist out a little differently so none of the songs are mean to each other. I’m a fairly crazy person so it’s not that hard for me to go between moods. I can get there pretty quickly but I guess there are some songs that are similar in subject matter and mood to some of the louder songs so I try to pair them together. I don’t want it to be too manic-depressive for anybody. Or maybe that’s cool, I dunno.

How did the audience respond to the new material that you played?

The first time I ever played the song, My Body, I played it in Tokyo, and nobody clapped or anything afterwards...but maybe it was just because they didn’t know the song. It was the first time we had performed anything like that and it was pretty loud and dark and everyone was a bit freaked out and shaken up afterwards and when nobody responded I was like...erm...But then I played it over in a few other countries and it seemed to go well.

I guess some of the songs from the album have the ability to leave the listener a bit unsettled.

Yeah, one of my friends said that when I play that song they just put their hands over their face and look in between their fingers, freaked out.

I feel that songs from this album can shake up something from within, enabling people to kind of draw references from their own lives.

I really hope that’s what it is. I hope it’s not like, “who is this screeching weirdo on stage!” Like when they played My Body on the radio, somebody tweeted, “Just heard the worst song I’ve ever heard in my life,” probably hearing just a bunch of disgusting noises with just a screech over it...which I guess essentially is kind of what that song is.

quote3So how do you deal with that kind of negative feedback?

With this music it’s very different. I’m really proud of this album so if people talk about the music and they don’t like it, it doesn’t really bother me. If people talk about how I look, however, like rude, grossly weird vain things like that, then I get really upset. It’s just really personal. Whereas when it’s about my music, it doesn’t really bother me that much. I’m kind of lying a bit because it essentially does bother me but not as bad as it used to.

I guess it’s quite confronting putting yourself out there creatively. Do you find you’ve become better at dealing with the feedback over the years?

I think so. And I think I feel really confident, beyond just the lyrics or what the songs are about. I’m confident the music is really good and this is the first time that’s happened. Not that I thought the music was bad in the other two albums, I really still think it was pretty and nice, it’s just that I was a lot more considerate and thoughtful about the sound on Too Bright, as much as the lyrical content.

quote5Too Bright definitely does sound a lot more confident, a bit more grandiose. You’ve also described it as “an underlying rage that has slowly been growing since ten and has just begun to bubble up.” What made you draw upon these references of your past in this album?

I've always made music to process things, so if something was bothering me, or something needed healing or a relationship in my life was screwed up, writing was a way I could deal. But I kind of used up all the memories that I needed to heal on the first couple of albums and this one’s a lot more about how I’m feeling now and almost a projection of how I want to be, not so much looking into the past. That anger was kind of some of the more immediate things that I needed to process.

With your songs and the visual representations in your music videos, I feel that you’re drawing upon not only this anger, but also some of the other deadly sins; greed, lust, gluttony. Was this intentional?  

No, but I like that. It perhaps wasn’t intentional but I like showing things that maybe I’ve been ashamed of or things I think are gross about myself. Or that I’m scared that other people think I’m gross or too ‘faggy’ or too feminine. I kind of like doing it defiantly and pushing it into people’s faces.

It seems you’ve managed to achieve this in the videos; kind of pushing it into people’s faces, providing an amount of intensity at times but then you manage to draw it back at just the right moments. You’ve carefully oscillated between the two ends of the spectrum.

Yeah, I never want the videos to be just pure rebellion, I want there to be a purpose to them, or have it be empowering or have some sort of importance. More than just giving someone the middle finger.

Do you have a lot of input of the content for the videos?

Yeah, especially this last one. Both of them are collaborations, but I feel like Queen was almost equal measure me and Cody Critcheloe (SSION), the director. I really trusted him and I guess that’s why I didn’t mind meeting in the middle more. I didn’t mind patchworking of all our zany ideas into one dream. I can come up with the ideas but I sometimes don’t know how to make it cool, you know? And the director I was working with was very cool.

It must be nice to tell people your ideas and have them filter it out into whatever you picture in your head.

Exactly, and that’s what she did. I sent her a bunch of weird, run-off sentences and words and then she sent me back this storyboard complete with pictures and visual references. Everything she had was exactly what I was thinking.

Speaking of collaborations, Too Bright was co-produced by Portishead’s Adrian Utley. What kind of influence do you think he had on the album?

Technically, he’s more capable than I am. When I gave him emotional descriptive words, he’d know what instruments to use, what knobs to twiddle and what cord to plug in where to make that sound. He understood emotionally where I was coming from and he wasn’t nervous about going too far or being too dark and serious, while also not being scared of being too patient or gentle or sensitive about the quieter moments. We’re pretty open and light-hearted while we’re talking but creatively, we’re kind of dark and wild so it was like a perfect relationship to be in the studio.

You wrote your first album while living at your Mother’s house. Where did you write your music this time?

This last one I wrote in a thick-walled apartment, so I could write when I felt like it and I could scream and be as loud as I wanted and I think that was the big help for expanding what I do. I could experiment with my voice in ways that could have potentially been really embarrassing or goofy, but I wasn’t scared of being overheard; I was screeching and screaming and squealing.

quote6Your boyfriend sings and plays with you on stage. Does he contribute to the songwriting process?

Oh yeah. I come from an emotional place and he’s more musical. He went to school for music so his way of thinking is completely different. He would come home after I’d been writing and would listen to the actual song. Whereas I would only look into what the song meant, he would hear what it really sounded like, so that was really valuable.

Do you find he inspires you artistically?

Yeah, I would either take his advice or I would get rebellious and pissed off. If he said he didn’t like the song, I’d make it even worse.

How is it touring and being on stage with your partner? I can imagine there’d be friction at times?

It’s good, you’ve got to learn how to fight and we’ve learnt to fight really well because if you’re around each other 24 hours a day, it's inevitable. But we’ve learnt how to fight and almost laugh immediately afterwards. I can’t imagine leaving and being gone for all those months without seeing him.

Perfume Genius' Too Bright is out today in Australia, released via Matador Records / Remote Control. You can stream it here

 

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First Impressions: Tkay Maidza, Perfume Genius, TOKiMONSTA + more

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This week, dance-music reigns as we review a number of different takes on the genre from smooth RnB to EDM to PC Music. Enter the madness that is First Impressions below:

Tkay Maidza- U-Huh 

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tkaymaidza[/soundcloud]

Bianca: U-Huh is a more than palatable pop song with some serious hip-hop influences. The hook is instantly infectious and I’m excited to see what else is to come from the Adelaide-born, PG-rated, Azaelia Banks Jnr. firecracker. Bianca’s Pick

Sam: This is a perfect example of when you let a great pop song eventuate under the most natural of circumstances. Every major label in Australia take note- this is how you craft a hit. It’s effortlessly melodic, full of personality and fun to boot. Tkay is surely bound for huge things. 4

Lizzie: I have been a Tkay fan for over a year now, I just think she is the shiz - not just because she is from Adelaide but she has this incredible universal appeal and at just 18 years old, her production skills are impressive. It's not as punchy as Brontosaurus, but I feel this Summer-time nostalgia - similar to that, after listening to M.I.A's Paper Planes4

Hannah: Alright Lizzie, we get it. You're from Adelaide, she's from Adelaide, you can claim her. I agree though, Tkay Maidza is a much more bearable Australian answer to M.I.A. She raps across the beat with effortless attitude. It's fun and instantly infectious. 4

Airhead- Believe

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/thump/a1-believe?in=thump/sets/airhead-believe-ep[/soundcloud]

Bianca: The ping pong echoes put the club into the church, evoking visualisations of a Sunday sermon that offers a little less bread and a helluva lot more wine. The record crackling sample also adds a subtle, nostalgic touch. The TV beep effect, however, is a little less welcoming on my ears. 3.5

Sam: The industrial production of this one makes sure that the bass bangs you right into next Saturday. The production feels icy cold, yet the preaching vocal sample that runs under it is comfortably familiar. Some of these sounds just echo around my head, bouncing off dead space (and believe me, there is quite a lot of that). 3.5 

Lizzie: I can feel myself float away with this track. This song could be on repeat for hours and I would have no idea - it's very much a song that just blends into the background. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just has its own special place in my iTunes library. 3

Hannah: The bass on this one is pure, paired-back house. Something you'd expect to find during the early hours of a Berlin warehouse rave or beneath a Jimmy Edgar track. Its intricate  and complex use of layered sampling keeps you interested, while the vocal pleads with you to believeee in the track just enough  to keep you pulsing right on through. 3.5

Steve Angello- Wasted Love (Feat. Dougy from Temper Trap)

Bianca: This song feels like it belongs in 2009 and I think my 19-year-old self would have loved it. Dougi Mandagy’s voice has a nice familiarity to it but, sadly, I ain’t 19 no more. 2.5

Sam: Dammit. Don’t get me wrong, this is more same, same EDM with barely anything to set it apart from the rest but I’m such a sucker for a crisp, pop hook. Dougy brings that in abundance but I’m so confused. I usually can’t stand the whiny aura of The Temper Trap but there is something somewhat euphoric about this. Also is this not Sky Full Of Stars p.2? DM me if you have answers. 2.5

Lizzie: This track is all about Dougy's voice, and not about Steve Angello - his production here is subtle, and I think it works really well. It's the perfect Summer tune; uplifting, all about love and just in time for the Tomorrowland after-movie soundtrack! 3.5

Hannah: This is just more of that tried and tested EDM formula circulating at the moment. Chiefly, hide the fact it's yet another unbearable, stock standard EDM song, beneath some very cleverly placed, makes-you-want-to-sing-along vocals. Eh. 2.5

TOKiMONSTA- Realla (Feat. Anderson Paak)

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tokimonsta/realla-feat-anderson-paak[/soundcloud]

Bianca: Was it really necessary to spell ‘real’ the way it's being pronounced? Ugh this track is way too smooth for my liking. 4 realz. 2

Sam: *Adds Anderson Paak to iPod* TokiMonsta kills the productions of this one with those jabbing, brass undertones but Anderson Paak, am I right? The man just murders it on this one flicking between drawn-out RnB vocals and singing rap-like verses. 4 Sam’s Pick

Lizzie: Please listen to this track with your eyes closed. It is the only way to truly appreciate the layered sounds and surround-sound experience this song creates - it's spine-tingling. Then the horns come in, oh when the horns come in. I'm sold! 4 Lizzie's Pick

Hannah: For Realla baby, this track hits you with an instantly welcomed Frank Ocean, Channel Orange nostalgia. That brass, that bass, that cascading vocal sample that falls between Paak's third verse rap. Grind. Just grind. 4.5 Hannah's Pick 

Bianca: Yeah, okay. I see how it is...

GFOTY- Don’t Wanna/Let’s Do It

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/dont-wanna-lets-do-it[/soundcloud]

Bianca: I really can’t seem to get into PC music. A kid pressing random buttons on a soundboard would produce better noise than this techy headache. 0

Sam: Unlike Bianca, I think PC Music is one of the most interesting and exciting things to happen in the last year or two. Like everything we’ve heard from the label, this is bonkers but it’s even more so than the others. The bipolar flick between I don’t wanna do it/Let’s do it is something I deal with on a daily basis. I have the same conflict with this song. I love it, I also hate it. I’m going to flick to I love it, purely because I keep going back to listen for more. There’s so much hidden melody in this, it’s just chopped up and displaced everywhere. Beautifully incoherent. 3.5

Lizzie: Please, I beg of you, tell me this is not music!? It sounds like a toy-store coming alive when everyone's asleep. Wake me from this nightmare!! 0

Hannah: When an EDM queen dishes out a zero, you know the song's clutching at straws. That said, this song has moments of rhythmic crescendo and almost satisfying bass, but ultimately it's riding an escalator to nowhere. Is that the point of PC music? Who knows. I feel though in the hands of a remix master, that sample could have potential. 2

Perfume Genius- Queen

Bianca: Mike Hadreas is truly making a statement with his comeback track. The steady, marching beat sets the tone with more pomp than a high school graduation. His haunting vocals and synths are gloriously juxtaposed with the cheerful whistling instrument, giving Queen a slightly creepy quality. 3.5

Sam: I found Perfume Genius’ last album a little too introverted to completely get into but Queen is a different story. It’s so outwardly bold, that it feels like a different artists altogether. I would’ve liked a bit more of a climax in the final quarter but apart from that I’m captivated. Please sir, can I have some more? 3.5

Lizzie:  I took one whiff of this Perfume Genius and can't say I am a fan of the broody and creepy vibe, it's just not my style. While I can appreciate all the elements - the slow beat, variety of kooky instruments and echoing vocals - I just can help but feel a little sad after listening. It's a Monday and I need a pick-me-up! 2.5

Hannah: If I was still the Hannah that listened to The Editors and Cold War Kids, I'd be right on board with this suburban angst track. As it is, the languid vocals over what feels like an incredibly lazy guitar-meet-drum-kit production just doesn't do it for me. Why the dog barking sample? 2.5

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10 Songs You Need To Hear This Week

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Is it that music is getting better? Is it that we had a good week? Or is it that we’re overjoyed by the news that Adele will indeed be naming her album, 25? Whatever it is, these 10 tunes are just sounding that little bit better this week. Amongst the 10, we have the creme de la creme of hip-hop, a few triumphant comebacks and enough Ryan Hemsworth to fill our Pokedex. So go forth and check out the best 10 songs of the week. Gotta catch 'em all.

Click here for this week's Soundcloud playlist. 

Kwamie Liv- comin THRU

Looking for Paper Planes without the tacky, dance-along moves? Look no further than the third offering from Danish-singer Kwamie Liv, comin THRU. There’s mellow, RnB undertones followed by a hip-hop-inspired chorus that pops like M.I.A’s hallmark track. Wanna' get down, pop-it and lock-it this weekend? Yeah, you do. Press play.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/kwamieliv/comin-thru-1[/soundcloud]

Vic Mensa- Feel That

It was always going to be a hard job following up Down on my Luck but Chicago rapper Vic Mensa has done a valiant job. We don’t publicly condone it, but if your Saturday looks anything like this video then you’ve had one helluva weekend. As for the track, it’s a hip-hop banger that lays a runaway train flow over sparse hip-hop beats.

The Drums- Magic Mountain

The Drums have gone from the beach to the mountains on this trippy comeback single. There’s a bit more noise, there’s a little bit more psychedelic but The Drums are still there at the core of it all. Stick around for the 2min 30 mark when it all gets a little bit spooky and we descend down the mountain and into the rabbit hole.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/minorrecords/magic-mountain[/soundcloud]

Tkay Maidza- U-Huh

Is there something in the Adelaide water? Motez, Allday and now 18-year old Tkay Maidza has taken to the stage as one of the most exciting new talents to watch in 2014. After seducing us with her catchy track Brontosaurus back in 2013, U-huh is Maidza's first single since signing with Brisbane label Dew Process - home to London Grammar, Mumford & Sons and Sarah Blasko. This track is crisp, sassy and the perfect blend of hip-hop and pop - in a way that Azealia Banks could only dream to replicate. Timed to perfection,this release comes as Tkay is set to play Splendour in the Grass next weekend, Listen Out and Big Sound in coming months. Be sure to catch her before the rest of the world eats her up!

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/tkaymaidza/u-huh[/soundcloud]

Perfume Genius- Queen

Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) embraces his inner Freddy Mercury this week on the bold new track from his forthcoming album, Too Bright. It’s production is far denser than anything he’s done before with haunting whistles, brave percussion and a vocal that sees Perfume Genius take charge like never before. We’re not sure about the Perfume part but this one is definitely Genius.

Sinead Harnett- No Other Way (Ryan Hemsworth Remix)

Hemsworth is the guy you know and trust to do your work justice, and his re-work of London-based songstress Sinead Harnett's No Other Way is no exception. Production-wise, it is hard to fault him, serving up the perfect balance between soul, toyed melody and dancey electronica. The layered synths up the tempo of the catchy chilled-out original to produce the perfect mid-Winter pick-me-up.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/sineadharnettmusic/no-other-way-ryan-hemsworth-remix[/soundcloud]

Ryan Hemsworth- One For Me (Feat. Tinashe) (Lucas Remix)

*Wipes tears away*. Much Ryan Hemsworth this week, many feels. Seattle producer, Lucas does an emotional flip of Hemsworth's album cut, One For Me. Tinashe’s vocals are taken down a few notches to sound like a soulful male, while Lucas lays down keys and a steady beat. This song was already beautiful but this just takes it to another level. If you’re going through a breakup this weekend, press repeat. If not, press next.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/yung-lucas/one-for-me-feat-tinashe-lucas-remix[/soundcloud]

- Walk This Way (Lido Remix)

It’s everything video games and gaming arcades on the Lido remix of ’s track, Walk This Way. It introduces a whole new element of trickling synths and skittered beats that will possibly grate you and possibly won’t. Such is the joy of the democratic nature of music.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/momomoyouth/walk-this-way-lido-remix[/soundcloud]

Astronomyy - Nothin On My Mind (Bearson Remix)

the interns have got tropical fever this week from La Roux’s Trouble in Paradise and the vibes are continuing with this remix of Astronomyy’s Nothing On My Mind. Oslo House producer, Bearson has reworked the already-chilled track with, taking us from beach to beach bar.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/bearsonmusic/nothin-on-my-mind-bearson-remix[/soundcloud]

ODESZA - Memories That You Call (feat. Monsoonsiren)

Seattle-based duo ODESZA have dropped their dreamy first track from their upcoming second album, In Return. Awash with heavenly synths accompanied by purposeful percussion, Memories That You Call is an anthem of youth; painting pictures of wayward journeys across the plains.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/odesza/memories[/soundcloud]

And here's another. We're feeling generous:

Treasure Fingers & BOSCO- Names

Brooklyn label Fools Gold is quite literally a goldmine of tunes. Their latest delivery is from Atlanta Producer Treasure Fingers and it’s a disco cross hip-hop cross house number that’s exactly what it sounds like- a perfect amalgamation of sound. He’s joined by singer/songwriter BOSCO who effortlessly goes in between rapping and singing, sassiness and sensuality. Grab someone and grind them when listening to this. It will make so much more sense. Please make sure you know the person you grab.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/foolsgoldrecs/treasure-fingers-bosco-names-2[/soundcloud]

Click here for this week's Soundcloud playlist.  

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Perfume-Genius

Listen to Perfume Genius' bold, 'Queen'

Perfume Genius Announces New Album Too Bright, Shares One more comeback for the day, I promise. You may remember Seattle-based artist, Perfume Genius' 2012 record Put Your Back N It. It was a haunting and melancholic yet underrated record that still sounds relevant today. If that record didn't put him in some people's psyche, his bold new single, Queen, is bound to. Queen is taken from his forthcoming album, Too Bright, which will be released on 23 September. It's production is far denser than anything he's done before with haunting whistles, brave percussion and a vocal that sees Mike Hadreas (aka. Perfume Genius) take charge like never before.

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