The Perishers (Catalogue)
The Perishers (Catalogue)
A ceiling two seconds from collapsing, lots of sloppy Doc Marten dancing, and really harsh hardcore music. Ask Ola Klüft his earliest memories of growing up in Umeå, Sweden, and he'll gladly share this DIY-or-die story (or some other basement show fiasco) with a smile and a snicker. Which is quite amusing and a little confusing when you consider Klüft's current gig: singing sweetly and subtly amid the moonlit, melancholic indie pop of The Perishers. Even Klüft admits the inherent irony of the situation. You see, as much as The Perishers admired the political stance and savage punk of hometown heroes like Refused and Final Exit, none of the band's members are -- how should we put this? -- 'the aggressive type.' "When we started out, we had to share our rehearsal space with those guys and, well, we were pretty much scared of the hardcore bands," says Klüft. "We always practiced really quietly as a result." The group's introverted issues extended insofar as the recruitment of their bassist, ex-punk rocker Pehr Åström. As Klüft puts it plainly, "It took [keyboardist/childhood friend] Martin [Gustafson] and I a while to get the guts to ask him to join. Thankfully, he turned out to be a really nice guy." More important than his demure demeanor was the way Åström rounded out the band's rhythm section perfectly -- a taut ebb and flow dynamic that also includes drummer Thomas Hedlund (who when not recording with The Perishers is often found on the road with French band Phoenix). The Perishers debut, From Nothing to One (Nons, 2002), illustrates this with hushed tones and sweeping glass menagerie melodies. Next came the luscious and lovelorn Let There Be Morning, which Nettwerk Music Group finally brought to the states in 2005, nearly two years after its original European release. At once hopeful and heartbroken without ever lapsing into cliché, the glacial pop collection was adored by tastemakers and critics, including The New York Times, which exclaimed, "These songs are irresistible." An equally entranced Entertainment Weekly added, "[The Perishers] got the wistful, literate lyrics, the whisking percussion and lilting melodies...a lovely twilight trip." Another growing group of Perishers supporters has been music supervisors for such acclaimed shows (soundtrack-wise especially) as The O.C., One Tree Hill and Veronica Mars. Apparently, The Perishers songs sync up perfectly with moving pictures of the post-Dawson's Creek kind. "Watching Mischa Barton or some other young star act out a scene with a Perishers song in the background is truly surreal and very odd," admits Klüft. "It just doesn't seem right that it's there." Ah, but it is. That's the thing about The Perishers' music: tender without being sappy, and pretty without ever sounding precious, it's something we can all relate to, from daily Pitchfork readers to teen drama junkies to...Sarah McLachlan fans? That's right: After years of playing small clubs, McLachlan handpicked the band to open her 2005 North American tour -- and even guested on a rousing rendition of "Pills" every night -- upping their potential audience ten-fold and helping them to sell nearly 20,000 copies of Let There Be Morning after just 10 weeks on the road. Nightly album sales reached record-breaking levels, averaging 600 copies a night. "None of us expected that kind of response," says Klüft. "The first night of the tour we actually thought the long line for our signing table was for the restrooms. It was weird, but it definitely boosted our confidence as a band." Don't let that fool you into thinking The Perishers became rock stars overnight. If anything, the slow-burning success of Let There Be Morning humbled them, pushing The Perishers to treat their third effort, Victorious, as a grand statement of sorts. To achieve this, the band decided to shake things up a bit and work for the first time with producer Per Sunding (The Ark, The Cardigans, Junior Senior). "We wanted to try working with a more traditional producer this time around - something new, you know?" explains Klüft. "Per was very frank with us. He's a nice guy -- super funny and all that -- but he wasn't afraid to tell us when something wasn't good enough." Unwilling to watch an artist shortchange their strengths, Sunding continuously pushed the band creatively. The process was tough at times but truly paid off, as it forced The Perishers to become as confident in the studio as they always were onstage. So much so that the band re-recorded and self-produced five songs at the start of 2007 in their hometown of Umeå, opting to make some tracks sound "more live" through the involvement of their backup band from previous tours, Måns Lundberg and Anders Pettersson. "We played at the same time and in the same room, minimizing the number of overdubs," says Klüft. "The more people playing, the merrier! It's so much more fun that way." Songs like "Midnight Skies" and "8am Departure" sparkle and fade like the natural flow of a life-affirming rock show. More importantly, though, is the way everything melds together perfectly, making it nearly impossible to tell what was recorded with whom and when. Standouts include the weightless drifter-in-the-dark balladry of "Carefree" and the title track, which hits the road with a battered acoustic in hand and harmonies dancing round Klüft's head, jockeying for position to get out. The Perishers--Ola Klüft (vocals, guitar), Martin Gustafson (keyboards, backing vocals), Pehr Åström (bass), and Thomas Hedlund (drums)-release Victorious on September 4, 2007 (Nettwerk Music Group); a North American tour is planned for the winter.