Saturday, February 18, 2012

Interview: Tim Perry of AgesandAges

Tim Perry is the founder, lead singer, and song writer for the Portland-based band AgesandAges. Many talented music writers have tried to describe their sound – The Partridge Family, Jack White and Rumors-era Fleetwood Mac have all been mentioned. So basically, you should just go listen for yourself. Several tracks from their album “Alright You Restless” are streaming at
 AgesandAges will be performing at Works, an Art Happening, on February 24, 2012 at The Old Church in downtown Portland on SW 10th and Clay.

 Q:  AgesandAges songs feel like an antidote to irony. They’re joyful, sincere, hopeful. In general, what has been the audience response to the “heart-on-sleeve” approach AaA has taken both lyrically and in your performances? Any positive responses that have been especially memorable?
Once somebody said to me (as though it were fact): "Well, obviously you made a conscious decision at some point to sit down and write some 'feel good' music." It caught me off guard, because it was so far from the truth. Yes, the ultimate message in this music is one of hope and joy, but it originates from what I consider to be a pretty bleak reality (uh oh, here comes a metaphor): The ship is sinking and only a few people seem to notice or care. That's the bad news. But I think that most people just pick up on the good news, which is that there's hope for those of us who do notice and care...and furthermore, it's okay to wear that on our sleeves! I guess this resonates with some people, which is pretty cool. When people sing our songs with us, or clap along at all the right's the best.

Q: The following theme runs through “Alright You Restless” (AYR): Rules made by authority figures are arbitrary. You should ignore those rules and go your own way if you want to flourish as a person. How does that idea intersect with your experience of life?
Well, first I'd like to get a little more specific: the message in AYR is not so much to go your way, but to go our way; to come with us. And by "our," I am not referring to the people in this band. I am referring to the people singing these songs; our alter-egos. We are summoning other people to leave the old world behind and join us in our secluded place. Pretty self-righteous actually. But establishing this alter-community provided some voices, through which we could express all of these things bluntly. How does this idea intersect with my life experience? Well, I have noticed that so much of what I do or don't do is based on fear, in one way or another. There's really too much fear to even talk about right here, but the one I refer to most is that fear we have of doing the thing we know we should be doing but aren't. The fear of taking that first step; of making that first move; of taking our apron off, plopping it on the floor, and saying "I can do better than this." We make threats. We imagine these scenarios. But usually, the uncertainty of what lies ahead is enough to scare us into not actually doing it. So these songs address the exact moment when the action is finally taken. The feeling of freedom, relief, weightlessness, and the urge to convert others once you've crossed over.  

 Q: What are the best conditions for you for songwriting? (Where/when/tools/mood/etc.)
So much has come from showering, I can't even begin to express. I can literally name various parts of the record that were conceived while cleaning myself. Is that gross? Probably. But the truth usually is. Also, long car rides tend to bring out the ideas. It's like Jim Morrison said: ride the snake to the lake. It doesn't matter how late, how inconvenient, how inappropriate - if ideas are flowing, then you have to give in. I've walked out of movies before. I've snuck into the bathroom on dates to record something into my phone with other people peeing beside me. I've done worse. And it's never not been worth it.

Q: Writing the songs, practicing the songs, recording the songs, performing the songs: are there parts of the job you enjoy more than others?
All of those things have their shiny (and dark) moments. I'd say I like to perform mostly, but not so much for the "performing" aspect. More because that's when those times (potentially) occur when everyone you're playing with is on the same exact wavelength and people out there are on it too – when all at once, the past and the future disappear and there is only the present and I truly believe that nothing in the world matters as much as those rare moments. I repeat: nothing in the world matters as much as those rare moments.

Q: In an interview, you mentioned your Episcopalian background. Has the experience of communal singing influenced your approach to AgesandAges – either putting the band together or in performances?
Absolutely. The music is not religious at all, but it has sort of a "churchy" vibe to it in the sense that the people who wrote these songs are proselytizing their way of life and encouraging others to join them. It's inclusive music...and celebratory. Girth has a lot to do with it too. There are seven people in this band. We all sing and clap and shake things. So it's pretty communal feeling.

Q: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote? What compelled you to write it? Did you know you were going to write more?
Yes, I remember the first song I ever wrote. It is still unfinished. Maybe finishing that song will be the last thing I ever do. It's a sort of tongue in cheek song about a person who spends what little time they're not at work or in traffic, watching other people act out their lives on television. Ya in place of living their own lives. I was seventeen.

Q: Is there one album or band that’s been a long-term touchstone for you – something you’ve listened to more than any other album over a long period of time?
There have been a lot of albums over the years that have reached the "touchstone" realm in my life. And usually, it's not just one album, it's a collection of albums from particular artists. To name a few: David Bowie, Brian Eno, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, Neil Young, Graham Nash (Songs for Beginners), Willy Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Grateful Dead (Workingman's Dead, among others), Kinks, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Black Sabbath, Bob Dylan, Can, Neu!, etc. I like some newer stuff too, but I come back to all of these bands again and again.

Q: Anything else occupying your mind at the moment you’d like to share with the group?
We are really looking forward to playing this show! It's going to be fun.
Email interview by Jessica Poundstone.

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