Caroline Hennessy spoke to Joe Pernice of the current critics' darlings, the Pernice Brothers, before he played one of Ireland's more infamous social occasions.
The Pernice Brothers have been described as 'f*****g awesome' on the strength of their debut album "Overcome By Happiness". They have a lot to live up to. Despite having been compared to writers of perfect pop tunes such as Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello, Joe Pernice seems to be pretty relaxed about the whole thing. When I mention the comparisons, he starts to laugh, but swears that he doesn't read his press, because "it's bad for your head, so I'd rather not."
We are in the Temple Bar Music Centre after a sound-check for the second gig of a European tour that was supposed to be a month long. Unfortunately, it fell apart at the last minute due to "some kind of contractual dispute that had nothing to do with the band", but had a lot to do with falling into the gaps between different labels. "Overcome By Happiness" was released by Sub Pop in America, Rykodisc in Europe and Independent Records in Ireland. The tour was going to be cancelled completely, but they decided to come over anyway and do the gigs in Ireland and England. Having just come from Galway where they played in the Roisín Dubh, Joe was enthusiastic about the reception they got at their first gig in Ireland. "If it was all like last night, I'd never leave, to tell you the truth. That was the craziest, most receptive crowd I think I've ever played to anywhere and that's no lie."
The night after the gig in the Temple Bar Music Centre, the Pernice Brothers were lined up to play the Trinity Ball. Joe had heard a lot about it. "Everybody says it's going to be absolutely insane, so don't plan on going home or anything like that. I'm a little bit nervous, but I guess it should be a lot of fun." Despite some minor apprehension, he was looking forward to playing on the same bill as Stereolab and Supergrass. As he said, "playing with other bands that you like is a great way to see them for free!"
Joe Pernice, who was formerly the songwriter with alternative country band the Scud Mountain Boys, is the driving force behind the Pernice Brothers. On the surface it seems like a radical move, from country rock to pretty pop, but Joe himself sees it as a natural progression. While with the Scud Mountain Boys he says that he was "writing a lot of songs, but bringing only the ones to that band that suited the other players and myself at that time." He and his brother Bob had put out a couple of 7" singles as the Pernice Brothers while he was with the Scud Mountain Boys. Joe says "it's a departure for the people who listen to the records but for me, I've been playing and writing songs like this all along, just not recording them."
The last album that the Scud Mountain Boys recorded was the critically acclaimed "Massachusetts", which Joe feels is not hugely different from "Overcome By Happiness".
"I just wanted to hear some different sounds, some different piano and orchestration and things like that and I think stylistically the last band we just started to diverge pretty radically and it was time to make a move."
The Pernice Brothers plan to start recording their next record in July, but a side project album is due for release in July. Practically all of the band were involved yet it is very definitely not a Pernice Brothers album. Joe feels that "sometimes songs just don't fit a certain line-up and we made another record of songs I didn't really want to tour as a band." He is going to going to do some solo shows in Holland, playing with the Willard Grant Conspiracy, another band who have had major critical attention paid to their last album, "Mojave".