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Interview: The Band Perry

8 min read

American country music siblings Kimberly, Neil and Reid Perry formed chart topping band The Band Perry back in 2005. Their debut self-titled album was unveiled in late 2010 and following a series of single releases from the record which included the number one singles, If I Die Young and All Your Life, The Band Perry have joined the ranks of country crossover success, joining fellow country superstars Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift as one of the genre’s most successful acts of the past few years.

We recently caught up with the three talented members of The Band Perry to discuss their new album Pioneer, which was released on 2nd April in the US via Republic Records, and has already sold in excess of 1.5m copies. Here is what the band had to tell us:

Benji Taylor (BT):  Hi guys! Thanks for speaking to us today… Pioneer – which was released in April of this year – made it to Number 2 on the US Billboard charts, and Number 1 on the US Billboard Country Chart… How did you feel when you found out that it had charted so well?

Kimberly Perry (KP) : Well these weeks are always a nerve wracking time, especially for the three of us, we’re constantly checking the numbers throughout the week to see how things are progressing. With this being the second album, the one thing we were determined to not be was a one-hit wonder, and we made so many deliberate decisions to just dig deep and work hard and to bring our true and honest selves out on Pioneer, and we’re just so glad that it translated onto the record.

BT: Well I think it has. Pioneer will be released in the UK via Decca Records on June 10th. Can you tell our UK readers who your main influences are as musicians?

Reid Perry (RP): Hey Benji, this is Reid. We listen to everything from the Rolling Stones, thanks to our dad, through to Motown sounds because of our mum. But specifically for the making of Pioneer we were actually listening to a bunch of Queen. Especially the vocal arrangements, you know, the almost over- the-top self-indulgent recording style, all of that was a big influence for the making of Pioneer.

BT: I think I can see that. I’d say that Pioneer is country, but with a definite rock twist. How would you describe the sound of the album?

KP:  Well we agree. And if you have ever come to see us live we think that in seeing us live, that’s the way that someone can see our true selves. We feel that we embraced a lot more electric guitar and a lot more aggressive drum beats on Pioneer. We always had those arrows in our quiver so to speak but, with the making of our first album [their self-titled debut The Band Perry] it was more of a point of entry album. You know, when you meet someone for the first time, you don’t necessarily show all your cards, but as you get to know each other you get to learn more and more about each other and that’s how the friendship grows. That’s how we see the distinction between the sound of our first album and everything that we’ve tried to embrace on Pioneer.

BT:  Can you tell me about the production process? How was working with Rick Rubin?

KP:  When we were writing for Pioneer we actually took a road trip across America out to Malibu, and then we went and wrote songs at The Grand Canyon and in New Mexico…

Neil Perry (NP):  We then took what we’d wrote to Rick’s studio and continued the song-writing in front of him, and what Rick did was really help us tie down the fine art of song writing. He also taught us a lot about tightening up our lyrics.

KP:  Not only that though, he also gave us a lot of confidence by saying we shouldn’t consider this the second thing we’ve ever done, but rather just one of many things that we’ll accomplish on a long journey of music. But during that recording process we took a long hard look at ourselves and, because Rick in his current incarnation as a producer is more of a minimalist – which is what we love about him – we felt that right now we were at a different place in our career. We therefore made a decision to take all of the pre-production work and song-writing under Rick back home to Nashville, and we worked with Dann Huff, who is about big guitars and big drum beats.

BT:  Yes, there’s definitely nothing minimalist about the album. You’ve achieved a lot since you started off in 2005 – where do you hope to go in the next few years?

KP: Well chatting with you and the UK is part of a major goal… We really want to grow, we want to work hard to be present in the UK, and in Europe. We really feel our music is an international language, and we can’t wait to bring our live show there.

BT:  Of all the people that you’ve worked with or met since you formed who had you in complete awe?

KP:  Well we didn’t have an opportunity to work with him yet but we did get the chance to meet Sir Paul McCartney.

NP:  That’s right! It was last year, we were at the Grammys, and we had the opportunity to play on the show as kind of a tribute to Glen Campbell, and were actually playing with Glen, and during rehearsals I remember I was on stage and I looked down at the front row and there I saw Sir Paul McCartney taking photos of the three of us, with Glen, on his iPhone… Later on we got to meet him and say “Hi”, and the only thing we could think of to tell him was “Hey Sir Paul, you’re our favourite songwriter…”

KP:  Yes, I’m sure he’d heard it before!

BT:  Kimberly, in the video for If I Die Young you’re holding  a copy of a book of poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson as you float in the boat, which seems to be a homage to floating down a river like the Lady of Shalott. Would you describe yourselves as a band that are especially literary?

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KP: Yes, it was a tribute to that, and also to Anne of Green Gables [1908 bestselling novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery].  Anne certainly was one of the characters in literature who I feel helped shape my personality. And yes, I was reading the poem Lady of Shalott around the time I wrote If I Die Young so yes it was definitely an inspiring piece of work.

BT:  Neil and Reid, are you as well-read as your sister?

NP:  Well when we were growing up yes we would read a ton of literature, and we do now, from the classics to modern. Especially during the making of our first album in particular we were reading a lot of ‘southern gothic’ literature, a style created down in the south, and yes I think it really influenced the lyrics of the first album.

BT:  The reviews for this album and for your debut have been very positive,  but I saw that several critics focused on the band being slightly obsessed with death. How would you respond to that?

KP:  I don’t think that we’re obsessed with death, to be honest we approach things from a backwards perspective and, perhaps ironically, it was life that inspired the basis for the song If I Die Young. As a wise man once said, you need to consider every important decision of your life as if you were sitting in a graveyard, and ask yourself- “will this matter when I’m not here?” I think that’s the perspective that we carry over into our music, that “who knows how many moments I have left” attitude, that desire to live life to the full. I don’t think we’re death obsessed, but more inspired by the gravity of life and death.

BT:  You are a very talented band musically – but what do you guys do outside of music to relax?

NP:  Thanks. Well we haven’t really done anything from the past few years other than music. In fact we tried to have a family dinner a few months ago and we agreed we wouldn’t chat about anything music related… It felt like we sat in silence for thirty minutes! When we go home we go our separate ways for a while, we sit in quiet, just to try and recharge before we head back out onto the road…

KP: And to be honest we just really love our work, we love what we do, at the moment none of us have our own families and so we’re all just dedicated to making the most of everything and pushing forward with the career.

BT:  You’re not a bad looking trio of individuals… How much do you think your good looks have contributed to the success of The Band Perry?

KP: Well, I think that one thing we bring to country music, and music as whole, is big hair! And I think we all have different styles, Reid tends to have more of a retro look, so all of the older ladies at our shows are completely obsessed with Reid. Neil has a bit of a punk-rock flair, both in personality and in style.  My style I don’t know… I like contradictions… I like fancy dresses and big bulky jewelry, I like leather and lace. But I think our style and look changes and evolves as our music does.

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BT:  Neil you’re the youngest in the band- how protective of you are your older siblings?

RP:  To be honest I think that we’re all protective of each other, but overall I would say that Neil and I are more protective of Kimberly, because she is the only girl in the band, but we all have each other’s backs.

BT:  I have a sister, I understand! What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you on the road?

KP: There are so many funny things that have happened, but the one thing that springs to mind is when we were at a signing once. You never know who will walk through the line in a signing, and it was summer in San Francisco- it was very hot-  everyone was very sweaty, and this gentleman who had obviously had way too much to drink walked through and asked if we could sign his butt!

NP:  Well, specifically Kimberly!

KP: And I said “well that depends sir, will you have your pants on?”, meaning please keep your pants on! And he just dropped his pants, for god and country, and I gave him the sharp end, after I’d signed it!

BT: Haha that’s a good one. The cheek of it… Guys that’s all the questions for today, it’s been a real pleasure, and it should give our UK readers a much greater insight into The Band Perry before Pioneer is released over here. The best of luck with the album, and speak soon!

Pioneer will be available in the UK via Decca Records/ Universal on 10th June.

Buy ‘The Band Perry – Pioneer’ from Amazon