When one thinks of autumn in Connecticut, there are certain visual connotations that might flash across the mind’s eye of a New Englander. A Walden-esque eden of colorful foliage, certainly. A DIY indie rock band in matching t-shirts that evokes the kinetic energy of 80s D.C. post-punk? Perhaps not.
Yet Perennial, the Western Mass, Central CT art-punk band exists within that same realm. Just over a year ago, the three-piece released their excellent debut album The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves, to much underground fanfare. While the title of the record recalls the seemingly more delicate designs of the natural realm, the band invokes a chaotic punk rock ethos that rallies against conventional attitudes of creating art and going gently into the autumn of one’s youth.
Earlier this month, we met up with singer-guitarist Chad Jewett and singer-keyboardist Chelsey Hahn of the band (drummer Wil Mulhern was not in attendance) at Story And Soil Coffee in Hartford to discuss the first year since the release of their album, the importance of having inclusive music scenes, and why the band only plays all-ages shows.
CTS: I’d like to think I’ve been following local CT music pretty actively for a while now, but it still feels like you guys came out of nowhere, can you talk to us a little about the origins of Perennial?
Chad: Well, we were originally in a band called Lion Cub, signed by Topshelf Records in like 2009-2013. We did a couple tours, eventually we just called it a day. It was definitely different than Perennial, more indie pop with drum machines and synthesizers.
CTS: Were you located in CT at the time?
Chad: We were initially a Western Mass band but the last year we had moved to CT. I was going to UCONN at the time for grad school.
CTS: So Lion Cub broke up and you guys just decided to form a new band?
Chad: After we broke up, a few years went by and in mid to late 2015 we decided we still wanted to play music, something more fun to play live, sort of physical and exciting.
CTS: Which totally fits you guys.
Chad: Yeah! We actually went into the project kind of knowing exactly what we wanted to do. From day one we had a pretty good sense of what kind of music we wanted to make.
Chelsey: It took Chad a little time to convince me because Lion Cub was my first band and I was still kinda sad about not being active in the band anymore. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to Perennial. But I’m glad he convinced me through it!
CTS: So you guys went and made a great album, The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves, which came about about a year ago… what are your thoughts on that year? How has it been?
Chad: It’s been amazing.
Chelsey: It’s been a lot of fun, we’re really happy with the reception to the record. We’re really happy we were able to put it out on vinyl. And colored pink vinyl! We were really happy to put it out on Howling Frequency Records, a label mostly handled by our friend Paul from Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean and Derive and like ten percent me.
CTS: So I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about your album. It’s kind of unique in the sense, I don’t want to say exclusively because of the lyrics, but the approach towards the lyrics, it’s kind of like it doesn’t necessarily have to be about anything to be enjoyable. Like you said the music you make is very physical, it’s appeal is very kinetic. But what exactly is The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves? Of course, it doesn’t have to be anything either!
Chelsey: You take this Chad…
Chad: Well, it’s a couple of things. One, it’s just a phrase that I liked the sound of. Another part of it is, when we formed this band we were both in our late 20s and we sort of had this weird crisis… thinking about if we’re getting too old to start a full time punk band, and just say fuck that (laughs). Where is the rule that says we still have to be in our teens to do this? So the autumn leaves are just that imagery of time going by, getting older, and the challenge of still creating art… a lot of the songs just ended up being influenced by that idea of throwing caution to the wind.
CTS: It’s great. I love the juxtaposition of the lyrical approach with the intensity of the music. There are some lines like: “I am a modern flower” or “my heart is a pile of leaves” Flowers and leaves are kind of dainty but you guys are just shouting it at the top of your lungs. When you put it all together with the overall aesthetic, it’s all packed together in a particular way. Even the way that the album begins and ends creates a wholeness about the record. Was all that intentional from the beginning? Or did it take some time to become this formulated thought?
Chad: I don’t quite remember when it happened, there was no particular event were we thought of it… sometimes these things just happen. It was very natural.
Chelsey: We spent most of the time recording the album ourselves, but I think having that control gave us the time to process and sequence it into something specific.
CTS: Perennial doesn’t have a bassist, was there ever a thought of getting a bassist? Is there bass on the record?
Chad: Sometimes… there is a little bass on the record. Live, it’s just Chelsey on the organ. It works live. There some songs on the record with bass guitar. If it called for it, we recorded it. Recording is a little different.
CTS: Hey, it works. It never feels like it’s missing or anything.
Chelsey: A lot of people ask that! We were always pretty happy as a three piece. If anything, Chad mentioned getting another guitar player before we added a bass.
CTS: How about new material? Got anything in the works?
Chad: Yeah! We’re recording two songs with Chris Teti of The World is A Beautiful Place. Not sure what we’re gonna do with those yet. We’re also writing for a new album. Right now, we’re playing five songs from Symmetry and about four new ones.
Chelsey: There will be more vocals from me this time around. Maybe more spastic musically.
CTS: More spastic!? You guys are already pretty energetic.
Chelsey: I think we’re just more comfortable letting loose now.
Chad: It’s a little different too. There’s a little bit of 60s soul influence, and other parts that are super heavy.
Chelsey: All of the songs have some pretty strong bones to them, so hopefully it will come out sooner than later.
CTS: You’ve been playing a lot of shows too. Any idea how many?
Chelsey: Oh we were just talking about this… I’m not sure what the exact number is but we definitely try to play like three or four shows a month.
CTS: Good for you, that’s a lot to fit in.
Chelsey: Thanks, its part of the reason why I started booking shows myself. As I learned to love booking I started expanding beyond just booking Perennial and getting more bands that we love.
CTS: Do you have a particular favorite show or show memory in this past year?
Chelsey: Well we definitely had a lot of fun at Dennis the other day. Our release show at MAC 650 was one of my favorites. Brandon from Tiny Box Booking helped us put it together and we got a lot of our favorite bands on that show. A lot of people came out. Even our fantastic normie friends!
CTS: You make it a priority to only play all ages shows. Maybe the reasoning is self-evident to some folks, but not to others. So then, to hear it straight from Perennial, why do you only play all ages shows?
Chad: Part of it comes from my own experience. I got into punk culture and DIY music in Western Mass when I was 14 years old. Because the shows were all ages, I was able to experience this really awesome scene during such an impressionable time in my life that I otherwise might not have been able to participate in had shows only taken place at a 21+ bar-type scene. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. It’s a painful idea to me that a 14 year old kid now that could really use that kind of outlet, or really be exposed to great art and music, just so some place could sell beer. And to be honest, all ages shows are just more fun.
Chelsey: The all ages thing is really important to us. It’s sad for us to have to turn down shows, but we want to be inclusive and hold to that standard. We really appreciate when we get to play shows with diversity. Maybe it’s selfish, but, for instance, it’s sad to play shows where I am the only non-cis-male in the room. I am queer and its always been a value of mine to have shows be more diverse. Representation is so important. I, for example, used to go to shows all the time when I was in high school, but I actually didn’t start playing music until my 20s… that was probably a result of me almost never seeing another woman playing at the DIY level. It’s so powerful to see people come up to us after shows to speak about their art and have that conversation.
CTS: What’s next for Perennial?
Chelsey: Shows, shows, shows! Supporting the scenes in CT through booking.
Chad: I’ll give you an anecdote: A few nights ago we just finished playing a show at Dennis with a bunch of friends. We were there until about midnight, and near the end of the night, someone had mentioned there was a show in Boston that we could play. We knew that we had an eight hour recording session the next day…but we still strongly thought that we should drive up to Boston after that eight-hour session to play that show.
CTS: Living the dream!
Chelsey: We’re just gonna keep working at it as hard as we can.
Listen to The Symmetry of Autumn Leaves by Perennial below: