"You've probably read my bio, there's some sad shit in there," says Elvis Perkins in a noticeably indifferent timbre.
Indeed, the 33-year-old musician has suffered tragic loss in his young life. His father Anthony (yes, the man who played Norman Bates in Psycho) died in 1992 of complications from AIDS. And on September 11, 2001, one day before the ninth anniversary of his father's death, Perkins' mother Berry Berenson was killed on American Airlines Flight 11 when it collided into the north tower of the World Trade Center.
It would seem natural for Elvis Perkins' music to reflect that sadness. And at times it does. Take "Chains Chains Chains" from his second album, Elvis Perkins in Dearland: "What am I if bound to walk in chains 'til I die/Reaching wildly out to the sky with no particular aim." The song begins with only a murky guitar strum before horns finally come forward to lift the mood. Perkins describes his music as more an expression of joy and vitality than simply wallowing. "Comforting" would be a good description, as Perkins croons over songs that gently tear from the fabric of American folk and ragtime.
In junior high Perkins chose music over following in his father's footsteps (he says the closest he's come to acting is playing the part of "Man with Guitar" in a school production of The Grapes of Wrath), learning the ways of the guitar from the Knack's Prescott Niles. ("I'm pretty sure there was no propagation of 'My Sharona.'")
Perkins released his first solo record, Ash Wednesday, in 2007 before bringing in a full band under the name Elvis Perkins in Dearland. In October the quartet will release the cheery-titled Doomsday EP, recorded over three days in Providence, Rhode Island. The EP features two versions of the song "Doomsday," which first appeared on EPiD. "Slow Doomsday" is just that, and it takes on a new life as a gospel number. Not surprisingly, it starts off sad and spare before building into a stunningly joyous chorus. It might be one of Perkins' most definitive songs.
"I don't consider myself a happy or sad person, just a person first and foremost," Perkins says. "We're so concerned with declaring ourselves while we're on this orb; I've decided that I don't want to live that way."