Perfume Genius: Lifting the Hood

source: Perfume Genius

Text Kevin Ho

There’s something heartbreaking about the genius behind this indie pop project. And we’re not just pointing out the tear-tingling melancholia of Mike Hadreas’ piano-based musings. Nuancing our phoner with intermittent pauses, shy hesitations, and the occasional meek chuckle, conversing with Hadreas was gratifyingly sincere as he gradually opened up about battling nervousness, obscene lyrical themes, and even his sexual orientation. He may not show it on the outside, but deep down he’s treading a courageous path – and it’s a resolve that would put others to shame.

Happy returns Mike! You’ve been awfully quiet in the past year, but we hear that the new album’s nearly complete?
It’s actually finished, yeah! I think they’re gonna release sometime in September.

What kinda lyrical themes does it explore? Can you tell us that?
I’ll try! I thought I’d finally become a confident person and less anxious after touring, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m still as nervous and awkward as I’ve always been. And I started getting really angry with that, that I didn’t feel like I had any power as a person. I don’t know if that’s gotta do with things happening to me growing up or things people said that made me think that… (pauses) that I’m smaller than I am. I think I was trying to harness whatever power and darkness and ancestral forces I could to compensate for it in my writing.

Wow, that all sounds rather deep Mike…
Yeah. I listened to a lot of ‘confident musicians’ and iconic people, and wondered what my version of that confidence would be. So it’s a lot angrier and in your face I guess.

Speaking of nervousness, do you have any kind of mantra or preparation process before going on stage?
Oh man, I have tonnes of weird superstitions. I use three different throat sprays that I don’t think do anything but it makes me feel better. I do a lil’ prayer, though I’m not even sure who I’m praying to. And I do vocal warm-ups that I learnt on YouTube. I’m sure there’s some class or special person who would fix all of this, but for now it’s just a weird routine that I compiled from the Internet within my personal…erm, insanity.

Your previous albums have been primarily piano-based. Does this album explore more things musically?
Yes it does. I worked with a producer who was pretty much a synth nerd and his studio had a lot of old cool synths that I’d never even heard of. So there are a lot of different sounds on the album, even some guitar and saxophone. I suppose it’s still fairly minimal compared to other musicians, but for me it was a lot.

We read somewhere that there’s a song on the record about “giving birth from your a$s”?
(Laughs) Well, I was talking to my friend about why she – she’s a lesbian – thinks we’re gay. And she thought it was to curb overpopulation; God’s way of making sure there weren’t too many people on Earth. And I thought that was the most depressing thing I’d ever heard in my life. I think that there’s some divine, more spiritual reason for gay people being here. And it also made me sad thinking about how there’re ways for me to have a family, but not in the same way that there are for straight people. And so, a mix of all that went into this weird song where I likened it to my situation, where I could – as I am right now – have children.

Do people see you as a role model, you reckon?
I think people see that I’m open and talk about it. There is a weird stigma that the way to be gay and to be able to survive, is if you don’t mention it or you don’t rub it in people’s faces. And I think that’s bullsh!t. I think young people don’t feel safe doing that yet or they’re just figuring things out.

And how’re things with the boyfriend? Still swell?
Yeah! We recently rented a house together and got a lil’ puppy.

Puppy! Is the puppy coming along?
Oh I wish I could bring the puppy along! But if you travel with a dog internationally, they hold them for like two months or something to make sure they don’t bring any weird diseases (sighs).

Perfume Genius’ new album Too Bright will be out on Monday 22 September ’14.