Perpetual Groove’s nearly twenty-year history has surely had more ups-and-downs than an old, rickety, wooden roller-coaster. From battling everything from lineup changes, addiction, life, devastating loss within their inner circle, and seemingly everything in between, the band – Brock Butler (guitar, main vocals), Matt McDonald (keyboards, vocals), Adam Perry (bass) and Albert Suttle (drums)—“PGroove,” as they affectionately known, miraculously stand stronger than ever in 2019.
Having just released their first album in a decade, and a music video for the track, “Spirit Bear,” the roller coaster again seems to be ascending towards it highest peak yet, with the overall world of PGroove seemingly on more solid ground than it has ever been, possibly ever before.
Jambands contributing writer, Brian Bavosa, who has a long history with PGroove, recently shared email exchanges with both Butler and McDonald, which can be read below.
Keep an eye out for PGroove on the road this summer.
Why did it take 10 years to release a new studio album?
Well, the most obvious reason is that we took a couple of years off during that time. When we got back to work in 2015 we did release an EP (Familiar Stare) in 2016 and we also released the “Paper Dolls” single and video in late 2015. So, it wasn’t like we didn’t put anything out at all during those ten years, we just hadn’t put out a full-length album. I think part of that was trying to fit with the times where singles dominate the airspace and to feed the constant social media space that exists in now. Most importantly, we knew that there was a sound and songs we wanted to create that were very different from anything we had done in the past. So, in order to do that most effectively, we took the last two years to make this album true to our vision.
How would you describe the songwriting process? How is it different than years past/past albums?
Adam and Brock have always been the two main songwriters for the band. They share equally in both lyrics and music. Every song also involves a process when all of us sit down to work together. Brock and Adam have always been incredibly receptive to what Albert and I bring to the table. Albert is very good at helping us figure out time signatures and nice shifts in feel to help craft a better song. My forte and contribution is almost always in the arrangement department. But, there are no rules and roles can change for any given song at any given time. At this point, we have a much stronger sense of each of our roles during the songwriting process. “Collaborative” is a great way to describe it.
How has the band been balancing family life in this newest renaissance of the band? (Weekend runs, shorter tours, etc.)
Since coming back in 2015 we’ve managed to keep a healthy balance of life on the road and life at home. Yes, this means shorter tours compared to what we did 15 years ago. But, it also means smarter business moves to keep everyone fresh and not burnt out.
How did that idea and concept for the “Spirit Bear” video come together?
I approached Dominar Films in Athens, Georgia per Jason Huffer‘s recommendation. We presented them with an idea that included puppets and going from black-and-white to color, but the director, Ben Roberds, brought that idea more into focus. We dumped the puppets and opted for solid color suits and rainbow umbrellas–way cooler! Ben discovered that the last 1/3 of the song was equal in length to the first 2/3s if the first 2/3s was doubled in speed–something we would have never thought of on our own. The idea of doing it as a single shot shooting at 24FPS was all Ben’s idea. Shooting the entire video was a process that took less than three minutes for what would be the final take. So, when the video is played at regular speed it gives the slow-motion effect for the top of the video in black-and-white. Then, at the end of the video when everything runs in reverse, it’s actually at the speed we were walking down that block going through the moves of the scene. I couldn’t be happier with the results and look forward to doing more projects with the Dominar Films’ team.
PGroove is also known for having a sense of humor and almost tongue-in-cheek geekiness that often spills over into the music. How, if in any way, did that spill over into the new album and its process?
Humor saves us all! I’m certain there’s plenty of geekiness on the album but I’m not sure I can put my finger on any specific portion where it spilled into the music. One thing that was not only new but felt a bit geeky for us was the background drums on Spirit Bear. I believe it was the second night in the studio where we found ourselves all in the live room banging on drums, and anything else we could beat on, to create the percussion tracks. I can honestly say the four of us have never taken part in a drum circle, at least not all together! So, that is pretty nerdy, right?
How is this album technically any different from PGroove albums of the past?
It’s not hyperbole to say that this album is different in every way from anything we’ve ever done in the past. To start, we brought in a producer and a co-producer who worked with us through the entire process. We also gave these songs plenty of time to mature inside the studio, not on the road. None of the songs on this album were ever played in a live venue, commonly referred to as getting “road tested”. Having a team who can see the view from 10,000 feet of what was best for the song, as opposed to what parts or lyrics that any one of us might have been personally attached to, helped craft the best version of each song. It helped remove ego from the process for us and let the songs guide the way. We also recorded in a studio that had all sorts of rare, old, cool instruments that possess unique timbres with which we got to experiment and use in this album. Every studio is different, and studios will shape the tone, sound, and vibe of an album. We recorded the bones of the album at The Fidelitorium in Kernersville, North Carolina; I can’t say enough good things about our experience there. We would go on to finish the album at Studio MG in Roswell, Georgia. Both of these studios are distinctive in their own ways and helped us create our album very differently than anything we have done in the past.
How has Brock’s sobriety been handled to avoid the same pitfalls of the road?
We understand that this was a pretty public battle for Brock and the band, but it’s one that’s in the past. We’ve moved on and we hope that others can, too. Brock is the lead singer and guitar player and when the lead singer is off, everyone knows it. It’s a tough microscope to be under but it’s part of the gig when you are the voice of the band. Brock has worked hard to overcome his demons and he’s been nothing but a champion these last couple years. He has stepped to the plate as a real partner and leader inside the band. Brock was not the only one who had issues in his personal life to address. We all have had things that we needed to take care of. Sometimes these things manifest in ways that aren’t as obvious as intoxication or drug addiction. It’s not fair to put every bad thing that may have happened publicly in the past with the band on Brock. At the end of the day, each of us is responsible for our own actions. Brock’s sobriety is not an elephant in the room for us like it was years ago; we can talk about things with each other quite honestly now. I would hope and believe Brock knows that inside the band he has a support network of people that genuinely care about him and how he’s doing as a person, a friend, and bandmate. Avoiding pitfalls on the road is a practice that applies to each of us. Now that all of us are in our 40s (or close!), we have a much healthier lifestyle on the road. This, of course, has led to much healthier relationships that all of us have with each other in every aspect of being in a band together. It’s a band that’s fun to be in, but it’s also a business, and it can also be like a sexless marriage!
How does the band decide on setlists? Bust outs? New covers? The band has always had their finger on the pulse of being at the forefront of pop music and debuting songs that are relevant in today’s music. Can you elaborate on that?
Usually, the guys let me build the bones of the setlist. We have a shared notes app where we can all make suggestions and edits after a rough idea is laid out. However, the setlist that we start with rarely ends up being exactly what happens over the course of a show. We make audibles and changes all the time while on stage as we’re feeling out the room and the crowd. So, at the end of the day, the set list is still very collaborative and quite often a living breathing thing that’s constantly changing. For bust outs and some covers, there’s always some planning as we want to make sure to rehearse these things before trying them live. Each of us has brought different covers to the catalog over the years. So many of these songs are the ones that you want to sing along to and learn anyway for your own pleasure. To have the opportunity to perform them live with a rock band–that’s kind of your teenage dream come true. We like to have fun with it and I think that shows most in our selection of covers.
How would you describe the current climate of The World of PGroove?
Fresh. We’ve got the new album and all the songs, but, as previously stated, we have not road tested these tunes yet. So, we’re going to have all fall to really let the songs start to grow live legs of their own, which is very different from the studio. We also have lots of songs that are still works in progress. They will probably start to bust out this fall as well. But, yes, in a word, FRESH.
Fall tour! It’ll be fun to hit the road again in October and November. There are all sorts of great rooms and great cities on this upcoming tour. We are currently getting ready to plan something pretty special for the 20th anniversary of our first album, Sweet Oblivious Antidote, in early 2022. This summer, Brock, Adam, and I will be doing more of the P3 shows. This has become a summer tradition for us as it gives us an opportunity to go out and still play some PGroove songs but lets us execute them in a completely different way. It also affords us the opportunity to dive into the catalog with some older songs that haven’t seen as much road action lately. It’s very different from a Perpetual Groove show–I play acoustic guitar along with Brock and Adam plays bass. It also gives us an opportunity to play all sorts of beach coastal rooms that PGroove doesn’t have an opportunity to play. One of my favorites, Guanabanas in Jupiter, Florida, is a beautiful place right on the water with a great stage and an intimate vibe that we love. It also helps serve as a bit of a Florida vacation for us for two weeks every August!