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Feature Thu Nov 09 2006

The Pernice Brothers Live a Little

Even if you haven't heard of The Pernice Brothers, you've probably heard them, seen them, or even read them. In the last few years, their music has been featured in movies (the American version of Fever Pitch) commercials (for Sears) and, most recently, on the CW's Gilmore Girls, where frontman Joe Pernice appeared as himself.


Joe Pernice (photo by Laura Stein)

In addition to his music career, Joe is an accomplished writer, whose contribution in 2003 to the 33 1/3 series, The Smiths' Meat Is Murder, garnered critical acclaim, and stands out as a work of fiction in a series of critiques and analysis. Set in Boston, the story of a teenager discovering The Smiths is a time machine for anyone who remembers the music defining his or her high school experience, or staunchly refusing mom's pot roast for the sake of Morrissey. Pernice and actor Neal Huff are currently developing the story into a feature film.

Even with his growing success, Pernice and his label (Boston, MA-based Ashmont Records) keep things intimate with their fans. Joe regularly posts to the band's website about the everyday trials of making records, and fans who take advantage of pre-orders are treated to such bonuses as Pernice Brothers comic books and, most recently, cds featuring rough cuts of the album tracks packaged in hand-stamped and autographed sleeves. Joe also enjoys posting videos, the most popular of which are his "Indie Rock Cribs" clips, in which we see Joe's apartment, garage, and get to listen in on a call to his insurance company. This is a band that is not only makes great songs to listen to, but makes it fun to be a fan.


Live A Little, the band's sixth and most recent disc, is a collection of clever pop songs that are not easily forgotten. Pernice's smart lyrics and knack for melody have only gotten sharper with this latest release, if slightly condensed (the album clocks in at a neat 40 minutes.) One of the tracks, "Grudge F*** 2006", is a re-make of a song from Pernice's earlier band, The Scud Mountain Boys. According to Joe, it's a song he's "always wanted to take a second crack at." Other tracks include the standout single "Somerville" and the addictive "Microscopic View," that describes a past encounter with a "hard pressed woman, unimpressed, she'd heard it all." In all of his songs, Pernice's poetry background is evident (he has a MFA in poetry from UMass-Amherst, and a book Two Blind Pigeons) but his song about little-known author B.S. Johnson is the type of literary homage one would attribute to Morrissey at his finest.


From L to R: Peyton Pinkerton, James Walbourne,
Joe Pernice, Patrick Berkery (photo by Seth Kaye)

In anticipation of his upcoming appearance, Joe Pernice was accommodating enough to answer some questions via e-mail:

Maggie Baran: How has your fan base changed since Meat Is Murder and Discover A Lovelier You? Do you have more Gilmore Girls viewers, Sears customers, or fans of your incredible writing attending shows/writing fan mail?

Joe Pernice: Well, my fan base keeps growing from record to record. I imagine that all of those things you mention turn people on to the music, but it's tough for me to say exactly how people find out about us. Now it's fan email. Back when I was in the Scud Mountain Boys, and email was much less common, we'd get physical letters. On one hand, it's too bad that physical fan letters are a dying art form (at least where I'm concerned.) On the other hand, I don't have to clean up all that sparkly shit off my floor.

MB: Speaking of Meat is Murder, any update on the movie plans?

JP: Still plugging away at the script. The guy I'm writing it with landed a regular role on The Wire, and I have a new record coming out, so we're still hacking away at it. The script should be done very soon.

MB: Schubas is a very intimate venue. Do you see playing a larger space on the next tour (like the Metro, which holds 1100 people) or is it straight to the giant rock arenas next time around?

JP: We're going straight to DVD.

MB: The track "Grudge F*** 2006" "Out-Badfingers Badfinger" &mdash. Are there any specific bands you were influenced by while making Live a Little? And are there any bands you do not like to be compared to in particular?

JP: I am/have been for a while on a big David Bowie kick. I'm sure other musicians use this expression (though they all, like myelf, think they wrote it): Make that (insert instrument) sound Bowified. As for comparisons, I don't care. I'm not too aware of the comparisons because I don't read music press. And it's pretty rare for a fan to mention comparisons in person.

MB: For the sake of a particularly uppity Chicago record store employee who corrected us by asking if I meant "The PURRness Brothers?" could you phonetically spell your name for us?

JP: You're all wrong. It should be "Purr-Knee-Chay" if you're going to go full Italian. But when we got Ellis-Islanded, the pronunciation became "Purr-neece."

MB: Ashmont Records has been gracious enough to send us a copy of Two Blind Pigeons (Ashmont Books). Do you have a message about the book for our contest winner? (Readers: Keep an eye on the Transmission blog for your chance to win a copy.)

JP: Here you go: "Hey, How's it going? That's awesome! Really? No kidding. No way, me too! Holy shit, you didn't? Tell me you didn't. Wow, I never would have thought....But he/she was so...Oh, well. fuck 'em. You're better than that anyway."

MB: Finally, and slightly embarrassingly, you are my "husband approved crush" — safe and appropriate for a woman in her 30s. Does that make you uncomfortable, or do you get that all the time from fans?

JP: I am safe and appropriate for no woman.

The Pernice Brothers play tonight, November 9, at Schubas, with Elvis Perkins (son of Anthony Perkins and Berry Berenson) opening.

-Maggie Baran

About the author:
Maggie Baran is a Chicago native who is also a sucker for a balladeer.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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