Portland-based indie-rock outfit Ages and Ages made national headlines in 2012 when President Barack Obama added the group’s song “No Nostalgia” to his campaign playlist. But the band had started making music - and building a loyal fan base – in the Pacific Northwest long before that.
Founded in 2009 by Tim Perry (vocals), Rob Oberdorfer (bass, percussion, vocals), Graham Mackenzie (percussion, vocals), Kate O'Brien-Clarke (violin, percussion, vocals), Lisa Stringfield (vocals, percussion), Liz Robins (vocals, percussion) and Daniel Hunt (drums, percussion, vocals), it took two year before the band released their debut, Alright You Restless. The result was a well-received collection of raw choral pop tracks that earned them critical praise. In 2011, they signed a record deal with Partisan Records and they have since undertaken several national tours of the United States.
But after nearly two more years of studio work, the band is heading back to the road – playing in support of their upcoming release Divisionary (March 2014). Examiner recently caught up with vocalist and guitarist Tim Perry to discuss the new music – and what fans can expect from the group’s live set.
For Alright You Restless the band recorded the album "almost entirely live" with seven voices singing into a single microphone. Did you do the same process for Divisionary?
Tim Perry: Recording wise, it was very similar. I would do my main vocals usually separately, sometimes not. If there was a lead vocal, I would do that separately. But then the group vocals would be sung all together. So like, any harmonies, or any counter-melodic stuff that’s going on, would be done around the same mike.
The main difference was, with the first record, we recorded all the vocals on one mike while the music was playing through the monitors, There were no headphones being used, so there was a lot of bleeding on the vocal track. On the second album, we were all wearing headphones, so that way you can’t hear the instruments blasting near the vocal mike.
Why did you decide to switch that up?
PERRY: Well, we wanted to still maintain sort of that live, vibrant, in the moment feel. And we wanted that element of imperfection, surprise and spontaneity to be there. But we also wanted to be a little cleaner.
How Is Divisionary sonically different than Alright You Restless?
PERRY: Personally, I think Divisionary is a little bit darker. I think it grapples a little bit more with the some of the struggles of the group dynamic. And the metaphor that we started on the first album continues on the second, but things are getting a little darker.
Sonically, I think it’s a heavier sound. I think that it’s a little less party, everybody shaking things at once. I think its delivery is darker, but I don’t see it as a dark album at all. It’s just more serious, more aware of itself.
Was there a conscious decision to go darker, or did that evolve naturally?
PERRY: I think both. I think it happened naturally, but I also think the whole album is about being conscious of what’s happening. And, you know, sometimes it’s like the chicken and the egg. It’s like, the consciousness – what we know we’re trying to do [and what we are actually doing]. I think that’s the album right there. Trying to actualize ourselves, but also understand who we actually are. It’s part of what I like about the album. It’s like a colossus of finding our identity.
With so many voices contributing how do you find focus in songwriting?
PERRY: That’s definitely a struggle for any band, even if it’s just three people. And in ways, it’s easier with a larger band because there’s that bigger group mentality. Where we just inherently understand that if it’s about each and every individual, then we are going to have problems. So it’s kind of understood that there’s like a group-think, group dynamic. I think the way we deal with it is that we just try and be communicative and understanding – and listen to each other. And usually that works, and sometimes it doesn’t - like any relationship. I guess, ultimately, we have the same goal. We’re doing this because it’s fun and we like it – and it’s enjoyable to us.
What are you most looking forward to about getting back on the road?
PERRY: I think we’re really looking forward to moving forward. I mean, this album has been done for a long time, and it’s been a long, arduous process. It’s difficult sometimes when you’re just talking about playing music as opposed to playing music...and that’s been kind of frustrating for us. We’ve felt a little stagnant the past bit of time. So honestly, we’re just stoked to be getting out there and playing music, and being ourselves. And getting back out there with our people.
Do you have any goals for 2014?
PERRY: I think we’d just like to see where it takes us. We just want to get out there and play with other bands and have a good time. I don’t think anybody is expecting to get rich off this. I mean, we just want to do what we do.
Keeping that in mind, what can fans expect at your show in Seattle?
PERRY: Well, I think they can expect that we’re going to get up there and sing our hearts out, like we always do. We’re going to get up there and be horse by the end of our set.
Ages and Ages play at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 19, at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle (with Typhoon). $16.50 adv./$18 DOS