Singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas is glad his friend’s “nonsense” choice of Myspace name stuck with him and he didn’t go with a moniker more “serious and pretentious”. After all, a rose by any other name would sound as sweet. KYRA SHENNAN spoke to the Seattle native about his fourth album No Shape, grunge and how sexuality plays a part in his music.
Hadreas believes the division between regular life and his musical alter ego Perfume Genius has become more defined in that the music videos and performances feel like “a whole different world that’s almost like a sci-fi, its very fun and very satisfying.”
Putting his all into creating his music now he says, “I feel 200% myself (when performing). I don’t necessarily feel like that day-to-day.”
The contrasting sounds in No Shape can be attributed to Hadreas’ inner mystification.
“I was trying to write about how I truly felt, it was more confusing and jumbled so I thought it was right to leave that in the songs,” he says. “The songs that were warmer and more joyous I wanted to have some kind of dissonance underneath and the songs that are more overtly melancholy, I still wanted them to have some hope.”
No Shape features myriad instruments and elements that take the listener on a journey not only through the album, but the intricacies of each individual song. The album offers a buffet of sounds, leaning towards a real classy joint that’s dimly lit and decadent.
“I wanted the album to be like a trip.” he says. “I didn’t want it to be lost in one genre or to shift between genres from minute to minute.”
While Die 4 U is a nod to the late Prince (rock in peace), Hadreas regards Bruce Springsteen as inspiration to make an American anthem “dude song”, a sound he seems to encompass especially in first single Slip Away.
Hadreas wanted to make music that felt like the kind he grew up listening to, such as Bjork and PJ Harvey – music that changed his life. “I wanted it to feel as magical and as transforming as those albums were for me,” he says. “I used to think that I could never make anything even near that good so I don’t feel like I even tried, but this one I was like – fuck it, Im going to make an amazing album.”
With the help of acclaimed producer Blake Mills (Alabama Shakes, Fiona Apple, John Legend) the latest record is testament to his affirmation. Hadreas felt a real connection as soon as he wrote to Mills.
“I felt very trusting that he would know the spirit and the soul of the songs; he understood where I was coming from (and) he’s also technically so capable.”
The relevance of sexuality in his personal life also plays an obvious role in his music. “In the beginning I didn’t feel as political because I didn’t think it was going to be heard, now I realise it’s a deliberate choice to make but it feels like an important one,” he says.
He muses on Rufus Wainwright being a beacon. “Beyond him being gay, his voice was so gay and that was really important for me – to hear an actual gay voice,” Hadreas laughs.
He agrees it’s far better now with the internet giving all kinds of people a platform. “People can just put their music up, voices that wouldn’t have been heard before because there’s some old white dude manning the forts or whatever!”
Being a resident of Tacoma, just outside of Seattle, Hadreas recognises the cities musical culture as a contributing factor in his own music.
“Everybody still champions grunge,” he says. “It’s overcast and gloomy which I think lends itself to some more melancholy shit, more introspection I guess.”
Hadreas was chosen to help curate the line-up for The Netherlands music festival Le Guess Who (check out the awesome line-up HERE). In addition to this contribution and his tour promoting No Shape, there’s even talk of making a perfume. What might a perfume by Perfume Genius smell like?
“I want it to be very connected to this album,” he says. “I have a fantasy of an enchanted forest, a witchy forest. Like the songs – deceiving almost, warm but underneath there’s something a little more supernatural and dark.”
Sounds like a scent I’d like to get around me.