An Interview with PERHAPS

Perhaps

I remember a couple of years back in 2012, when a new band called Perhaps was introducing themselves on Prog Archives, looking for people to review their recent  debut, Volume One. I gladly took on the offer and was impressed by what I heard; although there was a firm rooting in progressive rock’s traditional aesthetic and scope, their sound was sporadic and distinctly modern. Although their name stayed in my memory, I would have never expected to see them tour through my city. Perhaps played Vancouver with Acid Mothers Temple. A big thanks to Perhaps for inviting me to the show and taking the time to answer some questions afterwards.

Well, it’s quite a surprise to see you guys playing Vancouver. I remember when I first heard of you guys on the Prog Archives forums some years back sharing your music, and it’s pretty crazy to be seeing you guys here in the flesh! How did you get set up with this tour with Acid Mothers Temple?

It’s pretty random; it’s cool though! We’ve been playing alot of shows, touring alot. We made friends with Cotton Casino who is one of the original members of Acid Mothers Temple. She ended up moving to America [from Japan] and we played a show with her. The connection grew from there I guess.

One of the things I was just talking to someone earlier about was how different Acid Mothers Temple is from your guys’ sound, but it does seem to appeal to the same listenership. Both are experimental, but with Perhaps you’re quite frantic and all over the place; with Acid Mothers Temple they’re painting a more laid back tapestry with their music. Do you think it’s a good fit for two bands of different approaches to be playing together?

They’re definitely the most ‘like us’ band we’ve played with. I think we were saying the other day that we use some of the same tools that they do; we just apply them differently. We’re drawing from the same well! We’ve got a lot in common but we’re definitely doing different things, which is the best way to have a bill. You don’t want every band to sound the same, especially with a band like Acid Mothers Temple; they’re so influential and you’re going to end up with an opener that sounds exactly like them; it won’t impress anyone nearly as much as the real deal.

That’s one thing I’ve really noticed with this show; people were talking about how good Acid Mothers Temple after their set, but there were just as many people talking about how good Perhaps was.

You never know, it’s hard to gauge if people are engaged while we’re playing; there are no breaks for applause, we’re just playing one long song all the way through, you just have to play through til the end and hope people are still there at the end.

That’s something I’ve found really intriguing about your studio work actually, that you have no breaks in the music or track splits. It’s just basically “Here’s Volume One, enjoy!” [Laughs] There’s only two tracks in your discography thus far! What’s your reason behind that; is that a natural thing or are you aiming for it to be interpreted purely as a full-length album rather than individual songs?

Well, they are songs. “Volume One” is a song on the album “Volume One”, “Volume Two” is a song on the album “Volume Two”, you know? Whether or not that will continue is a good question! “Volume Three” might be another really long song; from the beginning we’ve always thought of it as songs, we have a set, like you’d play live.

I’ve always thought of it as “This is a piece of music” and there are some parts that are through-composed and others that are improvised. I can’t speak for everyone but the way I see these two albums is that they’re recordings of these pieces of music. Every time we play it live it’s a little different. We recorded everything live on the album. That was the idea; we wanted to do something true to itself. One unedited take.

That’s not something you often see in rock music, much less prog where they have their notebooks and pencils, trying to get every detail fine-tuned! It’s a lot more common in jazz music; mistakes or organic surprises are celebrated and I think that’s something that sets Perhaps apart from other bands.

We really appreciate that philosophy. If you take the same material and record it differently.

Is that a challenge, recording it like that?

The way this band was, it took so long just to be able to play it all the way through in one go that by the time we recorded we were already pretty well rehearsed; personally for me that was one of the easiest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. Two days. The first day we recorded the first half, second day we recorded the second half! No complications, no arguing over parts. “This is what it is”, you know.

It made me nervous at first because it was so different, but now I wouldn’t want to record it any other way.

Perhaps

Is it more of a challenge compositionally? It’s pretty daunting to approach a forty minute composition rather than a collection of songs.

It all starts with Jim, then we add onto whatever he gives us. We either say “Yeah that’s good” or do something completely different on top of it.

As a vocalist, over the past seven years and playing with alot of experimental, sporadic bands, it’s really fucking fun to sing over a piece of music that offers you that much freedom; everything changes constantly. It’s a puzzle on top of a puzzle. I think we all have that job; here’s this whole world in front of me, I’m going to land on top of it from another dimension and see what happens.

This general direction of being sporadic and spontaneous; is that the decision of just one person or a result of the whole?

I had alot of this music written before the band was started, and I knew these guys would be interested in playing this sort of thing so it was really easy. We worked it out; it was easy as that! We treated it as if it was another song and it worked out; it wasn’t some daunting task.

I had seen these guys play live a few times before I joined them, and it didn’t make any sense at all to me until I had joined the band.

Talking about the vocals, from my own experience with songwriting I’ve actually found it’s easier to write melodies over instrumentation that’s static rather than all over the place, where you’re constantly having to skirmish with instruments that are trying to take up the spotlight.

At a certain point, I think it flips! When you have progressions that have been used so many times, it’s more difficult to be original. When you have progressions that are angular, constantly changing or weird, now you can try an idea and immediately it sounds new because it’s not repeating and much less common. It’s like being strapped into a rollercoaster. When I am writing vocals over a rolling piece of music, I write from beginning to end; that’s really the only way you could write for a band like this. I have no idea where the end is going to be until I get there!

One thing I was always wondering is the band’s name: Perhaps! There are a lot of one-word band names that feel really effective and have a mysterious aura about them. Perhaps is definitely one of those names. What was the idea behind choosing that name; is there a story behind it?

I dunno man. There’s a band called Yes, we’re called Perhaps. We couldn’t be No! [Laughs]

Perhaps

Well even Yes hated their own name; that was just a stand-in name chosen by Peter Banks until they could think of something better!

Jim had Perhaps long before we started playing together. A few of us were playing in another band with a different singer and the singer left and Jim asked if we would like to play this piece of music with him. We didn’t want to call it Perhaps; that was Jim’s old band. But we couldn’t think of anything else, and we’ve played five tours since then so it would be dumb to change of.

I get compliments all the time from people telling us “Man, you played really great, but your band name is terrible!” At least we’re not called Dolphin in the Urethra. Everyone’s got their own stupid joke about our name: “Perhaps that’s a good name” or “Perhaps I’ll go to your next show,” and every time we have to pretend like we haven’t heard it a million times before!

We played once in France, and after the show a guy came up to me and said (in very broken English): “I like you guys, don’t like your band name.”

I had another guy in France come to me and ask “You just played right? I hated you guys!” [Laughs] In my country that’s an insult; I’m walking away! [Laughs]

We have the last good band name. All the one-words are taken up.

One last question; what advice would you give to other musicians playing this sort of music? Or even just getting a band together and keeping it going?

Listen to as much music as you possibly can. Do your research. If you like a record, look it up and read everything you can about it. There is so much music out there that is ignored. If you are going to start a band and be serious about it, you need to understand where you’re coming from. You need to read about what you’re listening to and listen to it seriously. It comes down to the fact that a lot of the bands that play the sort of music that we’re into- be it progressive or psychedelic or whatever else- they don’t understand where this music comes from. They haven’t heard “Close to the Edge”, or “In the Court of the Crimson King”, you need to understand how they came up with these records, what was going on in their heads when they were making it. Do your research.

At the same time, there’s even more bands I think that have made it their habit to look purely to the past, and that’s why there are bands in so-called ‘progressive’ rock like The Flower Kings and Transatlantic; bands that have earned surprising numbers of fans, but bands nonetheless that have no place in this decade in my opinion. 

By definition, progression means moving forward. But you need first to know what came before.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me; was really cool to get to talk to you guys. Hopefully you come back again soon.

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