Rory Approved Music

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This is a little piece about a band that Rory likes and has a poster of in her room – the Pernice Brothers.

“A great pop song has an intangible magic about it. It echoes in your head as if the riff were already there, waiting for someone to make it melody. It’s an effect akin to that old Michelangelo quote about how when he was sculpting, the sculpture was already there and he was just getting it out of the block of marble. Many a musician has been lucky to write a single hook, which is why it’s remarkable and notable that Joe Pernice has spent the past 10 years, whether with the Scud Mountain Boys, the Pernice Brothers, or various side projects writing classic pop songs that have an air of familiarity to them, where they sound like the prettiest song that you’ve never heard.

Then again, the lofty heights of Michelangelo don’t always apply to something as ephemeral as pop music. Really, music can just boil down to the story of boys, girls, and sex, as summed up by Pernice: “Most bad poetry, there’s no chance that it’s going to get you laid. But with bad music, you might. At the end of the day, whether you’re 21 or 19 or 17, you opt for the chance of sex. 19. What am I talking about, 30? Same thing.”

“My ex is 30 and he’s still in two bands,” I add.

“There you go,” answers Pernice. “He’s a bad poet.”

In an April interview, he mentions that his music career started as a side project while out in Amherst, Massachusetts, pursuing his MFA in poetry. He was on track to be an English professor, and mentions that “there was a poet at UMASS, James Tate, who was really encouraging and I saw how he could do it [be a poet and professor] and I thought ‘Wow, you can be a teacher, write new stuff, work for 25 weeks, 35 weeks a year.’ But being a professor was really not my main goal — it was to write and to figure out a way to live.” Speaking of his time in grad school, he says, “I really started to write songs and it’s my medium. It’s the one that speaks, it’s immediate, and it happens for me. There were a lot of bands out in western Massachusetts at the time and it was a pretty vibrant music scene. There was also a lot of crossover between people in the writing program who were also musicians. My main goal was to finish school and I just got into songwriting kind of feverishly and that sort of took the front — I made three records while I was still a student, actually.”

His reputation as a depressive American Morrissey precedes him — while the Pernice Brothers sell a shirt on their site that says “I hate my life” and his Morrissey inspiration extends to the 33 1/3 book he wrote about the Smiths’ album Meat Is Murder — his lyrics can be dour but the music is always achingly pretty. They’ve even received shout-outs on the most musically discerning of television shows The Gilmore Girls, where Alexis Bledel’s Rory has a Pernice Brothers poster in her dorm room.”