How Smoking Leads To Black Lung

There is always some luck involved in life. Little twists of fate and unexpected turns in the road that help determine not just where you're going, but where you're supposed to be. When Adam Bird went into the studio with producer Jesse Cannon to work on a demo in 2004, it wasn't intended to be a proper album, certainly not with a band. Then, it started to sell.

After the recording was finished, Bird hooked up with another guitarist, Eric Schnare, and bassist Brock Napoli to become Perfuma. They began performing live and the album was a hot seller at their shows, along with being a best-seller on In early 2006, that album, "Humans Are Dangerous," gained retail distribution at Hot Topic stores in New Jersey and New York, becoming a best-seller there as well.

Also in the beginning of 2006, Perfuma gained its final current band member with drummer Matt Mesiano. They met Mesiano during the recording of a follow-up project, "The Black Lung Sessions". An Internet-only release, "The Black Lung Sessions," features Dave Leto of Rye Coalition behind the kit as well as guest vocals from Ben Jorgensen of Armor For Sleep.

Perfuma has been included on several artist compilations and earned a spot at the 2005 Great Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park, NJ. With "Black Lung" now available on PureVolume and their Myspace page, there they recently debuted their latest single, "Bellville," Perfuma continues to built its fan base by touring locally and extending along the East Coast and westward. Their hot live shows have brought in bigger and bigger audiences each time they perform, and they are starting to gather both local and national press recognition.

Chorus and Verse interviewed Bird and Schnare about the band's latest digital release, and a piece of big news they'll soon be announcing, as well as their opportunity to perform at the latest CD release party for Sonic Youth.

In June 2006, you played at Sonic Youth's CD release party, which has to be the ultimate piece of indie cred. How did the band get hooked up with that gig, and do you feel that Perfuma's sound relates to the unique style that Sonic Youth has developed throughout their career?

AB: We got hooked up with that show by a friend of ours. The organizers thought we would bring a nice level of chaos to the show, which we did. Our sound relates to Sonic Youth's strangely thru the songwriting. It's something I don't think they get enough credit for, but on the albums where they were writing standard songs, such as "Goo" and "Dirty," the melodies were amazing and I draw from them quite a bit. Though I personally have also taken a lot of cues from Thurston Moore's guitar playing style and used it in my own.

ES: Sonic Youth is a band that has shaped mine and Adam's life significantly so there are aspects to Sonic Youth that we definitely draw from when it comes to Perfuma.

The band just performed a big Halloween show at the Bloomfield Ave Cafe in Montclair, New Jersey - with the whole band dressed in drag. Did you learn anything about yourselves being on stage in dresses, and did you find that it made the music any more aggressive?

AB: (Laughs.) We learned how to bite the bullet and just do it. I was definitely having reservations about doing it right before we went on, but as soon as I saw Eric get into his dress I knew that it was going to be awesome. And I don't think it made the music more aggressive, it just made us feel more free up there. Please excuse the pun. (Laughs.)

ES: Everyone was interested to see how people would react to it and the wonderful thing was it made for a very relaxed environment.

Your debut CD, "Humans Are Dangerous," was a surprise sales success, yet you chose you release your follow-up, "The Black Lung Sessions," as an Internet-only release. Was that purely an economic decision, or do you feel that the advantages of digital music distribution are just too compelling to bother with a manufactured package?

AB: Well, the "Black Lung Sessions" was more of a demo that we wanted to get out there while we figured out our next move. But I think that digital music distribution will be the norm within five years. Though I think it's going to go thru a few changes before it reaches that level.

Do you feel that the time is coming when a band won't need to release a CD to achieve national success? While there have certainly been a large number of bands who are breaking on the Internet and gaining huge fan bases on Myspace, most of them still release albums and use the Internet to gain access to traditional means of promotion, such as radio and MTV. Is the CD just another form or merch now, or will bands someday be able to make a living just off iTunes revenue?

AB: Well, I was hinting at that in my last answer; bands definitely won't be able to make a living off iTunes revenue. I think that what will happen is essentially what Napster is doing but on a huge level. Blanket licensing I think is the term. I don't think CDs will go away, however. I imagine them staying around longer than anyone thinks, but just not as necessary as they are now.

ES: We have this discussion all the time in the band and we're very excited to see what new medium songs will be released in the future. Companies like iTunes and Napster are what I consider the grandfathers of the digital music age and there will be new ways for music to be purchased. Right now, though, there is no way a band could survive by just selling songs online. I feel that a band will always have some type of medium to sell. It just may change in the future.

You have guest appearances on "The Black Lung Sessions" from Dave Leto of Rye Coalition and Ben Jorgensen from Armor for Sleep. Have you made friends with other bands that you've toured with, and does it surprise you that bands who have broken nationally are still willing to lend their talents to other bands' projects?

AB: First, lemme say that having Dave Leto play drums for us was an experience I'll never forget. He's so talented that it's nearly intimidating; and since he played with us, he and the guys in his band have been amazing to us and really taken us under their wing in an inspiring way. And Ben has been my friend for numerous years and we've spent a lot of time playing guitar together and talking about ideas, so it was great to finally do something together. With that said, we've become friends with a lot of the bands we've toured and played random shows with. It's natural to bond with other bands you meet on the road ['cause] you can bond with each other ['cause] you're both living like animals. And I think that is why bands are so willing to help out other bands, ['cause] most of them have been through the trenches and know what it's like to be trying harder than you ever have tried before and have no one pay attention.

ES: Working with someone like Dave Leto was an amazing learning experience. He brought a lot to the studio and we'll never forget that. But just working with other musicians opens a lot of doors. It's wonderful to be around people who share the same goal as you.

Both of your albums were produced by Jesse Cannon (The Cure, Hot Rod Circuit). How did you first become acquainted with Jesse and what made you want to work with him again on "Black Lung"?

AB: I first became acquainted with Jesse through the recently-deceased NJ band, Madison. Jesse and I had a lot of similar ideas and when we made "Humans Are Dangerous". I played him a lot of songs I was working on at the time and we in a way began working on "Black Lung" then.

What does a good producer bring to a recording session and what advice would you give to a band looking to record their first album or demo and is trying to hook up with a producer?

AB: A good producer brings a lot of ideas to the table that apply to the band he or she is working with, but, just ['cause] a producer has a lot of ideas doesn't mean that they are right for your songs. And for a band looking to do their first demo, I'd say look at the work certain producers have done and work with someone who has done things similar to your style so they understand what you're doing. Just keep in mind that when you work with a producer they are in a way becoming a band member during the session, so look at it in the same way you would look at a potential new member.

ES: Having someone who's job it is to make your songs sound the best they can is a tool that is invaluable to bands. It's very important to work with someone you can communicate with and that has an open mind. Working in a studio is very different for a lot of musicians. Most of the stuff that sounds amazing live sometimes doesn't sound that great on tape, or vice versa. That's why having someone around who can help you get an idea out of your head really pays off in the end.

Let's talk about the recording process for "The Black Lung Sessions". How long were you in the studio and how much time did you tend to work on each track? Were tracks generally recorded live with the entire band in the room together, or were tracks cut separately and then mixed? Do you enjoy being in the studio and working out ideas, or did you have something in mind that you wanted to achieve and kept working until you had it?

AB: We tracked each instrument separately, and it's hard to say how much time was spent on each song ['cause] we would do all the drums, then all the guitars, then all the bass, etc. I really don't like coming up with ideas in the studio. I would rather have them planned out ahead of time so I can spend some time deciding if it's a good idea or not.

ES: Writing in the studio is something that you can't avoid but it's good to prepare before hand. Know the songs you're going to record and have a lot of ideas and open ears when it comes time to track.

Your website mentions some big news that the band is planning to announce later this month. Want to drop any hints about what's going on or clue fans in on when and where it'll be announced?

AB: It involves the words "NEW" and "ROCK" and "MEGALODON".

You have a few shows coming up in Maryland and Brooklyn. Are there any other shows or upcoming projects that you'd like fans to keep a look out for? Are there any recording plans to follow-up "Black Lung" or to tour outside of the Mid-Atlantic area?

AB: Yes, yes and yes.

What are the band's long-term plans? Do you anticipate working with a major label eventually, or do you see the band developing on its own? Do you hope to expand your touring schedule or pursue other means of promoting your music, such as placement in television or film?

AB: We don't have any immediate plans to work with a major label, but we will see what happens throughout 2007. We will definitely be expanding our touring schedule greatly next year. And as far as having our songs used in TV and film, we are definitely open to it, and it's something we all agree could be a cool avenue to go down.

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Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing.