For the dive-bar denizens that regularly inhabit the Columbus, Ohio shrines to scum-rock and thrift-fidelities, the marital bliss and artistic clash of couple Nick and Lula Perry has been their secret stash of sorts. As Grave Blankets, the duo operated in the arena of a full-band, with live drums and “traditional” modes of audience antagonizing. A debut single for Hozac materialized, shows were played and ears were flayed, but for the Perry clan, their post-grunge, pigfuck, visceral trash deserved even more primitive means of expression. By trimming down to a two-piece and employing analog synths and programmed beats, the connection between the two appears to be much deeper, a cathartic rattle oozing from the crawlspace and the darkest ends of the North Campus alleyways. Fey Gods shouldn’t be confused as an offshoot of the Blankets’ minimalist doom punk, though. Instead, this incarnation is a slow tortuous grind through grime and soot. Often times, like on “Untied” (the A-side of the Fey Gods’ Hozac debut single), what’s uncovered is quite beautiful, reeling in late-night acoustic lullabies, even if tragically so. But flip it and you’ll see a storm turned inside-out, the industrial guts of ghost-town factories chugging their last breath and Lula squealing her way into your heart, as “Bury Me Standing” claws for higher ground.
The best service you could provide for Fey Gods is to clamor for more. Living with your significant other certainly has its foibles, and for other married “rock” couples, it carries the scent of faux-romanticism. But for the Perrys it signifies a prolific streak of recordings, cobbled together in the basement, and eventually rattled on stage as ancient electronics gurgle in the shadows. According to my conversation with Lula, there’s an entire album of Fey God dirt-weed disturbia waiting in the wings. Regardless if anyone bites, they’ll trudge on, always preferring to dig for the sonic core of the earth in lieu of date night.
First thing’s first. Can you tell me what each of you does in the band?
Lula Perry: Nick plays guitar, does vocals, and operates the drum machine and synths. I handle synths, vocals, guitar, bass, and drums.
I’m interested in how you originally formed Grave Blankets? Were you in bands before that? What kind of band were you hoping for when you started Grave Blankets?
LP: We played music with a bunch of different friends, but Grave Blankets was the first real band. We also formed Sunshine/Moonshine Room years ago with our friend Brad, but he’s rarely in town to work on it and we haven’t played a show in a few years. We were mostly into playing mean and trashy and letting off steam.
What led to the break-up of Grave Blankets and the formation of Fey Gods?
LP: We had a run of drummers lasting only a few months at a time. I was unemployed and recording songs on a four-track while Nick was at work. Nick had also been writing songs that were really different. Something in our approach had changed drastically. When the last drummer checked himself into rehab right before we were scheduled to leave on tour, we decided it had to be easier to learn how to use a drum machine and a sequencer.
The biggest difference I see, other than the obvious, is that Fey Gods is even more primal and dark, more evil and less spirited, than Grave Blankets. What inspires such a gloomy demeanor?
LP: I think it was always there, but since Grave Blankets, there have been entire years of actual gloom for us to sort through. The unbending time-keeping of the drum machine doesn’t hurt the death-march vibe. We both use tones that sound evil and enjoy violating people aurally. We’ve been working on happier ideas lately, though. Nick wants to make people dance. I want to write music for the kids.
Being a married couple, I’m curious to know how you separate domestic life to getting together as a band and recording. Or is it all inseparable?
LP: It’s all intertwined. We might jump out of bed and decide to record a song at 4:00 am. And in many cases that will be the final recording. Our house was even chosen partially because of the potential for putting a recording studio in the basement.
Is it tough being a band with your significant other or is it ideal?
LP: It’s ideal for us. We can be brutally honest with each other. A song can be fun or angry or stressful or sad, and our way of figuring it out is not always going to suit a full band’s idea of how practice or a live show should go off. We explain ideas dreadfully from an outside perspective.
From Grave Blankets to Fey Gods you went from a full band format to almost exclusively electronic beats. Was that transition natural or was there a learning process involved?
LP: It was definitely a learning process. You lose a lot of natural intensity when you don’t have a drummer. I don’t know how to use our current drum machine. If I write the song, Nick figures out how to make it happen live. It’s definitely more intense for him. He’s now programming the machine and is usually the one recording and mixing the songs.
What’s influenced Fey Gods? Were there any particular records or artists that encouraged the mood and sound of Fey Gods?
LP: When the whole thing first began forming, we were listening obsessively to stuff like Throbbing Gristle, Glaxo Babies, Eddy Detroit, Family Fodder, and Bardot-era Gainsbourg. It was all really different from what we were doing in Grave Blankets. I remember being bummed we couldn’t write happy-sounding vocal harmonies like Tall Dwarfs, even when we tried. We bought this old broke-down tape echo, and it sounded so insane I played everything through it for a month. I think the sound mostly developed from suddenly making music with these machines we were really intrigued by and enamored with, but we had no interest in using them in a classic manner.
You’ve both been playing in Columbus for a long time now. Have you seen it evolve at all? How has it changed in those years?
LP: Columbus seems to fade and flourish on a two-year cycle. There are always good bands to see and play with, just less attention-getting on the off-years.
What are the advantages and pitfalls of living here?
LP: It rules to lug your amp through three feet of snow in a windstorm to a bar with spotty electricity. It’s cheap and the people are pretty great. The economy and the general lack of interest in less-than-popular music can be hard to deal with. Also, nobody wants to come here during the off-years, but during the flourish you would think Jesus had set up camp and started a band.
Fill in the blanks:
In 10th grade I was listening to ____ doing _____ in the _____ with ____, hoping to one day become ____.
LP: In 10th grade I was listening to Black Sabbath doing shots of Jim Beam in the back of a hotwired van, hoping to one day shill DVDs instead of VHS... but then Blockbuster shut that down and I had to find this new dream you are witnessing.
Nick was two hours south listening to crickets, playing 12-bar blues in the basement with nothing but time, hoping to one day become a person of color. Success!
When will a full album of Fey Gods come out?
LP: We have recordings and artwork finished for an LP, which we will probably end up having to release ourselves when we have the funds. We are estimating 2020.