Photos for STACKEDD (c) Tina Ballew, CREEM Archive Photos (c) Creem Magazine
Let 2016 herein be known as the year of Gazebos. The hometown quartet moves into the national spotlight this year with their debut Die Alone release on Seattle’s favorite feminist label Hardly Art. Much of the credit goes to frontperson Shannon Perry whose instantly recognizable vocals and formidable presence scream “I was born a goddamn, rock star!” and she could not be a better choice to embody Mr. Iggy Pop.
Special thanks to Easy Street for the “smashing” records.
There is a sort of persona evolution when it comes to fronting an act ( Father John Misty comes to mind)-from style to attitude to stage presence, Can you talk a little about that process. How is it empowering? What are the challenges?
I’ve been the lead singer in all the bands I’ve been in except one, so for me, it feels pretty natural. But! I will say that this is the first time I’ve felt more comfortable being more confrontational with the audience. I like to look right at them. Being on stage is such a strange experience for an existentially-stricken person. I think I like to stare back at them looking at me. Looking in either direction is the same. We’re all people.
What is your songwriting process? Is it music before lyrics or vice versa?
Typically, TV makes instrumental demos and sends them to me, and I make the vocal melodies and lyrics on my own. Lyrics happen either before or during, depending on the song. I am very private about writing vocal parts and tend to whisper-sing things into my laptop at home (for fear of my neighbors hearing me). Making vocals is a very vulnerable process!
You are also a renowned tattoo artist. There is an obvious correlation between ink and rock ‘n roll but what are some of the ways your dual careers lend themselves to each other? Both works are highly visual mediums- how does your inking style and musical style correlate? Both are also male-dominated industries- How have you made headway in those boy’s clubs?
I guess my art comes in handy in regards to making artwork for band merch, but I don’t think there’s a correlation between my tattoos and music, other than the general feeling that nothing/everything matters and the need to scream about it.
As far as being a woman in male-dominated industries, I don’t think about it as much as I used to. I just do what I want to do. I’m really happy to be alive during a time when feminism and gender politics are on the table in a real way.
Who are some of the front people who have influenced you? Is there a musician or artist you draw inspiration from when you take the stage?
Hmmmm… I think I just try to focus on being real and honest when I’m on stage and trying to have fun with it. But I think David Bowie is rad. I also like Talking Heads lyrics a lot. I actually got into them just a couple years ago, and I thought David Byrne’s style was similar to my own. I like how he talks about simple things in regular life. He seems to have a great sense of humor.
Name three songs you wish you had written and why?
I’m not typically the kind of artist who wishes that I made things other people made. Art and music are things that come out of a person as a cumulative product of their experiences. If I would have written their song, I would have had to have had a different experience than the one I’ve had, and I can’t mess with that because it might be like when Marty McFly went back in time, and then his hand started to disappear while he was playing guitar on stage. What if I accidentally erased Etta James’ “Rather Go Blind” and then her historical story changed completely?? I like to be proud of what I make and be impressed by what other people make.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? What advice would you give young women who want to pursue either of your career paths? What piece of advice would you give yourself ten years ago?
I’m going to sound like a trite inspirational poster, but: Go with the flow. Follow your gut and tell the truth. It’s going to be OK.