Whatever happened to the Band Perry? After the hit sibling country trio made a controversial move into pop, the threesome suddenly disappeared completely off the radar, with even their social media accounts turning into ghost sites about a year ago.
“Yes, it’s been the great mystery of our time,” says singer Kimberly Perry, maybe only half-kiddingly. “It’s like The Band Perry and Bigfoot — do they exist?”
One of those two enigmas becomes clear today. Variety can exclusively reveal that the Band Perry will return this Friday with a five-song digital EP, “Coordinates,” the first time they’ve released anything greater than a single at a time since their sophomore album, “Pioneer,” five and a half years ago. It’s on their own Artrat imprint, which they started after severing ties first with country label Republic Nashville/Big Machine and then Interscope, to whom they were briefly signed for a pop deal.
The executive producer on the new music is legend Rick Rubin, and his participation serves as a private if not public reunion, since six years ago he produced an entire album for the group that was shelved by Big Machine. And if you thought the mixed reactions to their going pop were going to send them back to country radio with their tails between their legs, you guessed wrong… very wrong. The sound of “Coordinates” is so unapologetically electronic it makes their previous couple of unabashedly pop singles sound like vintage Carter Family sides by comparison.
“We’re just so proud of everything that we’ve spent the last little while building,” Kimberly Perry tells Variety. “And I think the other pervasive feeling is freedom to put out music in the way that we’ve always desired to — not just the sound of it, but even the construction how to get it out quickly and directly to the folks whose ears we’re reaching for” — meaning they plan on releasing EPs in this vein rather than full albums in the near term. “I think so much of the dark period, if you will, was time spent constructively, and I really feel like everybody’s going to love it.”
The five songs mark a departure even from their most recent departure, as the big, anthemic overtones of the transitional singles “Live Forever,” “Comeback Kid” and “Stay in the Dark” have given way to subtler, more personal material, the electronic trappings notwithstanding.
“We were listening to a lot of very minimal but big sounds, so there was a lot of German electronic music we were listening to,” says Kimberly. “Honestly, we dipped back into ‘Yeezus’ by Kanye. Trent Reznor has this project that’s called How to Destroy Angels… and of course we’re big Mike Dean fans as well” — Dean being one of the outside producers they met with and got advice from before deciding to do it themselves, with Rubin as guru. “We went and studied a lot of that music, and on the way to the studio in the morning, we would be playing very specific things to inspire the mood of the day. And so I think that the sound on the project is sort of like minimal brutalism — which, yes, was absolutely what we were feeling in our lives,” she notes, alluding to not only a battery of professional changes but a recent divorce in her life. “It was like, yeah, there’s some brutal things happening, but we’re all just moving toward simplicity and impact.”
Adds Kimberly, “We did talk about, what are the pieces of ourselves that we see in this music that we saw in both of our LPs and country…? One thing that I feel proud of is that even with all of the crazy sounds, like bringing in a Moog and some 808s and some drum programming, is that the song always remains. That’s been some really great continuous advice from Rick, too, as we challenge different parts of the song to make them better: Hey, does this one hold up on guitar and piano?”
Reuniting with Rubin wasn’t the only big switch the Band Perry has made behind the scenes while everyone was wondering whether they were sequestered with Sasquatch. They went through a management change last year, too, hooking up with Phil McIntyre’s Philymack after a long association with Coran Capshaw at Red Light and country stalwart Bob Doyle before that.
See the cover art for “Coordinates” below.