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INTERVIEW: NICK PERRI of THE UNDERGROUND THIEVES – December 2018

| 9 January 2019 | Reply

 

According to a recent press release: “Following a series of social media teasers, The Underground Thieves — Nick Perri’s new, eclectic band — released its sixth single, “Fall,” today, with accompanying music video. This release follows Perri and The Underground Thieves’ heavy summer and fall touring schedule that saw them supporting acts like Slash, Greta Van Fleet, and Black Stone Cherry. The track also features fellow Thieves Justin DiFebbo (K-Floor) on Hammond Organ and Synth, Jimmy Gnecco (Ours) and Hannah Gernand on background vocals, and Kevin Rice (Christina Perri, Mike Posner) on drums. The single follows a plan laid out by Perri last January, for yearlong music releases: chapters of a 12-part story showcasing the singing and songwriting talents of its various collaborators.” We get Nick to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

ToddStar: Thank you so much for taking time out. I really appreciate it in the middle of the holidays.

Nick: Yeah, no problem. How are the holidays going over there?

ToddStar: Good, good. Digging life with family and friends through the holidays. You can’t beat it.

Nick: Yeah, agreed.

ToddStar: Well, there’s so much I would love to speak to you about. And I was able to talk to you years ago when you guys kind of came out of retirement, so to speak, with Silvertide when you guys did the couple of shows at The Machine Shop, which was an amazing weekend. But now you’ve got something really fun out there, The Underground Thieves. I’m one of the lucky guys that bought a signed copy of the Capistrano EP from your site.

Nick: Far out. Awesome, thank you.

ToddStar: What can you tell us about the material from the Underground Thieves that your fans may or may not grab the first or second time listening to it, Nick?

Nick: Well, for me, I kind of over the last five years, starting, I guess, with the Silvertide reboot that didn’t go the way we had planned, I just decided I’m just going to write songs. I’ve always done it, but I really made an effort to just stockpile as many great songs as I could. I always had this kind of vision for this big, for lack of better words, a big family band like the Allman Brothers, or Sly and the Family Stone, or the vibe that you get when you watch The Last Waltz, the band with all their friends. So I kind of just had this idea. I had the name in my pocket. And I had a collection of songs just kind of waiting for the right time. And, again, when things didn’t go well with Mount Holly, which was out of my control, as was Silvertide and SINAI, some of the other bands I’ve been in over the years, I said, “You know what? This is the time to do this project.” And The Underground Thieves, creatively, is kind of the culmination of my whole career in music and all the things that I’ve always wanted to do artistically and from a leadership business standpoint as well. The Underground Thieves, I’m calling it a music collective, and it is. But it’s essentially an umbrella that I can use to collaborate with anyone and everyone I’ve always wanted to make muss with. And through that as the vehicle, I can write, record, produce, and release the music that’s in my heart, that’s in my head, that I’ve written with my friends over the years. “Graveyard Moon” was written five years ago. And the next single that’s coming out in January, February at the latest, is going to be called “White Noise Chapter 7.” That was written two years ago. “No Decoy,” which was actually a Silvertide song, the last song Walt and I wrote together in the original days of Silvertide, that was written 13 years ago. So I’ve had all this music and it’s just waiting for the right vehicle to put it out. And now I’m finally in that place where I can do that. And less is good. I’m doing exactly what I want to do, with the people I want to do it with. And for the first time ever, I’m not in jeopardy of having anybody mess it up. I own the masters. I own 100% of the band, the rights to everything that we’re doing. And at least at this point in time, it’s 100% independent, and I can kind of steer the ship. So I’m feeling good about it, man. I’m feeling good.

ToddStar: Listening to it, I’ve got the EP so I’ve been able to absorb this in one piece instead of as you drop each track, and it seems so fluid, even though you may not have done it all at one time. What do you attribute that sound or that feel that doesn’t seem discombobulated?

Nick: Well, I’m really glad to hear you say that because it was a slight weight of mine that by doing the songs one at a time or in batches of twos or threes as we’ve sometimes been doing, that as we progress through the different chapters. And this is a 12-part story. The first year of the band, our objective was to release 12 songs. We only got 6 because we need up getting pretty busy, and touring, and had a lot of cool things happen that we weren’t expecting the first year. But the rest of the songs are done, and it’s just now a matter of getting them out in a timely way that makes sense and that’s digestible. So I guess it was a slight concern of mine that as we were releasing these songs whether there was going to be a continuity between them. I’m really glad to hear you say you think there is. I think there is, too. And I guess the only thing I could contribute to that is, there’s a common thread through all of it. And that is it’s coming from a place of what’s authentic to me musically and authentic to this group of people. And I’m playing guitar and I’m writing, or co-writing, all of it. So it’s kind of like, again for lack of better terms, I mean just to really simplify it, common thread through all of it for sure, a piece of it is that I’m paying guitar and doing the bulk of the writing. But all my friends, all my collaborators in this thing, were all operating from a similar place, which is just put the best music out that we can, write the best songs that we can, and make it really authentic to who we are. We’re not trying to be cool or trying to follow a trend or a fad. We all grew up listening to our parents’ records on vinyl. But of course, we’ve all been influenced by slightly more modern music as well. I grew up in the 90’s and there’s a range of influences, not from everybody. But I think the consensus is that we love old school, bluesy, earthy rock and roll. And that’s kind of whether on one side if it’s a little bit more influenced by The Eagles, or the other side it’s Fleetwood Mac, or the other side it’s Hendrix, it’s all kind of coming from a place of stuff that we’re really inspired by. And then it kind of takes on a life of its own. So I think maybe that’s what you’re hearing. And I’m certainly glad that you’re digging it and that it does feel like one thing. When the full record’s done and you’ve got 12 songs, I think it’s really going to be a much clearer picture. And I hope that you still feel the same way when there’s 12.

ToddStar: I can’t imagine it changing a whole lot. I’ve been a fan of your career from Silvertide. And you’ve done stuff, obviously with Christina, a lot of stuff with Perry Farrell, dabbled in Shinedown. Once you broke out with this, even after Mount Holly, what was it like from a perspective point for you to kind of shoulder a lot more responsibility? This is Nick Perri’s project. This isn’t a band. This is your project that is now a band. But when you kicked this off, everybody’s looking at you, man. What was that like, that pressure to kind of take what you’ve done and build on it?

Nick: To be honest, it felt incredibly natural. It just felt like everything I’ve done has led to this. So it didn’t feel like a huge leap. It didn’t feel really… I mean, the thing, if anything, that’s overwhelming is just the volume of work. And I don’t think a lot of people really know all the ins and outs of what it takes to write, record, produce, to direct, film, edit music videos. All that stuff is a lot. So the biggest challenge, I guess, has been finding the hours in a day. But it’s not creatively a challenge. It’s not artistically a challenge in any way. It just feels incredibly natural. It feels like what I should be doing, perhaps what I should have been doing even earlier. But I’m doing it now, so it feels good. It feels good. But, yeah. It’s a lot of work. That’s probably an understatement.

ToddStar: Well, you’ve been doing shows, some local stuff and things like that. And also the other day, I think, the Fall kind of hit. When you’re out playing these songs, how is the fan reaction when they’re hearing songs, maybe for the first time?

Nick: It’s been really good. We did a tour over the summer with Black Stone Cherry. And while I do know because I saw the audience, I saw Silvertide shirts in the audience, I know some people were aware of what we were doing. A lot of the audience was hearing about us for the first time. And I think the comment that stuck with me the most, that I’d hear night after night, was just when we took the stage, before they heard one note of music, to see 8 people, men and women get up on stage together, it had a presence that was really big even before the first note. And when we started playing, even if they didn’t know the songs, they just instantly loved the sound and the vibe. I mean, if you have a real Hammond B3 organ, and you’ve got male and female, and harmonies and bluesy rock and roll guitar, that kind of covers a lot of ground. So you could be a band of so many bands, and artists, and styles of music, and find something in this that you dig. You know what I mean? It’s a pretty broad spectrum of what could potentially excite somebody musically. So the comment that I kept hearing even if people didn’t know the songs, they felt like, oh man, it gave them a warm feeling, kind of like watching The Last Waltz. And that really made me feel like, “Yeah, I did it. I hit the nail on the head.” That’s the feeling that I wanted, where as if it feels like a celebration and everybody having a good time. And so even if they didn’t know the songs, they were able to kind of get into the spirit with us and celebrate with us. And for people who did, we just played this amazing hometown show, Philly show, two nights ago. All the songs that are released, people were singing. So that feels great. It’s one of the best feelings. That’s why I’m doing it. That’s why I’m not out playing with someone else and playing someone else’s songs. That’s why I wanted to play my own songs, because that feeling is just hard to describe. It’s wonderful.

ToddStar: We’ve talked about some of the names you’ve worked with. But when was the last time you were star struck, Nick?

Nick: I can tell you exactly. I was playing a show with a friend of mine, she’s an amazing artist named Dorothy. I don’t know if you’re familiar with her by any chance. She’s bad ass. She’s like a young Janis Joplin vibe. And her whole band, super close friends of mine…

ToddStar: I saw Dorothy when she was out with Greta Van Fleet.

Nick: Well, I actually did a handful of dates on the Greta tour as well. One of my closest friends plays guitar for her. Oh, and her whole band, they’re all great friends of mine. They’re all in my circle in California, LA musician friend circle. And so there were a handful of dates that I played with her this past year. And in between, like I said, the Underground Thieves stuff. And we ended up doing this one off show in Nashville, and I didn’t know this at the time, but I came to find out that I was sharing a dressing room with George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. I’m a huge fan. And he walked in the dressing room, and it was one of those moments. It doesn’t happen often, but I was just shocked. It was just so cool. One Nation Under a Groove was a big record for me. And I got to meet him. I got to tell him how much that record and some of his other records inspired me and still do inspire me. And he was really kind and courteous. He took a photo with me. But that was a few months ago and that was mega. That was mega. And that’s the last time it happened.

ToddStar: Well, the other side of that coin, what’s it like for you when you’re the George Clinton, and one of your fans come up, and you can just tell they’re star struck?

Nick: I mean, it’s really humbling. I don’t think about it often. I just think I’m a spiritual being on my quest here through time and space. And I don’t really think about that I’m somebody that someone else may idolize. That’s not how I operate. So when someone does come up to me, it takes me back a little bit. It’s like, “Oh, wow.” It’s humbling, it’s sweet. And I always just try to be accommodating and say hello. And some people who are into guitar more specifically, they’ll ask me questions. People write me a lot on social media, kids asking about what it takes to be in a band, and the music business, and guitar stuff. And I can’t respond to all of them, but I do my best to get back to as many people as I can, and try to be of service in some way.

ToddStar: I know you’ve got a lot going on with the holidays and everything else, but I’ve got a couple more for you. Professionally, Nick, if there was a moment that you could go back and redo, even if it had no change on the outcome, is there a professional moment you’d like another crack at?

Nick: Man, you’re good. That’s such a good question. Professional moment I’d like another crack at. Well, I can say one that I’d love to relive again would be, and it was probably one of the highlights of my, if not the definitive highlight of my career so far, and that was having the honor of sitting in and playing with Les Paul, the man, at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York. This would be like 2003 or ’04, I think. And I probably wouldn’t change anything because it went perfect. And then I had him sign my rib cage, and I had it tattooed over. And then a few weeks later, he actually called me to come back, which I thought was the biggest honor of my whole life because I obviously must have done something right. So I went back and played with him a second time and showed him the tattoo. He had me take my shirt off onstage and show the audience. He just got the biggest kick out of it. He was a really funny, sweet guy. But it was such a blur. I don’t even really remember musically what I played and I don’t know if it was very good. So if I could go back with the brain I have now, it would be kind of cool to see and to do it again. But that’s such an intense question because it’s so deep. Maybe I wouldn’t want to change anything at all about. Maybe it’s perfect as is. But that was certainly a great moment that I certainly wouldn’t mind being a fly on the wall for.

ToddStar: One last one for you. Having seen you live, and again, I was one of the blessed few that witnessed The Machine Shop shows, you’re such a character almost onstage. Because you’re in the moment, you’re in the music, everything else be damned. What performer do you attribute to some of that to where you knew you could just be yourself onstage and become one with the guitar, and with song, and with the audience, and just let everything go?

Nick: No questions asked, Angus Young. When I was younger, I went to eleven years of Catholic school, some of which was all boys and the shirt and tie, we had uniforms, the whole thing. And when I, as a young adolescent, discovered AC/DC, Angus Young, and he was already in the schoolboy outfit, I was like, “That could be me.” All I had to do was come home from school and put on a guitar, an SG, and I was Angus. It just really struck me and the way that he just seemed like he was, A) obsessed with and overcome with the guitar and rock and roll in those moments, especially the early stuff with Bon Scott. It’s just like he’s on fire. And so from a young age, that really grabbed me as far as someone to look up to from an energy, stage presence kind of thing. It just became part of, I think, some of my DNA. Now, as the years go on, I don’t want to say that I’m in any way slowing down, but there’s always some level of animation. Because like you said, when I start playing, it’s like the left side of the brain goes off in the moment, and I’m really moving and flowing with the music. But at this point in my life, I’m also really trying to play well. So I don’t necessarily climb onto things and jump off rafters like I may be used to. But there’s certainly still a level of animation just because I’m genuinely in love with music and what it does to me in the moment. But I’m also trying to balance that with really being the best player that I can be. And try to move people as well with just the raw power of performance.

ToddStar: Again, I can’t thank you enough for the time. I hope everyone runs out there because they can still go to the website and get the EP. They can go out and check out “Fall,” which dropped about a month ago. And hopefully, we can all look forward to some Underground Thieves dates in 2019, especially here in the Detroit area.

Nick: Absolutely. Well, I’m sure we’re going to be touring. And I’d really like to think that we will be in the area, and we will have new music coming throughout the year. I don’t know the exact release date of the next single, but it’s done. And it may be as early as February 1st. So that’s what I’m pushing for. So we’ll have new music coming out all year. And thank you for the years of support and enthusiasm for me and my crazy projects. I appreciate it very much.

ToddStar: Awesome. Well, thanks again, Nick. We wish you well. We wish you a safe, Happy New Year. And we’ll see you out on the road in 2019.

Nick: Thanks again, my friend.

THE UNDERGROUND THIEVES LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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