Man of Steel

Joe Pernice flashes two personas. The one on record has the quiet heart.

Pernice got his start recording with a band called the Scud Mountain Boys, and when he later formed the Pernice Brothers and signed a deal with Sub Pop, the label released an album called Overcome By Happiness and reissued several of his older records and some unreleased material. Pernice decided then to pull out of the deal and form his own label, Ashmont, which has released the past two Pernice Brothers records. "Sub Pop was like a bad flu," says Pernice. "Everyone's got it. But you do eventually become immune to it, or more like a tolerance."

One rather unusual aspect to the Joe Pernice story is, that, in the midst of spreading his indie-rock ambiguity and intensity, he's writing a short novel, due in a couple months.

"I received a rather dubious phone call from Continuum Books one afternoon, from someone wondering whether I might be interested in writing something on the Smiths," he says. "They're publishing a series of books about influential albums, and they suggested I write about The Queen is Dead. But I didn't feel like writing any kind of critical book, like a straight rock criticism type of book, so I said how about a piece of fiction that would show the importance of that particular record in someone's life. So I wrote up a little treatment and they accepted it. And I didn't want to write about that particular album. I suggested Meat is Murder, and they agreed to that as well. There's like 13 or 14 books in the series, but I think mine is the only one that's taken this kind of an angle.

You're a total mess: The Pernice Brothers cope with life on Yours, Mine & Ours.
You're a total mess: The Pernice Brothers cope with life on Yours, Mine & Ours.

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"It was hard at first to get motivated cause it takes up a lot more time than writing songs, which is sitting around playing guitar, and I only had a couple of months to work on it. So the hardest part was the discipline sitting in front of the computer. But once I got in the swing it was fun. Making records after all," he adds, "is a collaborative effort. It's a lot less lonely."

Still, he was a little intimidated by the project. "If I was actually deciding I wanted to be a writer instead of a musician, I'd probably be shaking in my shoes," he says.

As for his immediate plans, Pernice is determined to tour through Thanksgiving, possibly longer than that if the tour goes well, and then get back to his songwriting and recording. He also has an idea about a musical he wouldn't discuss in detail.

Pernice and his band have stopped for a spell along the road, and he admits that they listen to few records while traveling. "We do have some Smiths, The Cure, the dB's, a few other things, but most of the time we just read," he says. He then takes a moment to admire his brand new Econoline E350 extended-cab van, which he claims is in immaculate shape. He jokes that he's trying to keep it pristine so that he can get a good price for it eventually. What about an SUV? "Never," he says sternly. "You might catch me under one, but never in one."

Let's hear it for the tough guy.

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