Joe Pernice has published a book of poetry, a popular novella based on The Smiths' Meat Is Murder for the 33 1/3 series, and "B.S. Johnson" the most anthemic offering on the Pernice Brothers' latest, Live a Little pays tribute to a little-read English writer who died by his own hand.
But be not afraid. For although Joe Pernice is likely the most literate songwriter in this or any other alt-rock valley, there will be no pop quiz. Because, as it turns out, you may know Pernice's trenchant tunes better than the man himself.
"I don't listen to my own records," Pernice says by phone the day before beginning a six-week cross-country jaunt. "I haven't listened to The World Won't End in years. I haven't listened to Massachusetts or the Scud Mountain Boys records in three, probably four years, maybe."
The Pernice Brothers
scheduled to perform on Saturday, November 25
Not that one would expect a modest musician like Joe Pernice to constantly sit around the house inhaling his own sweet tenor, but still, you know, not even every once in a while?
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"Ninety-seven percent of the time, the songs are just about making them for me, and the minute they're done, I don't care about them," he says. "I don't really care about them anymore. The real pleasure is in making records. You don't sit around listening to your own music and when I say you, I mean me because it's just not interesting. It's like trying to tickle yourself. You can't do it. If I want to listen to music for any kind of pleasure, I'll put someone else on."
Fair enough. But what about the rest of us? Can someone with such heady talents and by someone we mean Joe Pernice catch a break and stumble upon a kind of mass appeal after nine critically acclaimed yet underrecognized albums?
"Sure, anything can happen," he says. "I just don't aim for it. For me, it's always about trying to make a thing that, in the moment, is rewarding, where you feel like, 'Ah, I did something.' It's a feeling of having written a song that you think touches on something personally. Because to take it into the next level of, you know, hoping you have a hit or hoping you become famous or something, that's a pretty thin broth, you know what I'm saying? It's a weak soup."