Published May 16, 2017No Shape, the new album from Mike Hadreas's Perfume Genius (out now on Matador) is the most accessible and pop-friendly release from the project by a long shot. But in creating dark-pop "stadium anthems," Hadreas had to routinely push himself outside of his comfort zone. "Whatever feels difficult or new or uncomfortable is usually better," he tells Exclaim! "I like being nervous. It means you really care, that you want it to be good."
Here are four way Hadreas pushed himself into new territory, ease and comfort be damned.
He purposely wrote pop songs.
"It just felt like a challenge," he says. "Before I wrote the music that ended up on the album, I was writing things that were a lot less catchy. They were darker, and more experimental. But they just weren't that inspiring." The turning point was first single "Slip Away," featuring a pulsing synth and pop friendly song structure — even a bridge, he notes. "That felt way more exciting to me."
He dove into his personal relationships for lyrical inspiration.
"Sometimes I get resentful about talking about my home life," he says. Many of the profiles that have appeared recently have focused on his domesticity with long-time partner Alan Wyffels and with good reason. "Maybe I shouldn't have made an album about it." Hadreas admits that that's what he wants from his favourite artists. "That's the kind of music that I love. Music that comes from a really real, super-emotional place."
He made No Shape "bigger and grander" than anything he'd done previously.
"I decided to not be afraid of that. I used to be really protective of the songs — they were supposed to be these really minimal spare things and I hesitated to add too much. With this I thought, 'I'm smart enough and I'm good enough, now we can pile everything on it and remove it if we need to.' And I purposely wrote these songs to be big. I wanted them to be my version of a stadium anthem."
There was an ulterior motive at work though, as Hadreas thought those stadium anthems might dissuade fans and critics frim asking prying personal questions. "I was thinking about, like, Bruce Springsteen or dudes that give people these albums and everyone goes crazy for them and they don't ever ask them a bunch of questions about their family or whatever. So I just decided to make an album that was so good and big that people didn't have a choice to like it."
The live versions won't mirror their studio counterparts.
"It's going to be nerve-wracking," he says. "The songs from the last album, we've been playing them for three years now so it's almost instinctual." The new songs, he says feel more like a gamble. "I'm not really tied [to] having it sound exactly like the album. As long as the energy and the spirit, you know, that everything is there." He says he prefers shows where the performer is willing to deviate from the versions they have documented on their records, though he admits that if he could travel with a full choir and orchestra, he would. "If people want that," he jokes, "they need to give me some of that money and I'll make it happen."