BOULDER, Colo. –
Elvis Perkins is shaking things up in the world of folk-rock music.
Sharing his names with the king of rock’n’roll and one of America’s best-known actors forced the musician to step outside the box.
Perkins is the son of actor Anthony Perkins (“Psycho”) and actress/photographer Berry Berenson. His father was a huge Elvis Presley fan, so the musician was named Elvis Perkins.
“Early on, I knew I had no choice. I knew I was going to do something creative,” Perkins said. “I inherited those genes — I never had the mind-set to be a banker or a lawyer. I grew up in an artistic environment, so I followed suit.
“Elvis is a highly-charged name — especially in the musical realm. Everyone knows who Elvis was and that definitely challenged me to articulate myself as an individual musician.
“The name’s been both a blessing and a curse.”
Perkins started off playing the saxophone, but he quickly picked up the guitar. The young musician also experimented with the classical guitar and he wrote poetry.
“I was always interested in words and music, but I didn’t know how to put the two together,” Perkins said. “In my high school bands I didn’t have much concern about writing words, but when the bands dissolved I was led to all these great American songwriters.
“That’s when my music took a turn — and I decided to make my own compositions.”
However, Perkins’ career took a jolting detour when the musician went through the deaths of his parents. Perkins’ father passed away from AIDS complications in 1992, and his mother died aboard American Airlines Flight 11 after it crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.
The musician didn’t release his debut record, Ash Wednesday, until 2007, but those incidents resonated in his emotive songs.
“Like everybody else, I deal with what I know in my songs,” Perkins said. “I’m a singer and a storyteller, so it was easier to speak about those things in the songs.
“I find that to be more potent than talking about things.”
After the release of Ash Wednesday, Perkins decided to bring a full backup band on the road. That’s how Elvis Perkins in Dearland was born.
The band features Brigham Brough on bass and sax, Wyndham Boylan-Garnett on keys and trombone, and Nick Kinsey on drums and clarinet. The band’s unusual instrumentation and solid songs started drawing attention.
“After I made Ash Wednesday I had a hunch that that I wanted to perform these songs with a band,” Perkins said. “I formed the band with some old friends and that’s when we decided to make the CD Elvis Perkins in Dearland together.”
The band’s self-titled record came out in March and it’s already garnered rave reviews.
“This album is faster and younger than Ash Wednesday,” Perkins said. “It really shows off the band’s wide range of musical tastes and our passion for rock, pop, folk and gospel music.
“People are also finding it interesting that we used some unconventional wind and horn instruments, but this record is definitely an expression of our band.”
Elvis Perkins in Dearland had a little help in the studio from Grammy-winning producer Chris Shaw. The mixmaster has worked with everyone from Public Enemy to Ween, and he was pivotal in bringing out the band’s multi-instrumental sounds.
However, the buzz on Elvis Perkins in Dearland really lies in the band’s live shows. The live concerts bounce between intimate musical moments and riotous foot-stomping numbers.
That’s why Perkins lives for his stage time.
“Our live performances is what it’s all about,” Perkins said. “When we’re on the road together, the live shows are like the air we breathe.
“We certainly aim to capture all the spirit, energy and spontaneity we can at our live performances.”