P-Groove’s Brock Butler: “Refreshed, Inspired and Ready to Get Some Key Lime Pie”
We had the opportunity recently to speak with Brock William Butler, one of the founding members of Perpetual Groove — once we figured out that 9 a.m. was not the same in L.A. and in Tampa! He shared information about the summer P3 acoustic tour, the full band electric fall tour, and their new album Perpetual Groove. You can find information about all the tour dates here.
The P3 tour just had six shows in Georgia and South Caroline. They resume August 7 in Valdosta, followed by eight Florida dates.
Perpetual Groove are: Brock Butler, guitar, vocals; Adam Perry, bass, vocals; Matthew McDonald, keyboards, vocals; and Albert Shuttle, drums. For P3, Butler, Perry, and McDonald play guitars (no drums).
MFN: I actually saw you for the first time in 2004 at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa. It was promoted by a man named Ted Freed.
BWB: Oh, sure. I remember Ted.
MFN: Of course, he passed away. I see his widow all the time at shows. Nice, nice lady. You were opening for Mountain of Venus.
BWB: Oh, yeah.
MFN: I’ve had the opportunity to see you a dozen times, including a number of sets at Bear Creek and AURA, and then the one that was the real kicker was the one after the hiatus at Purple Hatter’s Ball 2017, because you guys just blew out a fabulous set. I said, YES! They’re back!
BWB: Well, thank you. It was nice coming back after the hiatus stuff, not just myself, but everyone living better lives and getting along, and that’s obviously going to translate into the music made.
MFN: Tell us about P3. Was last summer the first time doing that? We’ve posted a preview, but I couldn’t make it to the Crowbar show. Was that the first time you did the summer three-piece acoustic tour?
BWB: Yes, it was. And this one is a bit longer. It’s a neat time of year to do it, and the logistics when you can play some of these cooler little beach towns that don’t have big clubs for a full Perpetual Groove show, but when you’re talking a couple of guitars with some pedals, it opens up the options. For me, it feels like I’ve got a several-week holiday, trying to find out who has the best key lime pie.
MFN: I noticed there were some really interesting stops along the way like the ones you are mentioning. Seeing you on the rooftop at the Georgia Theater (Athens) is very appealing, and that courtyard stage at 1904 in Jacksonville is a blast. I see what you mean, being able to play more intimate settings.
BWB: I think we found that last summer where there were a few on the run where I wonder what the show would be like because you’re not just sure; perhaps because people haven’t heard of the band at Honeycomb Hideout places, but everyone was just having a good time, so I’m sure that’s why we’re doing it again. All these nice things, and the weather is nice. And Florida seems to be a twice-a-year thing when we get down there, this just feels like a summer holiday, playing music every evening in these beach towns, but then Perpetual Groove, we always close out our calendar year before the New Year at the Culture Room in Ft. Lauderdale. So that’s no accident. We’re strategically positioning ourselves in good regions, which isn’t always the case. Dumping snow on our April tour in the Midwest. Sometimes we get it right.
MFN: We’re excited about the show at Dunedin Brewery at the end of the P3 tour, so that’s going to be fun, but all those places are really nice: Will’s Pub, all those.
BWB: I’ve done a few of my one-man acoustic shows at Dunedin, but I’m definitely stoked to do the added bit with Adam.
MFN: There’s a long electric tour coming up, kicking off with the Victory North show in Savannah, which is where Perpetual Groove started.
BWB: And of all the places to be playing, we play there on September 20th, three days before my 40th birthday. Sometimes things just wind up that way. I really feel like I was 17 when I moved to Savannah and met Adam there. I was a freshman at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), so kinda neat. If I’d try to plan it close to my birthday, it probably wouldn’t have worked out. Bringing things back around.
MFN: Any thought about bringing Amberland (the P-Groove festival) back?
BWB: Yes. The whole thing, in a post-hiatus context, has been… we didn’t want to put the cart before the horse, to make sure that everyone gets along again, that coming back to playing concerts, learning how to manage being a professional musician, at least for my part, to make sure I keep everything tight and on track, as far as not getting too wild, that necessitated the hiatus, and the long and short of this is that it all goes for us to record a single of “Paper Dolls,” and we record an EP, and now we’ve put out the new album, and the progress we’re making I think you could apply to our ambitions for doing Amberland. It’s not so much a question of if but rather when and how we go about it. I don’t think it will ever be like it was, but hopefully it might actually turn a profit. [LAUGHS] That would be the biggest change! I believe we will do that again; it’s just everybody is patient, just to make sure we don’t want to repeat mistakes from the past.
MFN: Tell us about the new album. I know that one of the challenges I have in listening to Perpetual Groove is I really have to pay attention. I often skim over lyrics, but that’s not possible with your albums. They’re just so thick with meaning and interesting words — lyrics — and this new one fits that pattern perfectly. So many great turns of phrases in there. In “Part Three,” there is such a nice electronic feel behind everything else that is happening, and the synths, and it sounds like strings there, but I presume those are synths Matt is doing on keyboards.
BWB: Thank you. You know, even being somebody who created this, had a hand in making this album, as I’ve listened to it, which has been a fair bit, because I love it, and I’m very proud of this album, and I’m an audio junkie; I like to hear how it sounds on the car stereo on Bluetooth; I want to hear how it sounds in these headphones versus those. In every listening experience, I rather enjoy the fact that some things are manipulated to a point where it’s almost an illusion, it occupies the space, as in your example where it sounds like an orchestra, but it’s obviously not a string quartet in the studio, there are parts where the guitar is just washed in different effects and experiments where it sounds familiar and at simultaneously almost unrecognizable.
MFN: I would also use the word fresh. What a wonderful new look at things. It just opens up so many possibilities.
BWB: I couldn’t be more excited, and I’m sure we’ll do some of the new material here on the P3 shows, but so much of it is rich sonic sound, and I’ll really be looking forward to when this whole band gets out heavy in the fall, taking the new material out for a spin, seeing what it can do.
MFN: That vocal choir on “Spirit Bear” sounds so rich after your vocal; the chorus sound amazing.
BWB: You know something. Occasionally I’ll take certain songs, and I’ll put them into a playlist with other bands and songs that I really like, especially from a production (standpoint), and a song from the album comes up, and it holds up. They seen to fit in with other songs I’ve enjoyed over the years. That’s something I really like about it. As far as the lyrics are concerned, that’s really a nice compliment indeed. I’ve seen a few people express some variation of that, like, I’m normally not a big lyrics person, but man!
MFN: You make me work. Something like “Everybody has it easier than me,” and then I’m wondering where that’s going to go.
BWB: “Spirit Bear” is pretty cool, because Adam presented the material that would become that song, “Walking in Place” is like that, too, some verses, and I very quickly had a chorus, talking about moments when you can’t sleep and you’re stressed, and this is happening, and we all have that going on, take a breath, take a step back, stay patient, try to stay positive, and then parts of our brains voice the anxiety. Kind of a yin and yang in that song.
MFN: I enjoyed “Upswing,” with “You’ve got to pick your battles” and “I don’t gamble on any games I don’t know how to play.” That’s a mistake a lot of us have made. Then there was a place where it sounded like a child’s xylophone, so nice.
BWB: Fidelitorium Studios, the actual physical keyboards options they had in that studio are ones I had never heard of in some cases. In other ones, you see them an option on like a ProTools plug-in, an effect, but these physical things that the plug-ins are modeled after you rarely get the opportunity to use them. That’s the sound.
MFN: Talk about the song “Eventually.”
BWB: That was probably one of the earliest songs, because we did a whole lot of pre-production with an idea for songs and used them for parts in some cases, but that one stayed very close to what it started out as in the beginning and how it ended up on the record. The whole of this album before we even started rolling tape, so to speak, the lyrics have this comparison of, if you were a director and your life is a movie sort of thing, stepping outside of yourself, deciding what kind of story do I want to make. How do I want my life to be. I probably used that, being a film nerd. Adam and I both were film students at SCAD, and all four of us love talking about movies and books and pop culture and all sorts of stuff, talking about things in cinematic terms was most on the nose and eventually used throughout the album. It’s my hope that with the lyrics and just the sound of the record that it feels like a movie, holding your attention, like really good dialogue. Hopefully the lyrics sit in that neighborhood of the listener’s brain as much as a catchy melody.
MFN: Some albums are just individual songs, but I did think this one worked as a unit. There was a logical progression through the seven songs.
BWB: Right. We have some live versions of certain songs on a good night that could clock in at 25 minutes, almost the length of this album, but I like the running time of the album. It doesn’t exactly fall in the jam band category, not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like the fact that 35, 36 minutes, whatever it is, is kind of a start-to-finish thing, where they all intermingle quite well.
MFN: It also allows you to look at it as a unit. I’m sure many of the songs will be stretched out live, but on the album most clock in right about five minutes, allowing the listener to tie it all together.
BWB: I agree. There was something that was a happy accident that we were aware of establishing the sequence of the songs. “A. Retro” and “Part Three” had this kind of steady pulse BUM BUM BUM BUM, so if the album is in repeat mode, sometimes, if I don’t get to the pause button quickly enough, you’re right back into the cycle again.
MFN: Pulse was the word I wrote as well. That’s a great concept to tie the end back to the beginning.
BWB: Yes. Hearing the pulse at the end of “A. Retro” (the last track) and then a cool little tie-in to the beginning of opening track “Part Three.”
MFN: Same concept as the Moody Blues’ Days of Future Past with the gong at the beginning and at the end.
BWB: I always think of that scene in Amadeus where he’s talking to Mozart, and he says, “You didn’t even give them a big boom at the end to know when to clap.”
MFN: We are looking forward to the acoustic P3 tour and the electric tour as well.
BWB: This has probably been the longest stretch of consecutive weeks where I wasn’t on my way to LAX in an Uber on my way to an airplane every two weeks, so I’m nice and rested, enjoying the spare time off. I’m going to see the Claypool-Lennon Delirium with Jim James at the House of Blues. I always enjoy getting out to see concerts, since don’t get out to see them as much as I’m playing them, so this will be great. I’ll be refreshed and inspired and ready to get some key lime pie.
BWB: Thank you for your interest, and we’ll see you on the road. Have a beautiful day.