Home Read Albums Of The Week: Pernice Brothers | Who Will You Believe

Albums Of The Week: Pernice Brothers | Who Will You Believe

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:The Pernice Brothers have returned with Who Will You Believe, their first album in five years. Produced by Joe Pernice, the album includes contributions from longtime bandmates Bob Pernice, Patrick Berkery, Laura Stein, Liam Jaeger, Michael McKenzie and Joshua Karp, lush string and horn arrangements, the Toronto choral group Choir! Choir! Choir!, and a duet with Neko Case.

Joe Pernice has crafted a remarkable catalog that boldly reinterprets and recasts classic American pop. Balancing moments of solemnity with warm humor and camaraderie, Who Will You Believe may be his most moving and nuanced album yet.

Before the album’s release, the band shared closing track The Purple Rain, which ranks among Pernice’s finest songs. He said, “In March of 2019, my cousin Joe Harvard (founder of Fort Apache Studios in Boston) died of cancer. He was like a brother to me. His death was hard for me to believe and process. By September of that year, two friends, Gary Stewart (Rhino Records) and David Berman (Silver Jews), had taken their own lives. It was a heavy time to say the least. It was a while before I’d feel like trying to write any songs. But when the time came, I was still feeling mournful. It’s no surprise they would have found their way into some songs. I wrote and recorded The Purple Rain pretty fast. The song’s anthemic quality seemed right to me as it’s an elegy to some remarkable people. I’ve performed the song live a handful of times since recording it. It feels good to do so. But I’m honestly not sure why, and I don’t care to find out.”

Starting with his acclaimed band Scud Mountain Boys, Joe Pernice has been releasing albums for over 25 years. And with age comes a greater patience and an immense appreciation for the act of creation. “I trust the process more,” he says. “I might not know exactly where a song is going when inspiration shows up, so I know to just relax and keep going. I know it’s going to get there, even if it doesn’t happen immediately. Those closest to me might disagree, but I think I’ve become a lot more chill in general.”

That speaks to the irony of getting older: Despite having less and less time on Earth, he’s happy to let things run their natural course, however long it might take. As he sings on the spare, bittersweet How Will We Sleep, “Growing old seemed like death to me when I was young, now I want to grow old and I want to belong.” It’s a bit of heavy wisdom married to a hummable melody and delivered in a warmly determined voice. “I try to stop myself every day and tell myself that one of these days is going to be my last,” Pernice says. “It sounds morbid on the surface, but I don’t think it is. It helps me live in the present, and for me that’s pretty uplifting. Once you get past the scary part, it’s actually a very peaceful feeling.”

Pernice’s catalog with Pernice Brothers extends well beyond that band. In addition to recording a handful of solo albums (including a Barry Manilow tribute), he reconvened the Scud Mountain Boys in the early 2010s for a new album and tour, and in 2014 he released Into the Lime with The New Mendicants, a supergroup featuring Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake. He also writes frequently for television, most notably as a staff writer for the Canadian crime drama The Detail. Joe has published a book of poetry and several works of fiction, including a novella about The Smiths for the 33 1/3 book series. And in 2009, he released a 7-inch single under the alias The Young Accuser via his first label Sub Pop Records — a tie-in with his novel It Feels So Good When I Stop.”