Hometown: Born in New York, grew up in L.A., but considers neither his hometown. Currently touring, he has no fixed address.
Fun fact: His father, Anthony Perkins, played Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Why he’s worth watching: He looks like John Lennon, has the musician/visionary thing going on to back it up, and his debut album already feels like a classic.
For fans of: Leonard Cohen, The Decemberists, M. Ward
Elvis Perkins recorded his debut, Ash Wednesday, entirely on analog tape. “It feels like an actual thing that exists,” he says, “as opposed to putting it into a computer where it gets turned into something I don’t understand.”
He raises an interesting question about recorded music’s durability. Not many albums are made without a computer these days, but while an mp3 can’t get eaten by your stereo, being able to ditch digital entirely is about as untouchable as it gets. Try to imagine Gorillaz or The Postal Service pulling off a performance without all the synths, blips, bleeps and beats. But computer or no computer, Elvis Perkins will be just ?ne.
“There’s something about music that can be just as powerful without any sort of electricity. I would be sad if [my music] couldn’t be effective just played alone on a guitar or in a room with a guitar and a trumpet or with a bunch of acoustic instruments. It would be a bummer if it needed more than that for it to be powerful, to get where it’s going.”
Seven years in the making, Ash Wednesday already feels like one of those classic albums you keep around forever. “[When I started] I had no conception of this record, as is the case with most, if not all, of the songs on it. They have just percolated naturally over time.”
Perkins’ philosophy resonates in his sound—warm, authentic, unhurried—backed by a varying mix of horns, strings, piano and acoustic guitar. He describes it as “folk ’n’ roll,” though he admits this doesn’t exactly capture his style. Regardless, new music is rarely born with such an old soul and pure ethos.
“I like the simplest path to getting to what I’m trying to get at,” Perkins says, “and the less one has in between themselves and what they’re trying to get at, maybe the better.”