With Early Forms, Chris Staples, Mrenc, Sat., Feb. 23, 9 p.m., New World Brewery, Ybor City, $8, newgranada.com.
On a fundamental level, Permanent Makeup embraces the ethos and aesthetic of a traditional DIY punk group. The local three-piece rages artfully against the machine or cheekily against nothing. They self-produce their own music, visuals and merch; book and promote their own gigs; actively network with other bands from Florida’s myriad of underground scenes; prefer playing grimy bars, alternative spaces and house parties to traditional venue stages; and bring plenty of sweaty, limb-flailing vigor and cocksure attitude to their performances.
What you might find surprising, however, is that all three members are not only college-educated and dutifully employed by your friendly local government, but are content with being what they’ve playfully dubbed “day job punks.” We discussed the seeming dichotomy when I met with the band at the St. Pete home owned by bassist/singer/ostensible band leader Chris Nadeau and drummer/wife Susan Dickson-Nadeau. Chris explained, “A day job is 40 hours a week and I have no problem fitting in my music with that. It makes it so I don’t have to make any monetary concessions at all, ever.” According to Chris, his music wouldn’t be as good and he wouldn’t enjoy making it as much if he were always worrying about how to sell his songs or finance his creativity. Susan agreed — “You don’t have to sweat the door money. Like, ‘Oh god, did they pay their three bucks to get in? I need a sandwich.’”
As guitarist/singer James Bess pointed out, “A band that can actually make a living playing is so rare nowadays. The dream of making it big — it’s not a plausible goal anymore.” As far as Permanent Makeup’s own goals, “I don’t think we’ve ever even discussed the long term,” James said. “It seems like the process is the goal.”
Chris, Susan and James originally formed their avant garage-punk project in 2010, and did some light gigging and recording before kicking it into high gear last year. Local label New Granada Records took notice and welcomed Permanent Makeup into its distribution fold this January. Their full-length debut, The Void … It Creeps, sees a national release next Tues., Feb. 26 and is preceded by this Saturday’s CD release show.
The Void … It Creeps is creepy, dissonant, fuzzed-out garage-punk, with Chris and James delivering off-kilter lyrics, aggressive observations and metaphor-filled tirades over layers of reverb and distortion. The material was laid down in typical DIY fashion — quickly, over a couple days, in Bess’ home studio, live and with few overdubs or re-dos. Working with Chris and Susan was a lesson in restraint for Bess, who’s used to continually mixing and tweaking his recordings. “They were pretty much the opposite. They were like, ‘Let’s do it. It’s done.’” He does admit, “There’s still that part of me, that wants to experiment. I still want to sneak in sounds.”
His sole indulgence on The Void was a cassette recorder he used for his tinny diatribe in “Chemtrails,” a song inspired by something he read about conspiracy theorists. “It’s actually kind of a sad lonely song, but of course, it’s buried under so much ranting.”
The musicians complement each other well; James has the recording skills, Chris the frontman strut and people-coordinating capabilities, and Susan deals in all things visual. Live, Susan provides the rhythmic backbone with a cool self-possessed smile and long red hair pulled into a knot or tail, her spine ramrod straight as she keeps a hard and concise beat with taut-armed cymbal crashing and tom banging. James does bearded intensity and pedal distortion, calmly raging heavy riffs and offering straightforward conversational-style vocals or support yells. Chris is Permanent Makeup’s seething core, spewing verses in forceful outbursts or honking shouts, head-thrashing and pounding out chunky groove-free bass chords as he springs and swings his bass around, leaps off amps with high-flying kicks and bounds, and generally works himself into a healthy frenzy. “Playing music is the most important thing that I do outside of, I don’t know, regular life stuff,” he remarked. “I put a lot of effort into it, it’s a fun time and I want it to show. I don’t want it to be this thing that I just have to do, like a job. It’s the best, I love it.”
And everybody’s usually grinning and drenched by the set’s end. “I don’t trust a band that doesn’t sweat. Especially around here,” Susan said.
All three members agreed that performing brings its own rewards, especially those WTF? moments, like the time they played the parking lot behind Star Booty and a big drunk fan danced right into James’ gear. “And he actually tripped on my guitar pedals — I’ve got a bunch — and accidentally unplugged them all. And he was like, ‘Oh, no!’” Chris and Susan continued playing while James hooked everything back up, and by the next song they were back to working order. “It was impossible to be mad, he was so happy,” James explained, laughing. Of course, the drunk dude danced his way back toward James and zeroed in close enough again that, James recalled, “I sort of tapped him with my elbow, and he just fell over completely. I felt so bad because it looked like I bench slammed this guy.”