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Artist of the day: Permanent Makeup



Permanent Makeup’s laurels rest upon a DIY punk aesthetic, primal drumbeats, chugging melodic bass and delay-drenched guitars.

Permanent Makeup comprises husband-and-wife team Chris Nadeau, bass and vocals, and Susan Dickson, drums and art, with James Bess joining on guitar and vocals. Bess hails from the ashes of Dumbwaiters and Insect Joy, while Nadeau splits time between Permanent Makeup, Blast and the Detergents and Egos. Dickson cut her teeth playing with the likes of Modern T.V. and Crypto Tongue. 

Their musical foray began about two years ago. Their first gig was at Circus Surreal, a multimedia event held at a doctor’s office. Their set was unrehearsed and largely improvised, with vocal duties being handled by friends and guests reading infomercial ad copy. From there, the group has been performing locally and nationally, and is on the cusp of releasing its sophomore effort The Void … It Creeps. The band enlightens us further …

What did you learn from previous acts that you apply or subtract from your current equation?

Dickson: This is gonna sound lame, but for me it was getting comfortable performing and getting proficient with maintaining a drum kit. (laughs) It sounds silly, but, basic competencies. Drums are pretty new to me; I didn’t start playing when I was a kid like everybody else.

Bess: I’ve been steadily learning the virtues of working quickly and being able to improvise and not necessarily being tied to an idea of what you should sound like, rather than sort of embracing the moment.

Nadeau: Playing in bands for quite a few years, I have learned to always do exactly what I want to do. We make every musical decisions based on what we want it to sound like, not what will sell units or whatever.

What is Permanent Makeup?

Nadeau: Permanent Makeup’s sound is about combining our influences from the underground punk world of the last 50 years and hopefully giving back some of the influence that the bands we like have given to us.

Bess: It’s sort of almost a musical embodiment of certain political ideas. Not necessarily too political.

Dickson: We have a theme song to describe it. See the theme song for definition of Permanent Makeup.

When listening to Permanent Makeup, I’m reminded of the “no wave” scene of the late ’70s/early ’80s. Also, bands like early Public Image Ltd., James Chance and the Contortions and Wire come to mind. Is this intentional or incidental?

Bess: Yeah, that’s definitely the major intersection of our tastes. We certainly don’t plan what we’re going to sound like; I can imagine most bands don’t.

Dickson: We all love no wave and post-punk and other weirder stuff that’s out there. I don’t know if it comes out when we’re playing but that’s where we’re all coming from. I think what we play is an outgrowth from all of our personal music tastes, and also for me it’s just playing what feels good.

Bess: I think that’s generally true for all of us. I think if anyone overthinks it, it’s me. For me it’s more about avoiding sounding like certain things. We definitely try not to be calculated, but at the same time were sort of acutely aware of ourselves. ’Cause let’s face it, people will sound a specific way and convince themselves that this is just how they naturally sound, and if they were born on a desert island, or different country, or in a different time frame, they’d still be making the exact same music. 

What will Permanent Makeup be remembered for?

Dickson: Gosh, I haven’t thought much about our legacy.

Bess: I deliberately don’t think about legacies, it’s a dangerous road.

Nadeau: I hope Permanent Makeup will be remembered for encouraging people to pursue creative endeavors and destroying the myth that only certain people have the talent to create.

Dickson: I’d like Permanent Makeup to be remembered for being without pretense.  We’re pretty much in the moment. We were talking to someone who asked what our long-term goals were and all three of us were like “Uh … We wanna play shows and record music.”

Bess: If I had proper long-term goals, I wouldn’t be in a band.

-- Aaron Lepley, tbt*

[Last modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 11:03am]


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