Permanent Makeup: Post-punk noise that might just make you dance
(Welcome to tbt*’s Ultimate Local Music Guide! All week we’re spotlighting 10 of our favorite local artists of the past year. Today: Genre-pushing post-punk trio Permanent Makeup.)
Perhaps the ever-increasing presence of Pinellas post-punkers Permanent Makeup can be best summed up by one week in January.
Over the span of eight days, they played with San Francisco hardcore group No Statik, Washington D.C. punks Priests and twice with the buzzed-about Syracuse, New York band Perfect Pussy.
“That was a crazy week,” vocalist-bassist Chris Nadeau said in an interview at the St. Petersburg home he shares with his wife and drummer Susan Dickson-Nadeau.
They’re not always that busy, the band admits. But it does show the fingerprints Permanent Makeup is leaving on Tampa Bay’s music scene through their live shows and last year’s strong debut The Void … It Creeps.
Permanent Makeup started in 2010, with the members in various local bands (Chris was playing in Blast and the Detergents, vocalist-guitarist James Bess in Dumbwaiters and Insect Joy.)
Their first show was in a dentist’s office. Initially, Chris and Susan would play bass and drum parts while Bess improvised on guitar, and different friends would read ad copy for the vocals.
“I think your brother’s like rolling on the ground, freaking out, reading something about hair plugs,” Susan said of one show.
Over time, the group grew less improvised and vocal duties were split between Chris and Bess.
“I remember vague conversations like, 'You know, maybe we should have someone doing vocals lined up before the shows rather than scrambling to ask people,’” Bess said.
Then in February 2013, they released their first full-length The Void…It Creeps. The record was put out by Tampa’s New Granada label on CD and on vinyl by Chris’ own No Clear Records, with Susan designing the album artwork and Bess helping record it.
The album’s post-punk sound ranges from dark, dissonant hints of Sonic Youth to the danceable, Gang of Four-esque guitar of Death Throes of a Cockroach. It was well-received, with Creative Loafing calling it the best local album of the year.
Yet it wasn’t removed from their earlier, looser days either, with the album recorded almost entirely live save for a few overdubs.
“I just always like Fun House by the Stooges or (The Velvet Underground’s) White Light/White Heat and those albums are obviously recorded way loud and live,” Chris said.
The band got to play with one of its biggest influences when they opened for former Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore’s new group Chelsea Light Moving at the Orpheum in November.
They also performed with Forgetters, the new band of Jawbreaker’s Blake Schwarzenbach, at the Social in Orlando. Yet Chris said his favorite show of theirs in that city was at the Space — a second-floor apartment over a pizza shop.
“A room like that being packed out is more fun to me than a crowded, giant venue,” he said.
They played several such unconventional venues on a tour last year, including a Victorian mansion in Richmond, a pizza place in Poughkeepsie and the warehouse Shea Stadium in Brooklyn.
And in May, the band will embark on a 15-show tour through the South and Midwest — their largest yet.
However, the longtime Tampa Bay residents claim the local music scene is stronger than ever. People are more open-minded in their musical tastes, they said, and can appreciate a band like Permanent Makeup whose sound might not immediately conjure punk.
“Shows are more eclectic because people’s tastes are like, 'Well, why would I just listen to one type of band all night?’” Bess said.
And once they return from touring, they hope to record again, potentially for another full-length.
“I feel like it’s going to be looser and more confident,” Chris said of the new material.
“Not that — I don’t think we suffer from underconfidence or overtightness,” Susan added.
-- Jimmy Geurts, tbt*