While THE DOMINION COLLECTIVE is typically exclusive to Virginia bands, there are also a number of musicians and artists who call the Old Dominion home but are in bands based in different cities. Charlie Perris is a Virginia transplant from Montclair, New Jersey, which is a suburb outside of New York City that has become a sort of feeder for plenty of college-aged emo and indie bands, such as ALEX G, GIRL SCOUTS, SMOOTHER, and PINEGROVE, settling in New York, Philadelphia, and other northeastern metropolitan areas.

Multi-instrumentalist Perris has played in several bands since a young age and even started one after enrolling at Virginia Commonwealth University and moving to Richmond. Perris’ most popular band TAWNY PEAKS will be touring this summer in support of their new record, In Silver River.The band’s cross country trip will mark what is quite possibly their last performances as the band is calling it quits, citing long distance and Charlie’s eventual extended absence to study abroad in Germany for a year starting in August.

With a week before the start of tour and Charlie’s departure for Europe, we interviewed Perris about his experiences as a part of the Virginia DIY music scene and about the new TAWNY PEAKS record.

Before we get into questions about TAWNY PEAKS and being involved in the Virginia music scene, tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Charlie Perris, and I’m from Montclair, NJ. I’ve played in TAWNY PEAKS, DAIDO LOORI, WATCHWORD, and TRUMAN.

Originally being from Montclair, what brought you to Richmond, VA?

Part of it has to do with my grandpa having set-up a Virginia 529 Savings Plan. I pay the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition, so it had to do with money. I also had visited Richmond and really liked it. I knew PG. 99 was from around here—well, from NOVA—but I didn’t know much about the Richmond punk scene itself. I remember Googling “Richmond Punk” and finding a little bit of information, so I knew I would click with the whole scene here.

With TAWNY PEAKS, did that band start before you moved down to Richmond or was that something that was already happening?

TAWNY PEAKS started my junior year of high school in 2011. Once we all split up and went to college, we all decided to keep doing it. It’s been tough being in four different states. Our drummer, Dexter, goes to school in Philly and is a year older than us, so during my senior year, we already had to go back and forth. We were already used to being a band that was split up. We weren’t ready to call it quits at that point yet. When we all left for college is when we reached the peak of our popularity online, so we just felt that it needed to keep on going. Now, it feels like we’re coming to the end of things a bit. I think we’ve always trusted our instincts as to whether or not to keep at it or when to call it quits.

With that mindset of things coming to an end, what was recording this last record like?

It’s been a really long process. Some of those songs were originally going to be for an EP that never came out and was recorded over spring break during my freshmen year here. These songs have been around for a while now; some of them have been written since Fall 2012.

The process started with Dexter recording drums. Sam, our guitarist, goes to school in New York, outside of the city, so Dexter drove up and recorded that. For me, I had the longest trek because everyone else is situated in the northeast/tri-state area. Sam goes to school for studio composition so he has access to not only the studios themselves, but he can check out mics and all kinds of equipment. We’ve gotten pretty lucky to do things DIY, but not having to sacrifice quality. It’s not necessarily lo-fi either, not paying to do it in a studio. It’s been a lot of scheduling. There’s a reason why it’s taken a year and a half for it to actually come out. It definitely has to do with the geographical spread.

What are some of the themes on this record? What inspired your lyrics for the songs for this record?

Most of the lyrics I write are about specific people in a way. There’s one song about a friend who has drug and alcohol issues. That’s what the title track is actually about. I often focus on my relationships with a specific person. Some of the songs are about my relationship with my girlfriend. So obviously those are the songs that are more explicitly about love.

Part of what I wanted to do with this album was what I did differently from the first album. The writing process would start with just the sounds of words and listening to the songs Sam had written on guitar, and just sang along with it and saw what words came to me. I ended up writing lyrics that didn’t have a lot of meaning, but I liked phonetically and then ascribed a meaning to them and related them to my life. The new album, I set out to do the opposite and approached them with a specific meaning in mind and tried to tell a bit of a story. I’m a big fan of songwriters who have a story aspect to it rather than just repeating their feelings. I tried to mix up the imagery a bit and incorporate a narrative. I wanted the lyrics to be vivid.

Being a student at VCU for two years now, what differences do you see between Montclair and Richmond in the DIY music scene?

For one, there are the differences I immediately noticed in terms of “North vs. South”. People are a lot friendlier here. Most of my friends when we left for college stayed in the northeast in New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. I felt like I had rejected that and picked a whole different path. As far as Richmond itself, there are actually a few similarities to Montclair in a way. There’s a pretty good house show scene in Montclair, but in Richmond it’s even better. It’s thriving even more.

As far as the music I’ve encountered down here, I feel like there’s more hardcore than in Montclair. Richmond also has a lot more to offer that’s not related to music. There’s a lot more culture and things to do. The only thing Montclair really has is its proximity to Manhattan. We’re kind of just a suburb that’s in the shadow of New York, whereas Richmond stands on its own. Even though I’m leaving for a year, I’m excited to come back to Richmond. I always feel like there’s more stuff to do here that I haven’t gotten around to doing. I actually have never been to Maymont.

So you’re doing a study abroad in Germany, but your family has actually moved there too. What city are they in, and where are you going?

They live in Frankfurt, which is a really big city. The only thing I really know about it is what they’ve told me. It seems like it’s a really big banking city and not really a fun place for people our age, to be honest.

My little brother is 18, and his best friends are a group of middle aged Turkish men that he hangs out with at a convenience store and drinks beers with. They apparently rolled him a spliff for his birthday, played happy birthday on the TV, and popped a bottle of champagne for him. The attendant’s name is Mustafa. He doesn’t speak much English, and my brother doesn’t speak much German. So they don’t communicate all that well, but they love hanging out.

I’m excited to be there and see it for myself in a few months. I’ll be in Berlin when the school year starts, and that’s a much better city for younger people. There’s a really cool music and arts scene, and it’s just a quirkier town in general. I’ve spent a few days there a few summers ago and had a great time. It’s like the party capital of Europe. Even though I’m not a huge clubber myself, but it seems like it should be fun. There’s also a punk scene, so I’m excited to explore that and find out about it.

I know that you’re really into screamo and that Europe actually has a long history of being a hotbed for the genre. Is there specific band or venue you’re excited to see or visit?

I haven’t really been able to find much online besides some show listings. I know the bigger emo and indie bands that tour through Europe always stop through Berlin. I know INTO IT. OVER IT. and other bands like that are going to be coming through. There’s one guy I’m friends with on Facebook now named Joshi Synapse who is friends with a bunch of other people I know, and he sent me a request after the last TRUMAN release. He lives in Germany and is a screamo fiend; he’s posting links to songs and videos almost every day. If there’s dudes like him in Germany, there has to be a scene like that. I’ve been thinking about shooting him a message and asking him what’s going on around him and around the country. I think half the excitement is figuring out things for myself. I’m going into not knowing what to expect.

There are also some hip neighborhoods in Berlin. It’s just a matter if there’s going to be a cool punk scene. Seeing what is the standard of European-hip should be interesting. Maybe I’ll get really into drum n’ bass. When I was there a couple of summers ago, I danced a lot. I’m a really bad dancer, but you get a few drinks in you and it’s whatever. I might have to take some lessons. I have really long legs, and I’m super lanky. Very gangly.

What’s specifically making you want to come back to Richmond after this year abroad?

Well, I have to finish my senior year once I’m back, but I’m really excited. I think a year will be a good amount of time before I want to come back to Richmond, which has basically become my home at this point. As for what I want to do after college, I want to stay in Richmond, but I’ll have to find a job or something.

I think I’ll be ready to chill out in Richmond after a year in Berlin, which will be so fast paced. One of the things I’ve noticed since moving down here is how laid back and easy going [the city and the people are]. It could be a stereotype of the South, but it’s true in a way. After a year in Berlin, I think I’ll be ready to come back to that.

For more updates on Charlie Perris and his band TAWNY PEAKS, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Tumblr and Twitter, and listen to their music on Bandcamp. Also, make sure to check them out in DC on June 1st and in Richmond on June 2nd.

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