Music Interviews
1:12 am
Wed December 26, 2012

Perfume Genius: A 'Creepy, Beautiful Mix'

Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 5:07 am

Mike Hadreas describes the sound of Perfume Genius as "that kind of creepy, beautiful mix of things — that warm wash of something that is beautiful, but unsettling at the same time."

A Seattle songwriter, Hadreas writes lyrics that can be hard to hear, with subjects like teen suicide and his own mother's experience with sexual abuse.

"It can be a very lonely thing," Hadreas says. "But I wanted to clap for my mom, I suppose, and just let her know that all that courage is filtered down to me, hopefully. Or at least I admire it a lot."

You could hear Perfume Genius' songs as therapy — Hadreas says that's a legitimate view — but also a call to take people as they are. In the video for "Take Me Home," he plays a male prostitute walking the deserted streets of Seattle's industrial district, with the song offering acceptance and respect.

"I wear heels and a football-jersey dress in the last video, you know," Hadreas says, "and then I'll be at a show and I'll see another boy in a dress or something smiling up at me, and that's part of the reason why I do it."

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

All through this year, we've been bringing you the latest music on air and online. Now, as we approach the year's end, we're catching up on some music we missed. Today, we hear from this singer-songwriter in Seattle.

MIKE HADREAS: I'm Mike Hadreas, and I sing in Perfume Genius.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "HOOD")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) You would never call me baby, if you knew true.

MONTAGNE: NPR Music chose this track from Perfume Genius's second album as one of its 50 favorite songs of the year. Mike Hadreas describes his sound this way.

HADREAS: That kind of creepy, beautiful mix of things. It's kind of like this warm wash of something that's beautiful, but unsettling at the same time.

MONTAGNE: The topics he covers are unsettling, subjects like teen suicide. This next one is exceptionally hard to hear, and for Mike Hadreas to tell. It's about his own mother's experience of sexual abuse.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "DARK PARTS")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) The hands of God were bigger than grandpa's eyes, but still he broke the elastic on your waist. But he'll never break you, baby.

HADREAS: It can be a very lonely thing, but I wanted to clap for my mom, I suppose, and just let her know all that courage is, you know, filtered down to me, hopefully - or at least I admire it a lot.

MONTAGNE: You could hear these songs as therapy. Hadreas thinks of them as that, and also a call to take people as they are. In this music video, he plays a male prostitute walking the deserted streets of Seattle's industrial district, with a song offering a kind of acceptance and respect.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "TAKE ME HOME")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) Take me home, tend to me baby, lay me down easy, for I have grown weary on my own.

HADREAS: And I wear, you know, heels and like a football jersey dress in the last video, you know. And then I will be at a show and I will see, like, another boy in a dress or something smiling up at me. And it's part of the reason why I do it.

MONTAGNE: For 2012, Out magazine named Mike Hadreas one of the most influential LGBT people of the year. You can hear songs from Perfume Genius at NPRMusic.org. And on MORNING EDITION, we'll be bringing you more music we missed in the days ahead.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "NO TEAR")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) I will carry on. I will carry on... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.