‘“Perennial” is a term for plants that come back year after year, and I like to relate that to memory, feelings and emotions. It’s what the record is all about; relationships can be very cyclical, or never-ending, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just part of life.’
- Vera Blue
Singer-songwriter Vera Blue presents her debut album, Perennial. The record introduces a fully-formed Vera Blue, seamlessly synthesising her folk past with a bold, electronic pop future. An intensely personal record, it traces the often-circular pathways between love and loss across its 12 tracks.
The album is arranged into three chapters, which chronologically trace the development of Vera Blue; from her very first week writing, raw after the breakdown of a relationship, towards a place of renewed strength and vivacity.
‘I feel like it gives the listener an understanding of the phases and thought processes, the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on these past 18 months,’ she explains. ‘[But] once this story of mine is released, it’s not about me anymore. I want it to be taken into the hands and hearts of the listeners as if it were their own.’
Recorded between Los Angeles and Sydney, Perennial was written with longtime collaborators Andy and Thom Mak (Boy and Bear, Winterbourne, Bertie Blackman)) as well as engineer Jackson Barclay. It’s the product of countless hours spent crafting songs in the studio as a team, often right down to the wire.
‘We wrote and produced this album at the same time,’ says Andy Mak. ‘Thom, Vera and I would get together for a couple of weeks and just start writing. Once we had an idea we’d pick up instruments, beat pads, synths, guitars…whatever and started playing. I think we all played every instrument at various points of this album.’
‘Lots of the drums were overdubbed with live drums, pots and pans or [even] cutlery drawers being thrown across the room. My favourite beat on the album is where the kick is made from a sustain pedal and the snare is a chain inside an old pianola.’
Unsurprisingly, Perennial showcases a more sophisticated sound for Vera Blue, including some bold experiments with production.
‘We really had no fear and tried not to doubt ourselves,’ says Vera Blue of her team. ‘With the emotion of how we wrote the songs and the way Andy translated that into production, you could feel the meaning. I’ve never worked with someone who is so in tune with me.’
‘If a sound, lyric, beat or melody ever sounded inauthentic to who Vera is, it very quickly got scrapped,’ adds Andy Mak. ‘What sets this record apart is that there was never any pressure to make it sound like anything that had already been done, meaning we were only measuring a song by whether we believed in and were moved by it. ‘
Album tracks ‘Lady Powers’, ‘Regular Touch’ and ‘Magazine’ also bring out unabashed dance elements in Vera Blue’s songwriting, an aesthetic she believes is well overdue.
‘I dance a lot when I’m performing on tour, because the songs make me want to move. Before the Vera Blue project, I was sort of hiding behind my guitar when I was on stage, but now I can really go for it. That’s what the electronic side adds to the music.’
Despite its new sonic elements, the album is underpinned by the classic songwriting that has defined Vera Blue’s musical growth. Each song started its life organically, created on either piano or acoustic guitar, as evidenced on‘We Used To’ and stunning album closer, ‘Pedestal’.
‘For me it’s very important to keep that folk part of it, having grown up listening to people like Joni Mitchell and Simon & Garfunkel,’ says Vera Blue. ‘It’s a really great blend, Andy’s done a great job of making them come together and feel fresh.’
Produced by Andy Mak, and most recently co-produced with Adam Anders, Perennial sees Vera Blue finding arresting new ways to channel a voice Australia has already fallen for. Unflinchingly honest, it’s the album she had to write, with a sound that is entirely her own.
‘We could have made this album forever, but at the same time it feels ready and the songs feel exactly right,’ says Andy Mak. ‘I hope people listen to this album as a whole body of work, from start to finish in one sitting.’
‘She really is a once in a generation talent,’ adds Thom Mak.
‘When they hear it, they’re going to be able to relate to it in their own way,’ says Vera Blue. ‘That’s really special.’
Perennial is out now.