In Conversation: Remember Sports’ Carmen Perry Won’t Stop Trying to Get Everything Out
The Philadelphia-based artist discusses her band’s new album Like a Stone and her dedication to songwriting.
Over the course of three albums, Remember Sports consistently got better at making Remember Sports songs: punk-length power-pop tunes that detailed the path of self-improvement. As the songs got less scrappy, so, too, did the acquaintances the lyrics focused on, from mattress-on-the-floor, jerking-off-to-Al-Jazeera-before-CrossFit types to ex- and current friends and partners that saw them through tough times. What they’d lovingly termed “basement rock” felt like an apt description of their music, as the haphazard nature of their recordings brought to mind any number of DIY space memories you may have.
That’s why their new album Like a Stone comes as a bit of a surprise—instead of continuing on this path to self-realization as a band, their fourth LP plays like a cathartic release of ideas that the Philly-based group weren’t able to explore in the past, with each of the record’s 12 tracks feeling completely unique from each other and from their past discography. It’s not as jarring as it sounds, though, as the directions they explore were surely always there embedded deep in their music.
There are a few moments on the album, for example, where guitar feedback kicks in, elevating tracks like “Pinky Ring” and “Clock” out of the sphere of pop into something a bit more aggressive, while the pedal steel on “Easy” identifies vocalist Carmen Perry’s unique singing voice as being something of a country twang all along. Meanwhile, the drum and bass intro on “Eggs” recalls “Don’t You Evah”–era Spoon, and the blown-out lo-fi punk of “Falling Awake” takes things back to “Holland, 1945.” It’s an album about revelations both personal and sonic—as Perry puts it on the 40-second track “Coffee Machine,” she’s learning new things like how to operate a coffee maker and how to consider the thought “Maybe I was wrong.”
But the most remarkable of the album’s tracks is the feel-good, near-seven-minute “Out Loud” at the end of the record, which, contrasting with Stone’s opener, launches the band unabashedly into the sphere of transcendent pop music, with the instrumentation following the lead of a remarkable vocal performance from Perry. We recently sat with her to discuss this track and more.
My first impression of this album is that it sounds like when a band signs with a major label and suddenly has access to more resources, which leads to a much more varied sound—I know this isn’t the case, but does that assessment make any sense to you?
We recorded with our friends who are professionals, but they’re still our friends who we were really just hanging out with. So it felt really comfortable for us and it was really nice to get their input on production and stuff. This was our first time in a real studio with nice equipment, and we worked really hard to hammer out all the details of what we wanted to record before we went into the studio, so we got to spend time playing with different sounds and instruments in a more real way than we’ve gotten to on past albums. Our last two albums we recorded sort of quickly—we as a band have always been either not all in the same place, or somebody’s busy doing school or work or something, so this is the first album we got to fully record and mix as a unit, and we gave ourselves time to do everything.
It’s kind of funny to me that it feels like a pop album more so than the others, and yet it also feels more like a post-breakup album.
I feel like our vibe has always been that our songs are sad, but still very upbeat, definitely fast. That’s what I like doing: write about something that’s hard and turn it into a fun pop song when it becomes a little bit less difficult to manage in your real life. I feel like a lot of my writing is fueled by anxious thought loops, and songwriting for me does feel like release in a lot of ways.
“That’s what I like doing: write about something that’s hard and turn it into a fun pop song when it becomes a little bit less difficult to manage in your real life. I feel like a lot of my writing is fueled by anxious thought loops, and songwriting for me does feel like release in a lot of ways.”
I read a recent interview with you where you talked about your uncle saying that in a way it’s kind of selfish to keep your music to yourself. How do you balance that with not just releasing all of your recordings?
I’m still figuring it out. Sometimes I’ll get down in the dumps about what I’m doing with my life—there are so many things that I care about that don’t have to do with music, and sometimes it feels so stupid and selfish to be spending all this time promoting myself, essentially, when there’s so much going on in the world and so much other work to be done. It’s just weird to work it out in your head sometimes, like, “Why is this worthwhile—not just to me, but to other people?” And I feel like I’ve lost touch with that [sense of meaning] a lot over the past year because there’s something about playing a show and seeing people singing along, or talking to people before and after who really care about your music. I go back to that feeling of being a teenager and really feeling alone except for the songs I was listening to and connecting with. And I do think that’s very important.
Did you have a specific moment where you realized people were having that experience with your music?
I think the first few times we went on tour. It’ll never not be cool to see people singing along to the music that you wrote. It’s just so humbling—it’s like, I know exactly how you feel, and it means a lot to be able to give that same experience to someone else. I don’t think musicians would release music if it wasn’t at least somewhat about wanting to be in the spotlight and being about their ego a little bit, but I feel like it’s just about reminding myself the ways in which music really does mean something to people, and I know that really deeply because music means a lot to me.
It’s kind of a weird thing where it feels selfish to keep your music to yourself but also feels selfish to release it and make things all about you.
I just feel selfish all the time, basically [laughs].
I wanted to talk about the song “Out Loud”—to me it really sticks out from the other tracks on the album, and I was wondering if you had any trouble fitting it onto the album, or if you built the rest of the album around that song.
It is really different from the other songs and stuff we’ve done before—our songs have historically been very short. I think it was just that we were writing this album and a big thing for us was leaving ourselves more space. It’s easy to make a one- or two-minute song where you’re pounding on power chords the entire time and it’s just energy, but I think a lot of the songs on this album we got to play with dynamics a lot more in a way that we haven’t really done before. I always wanted to write a classic pop song with that structure and repeating chorus at the end. That’s just something we’ve never really had time to do before, or the means to do, just because we were such a fragmented band in a lot of ways.
“I feel like it’s just about reminding myself the ways in which music really does mean something to people, and I know that really deeply because music means a lot to me.”
Is that something you want to experiment with more in the future?
Definitely, yeah. I think the sort of hook about this album, media-wise, has been how collaborative it was for us. It has been our most collaborative record, and I feel proud of it, but I still wrote most of the songs on my own, so I think we can go even further next time collaboration-wise.
There’s something about “Out Loud” that reminded me of the track at the end of the Cursive album The Ugly Organ, just in the way that it feels like the whole thing led up to this grand conclusion that wraps up the album in a very lengthy, cinematic way.
We played around with putting “Out Loud” last, instead of “Odds Are,” and I think we still think of “Odds Are” as kind of a secret bonus track because we always end on sort of a dramatic, sad note. I don’t think “Out Loud” is that sad of a song, but the way we’re a band now is so different from when we recorded all of the other albums. I think this is the first time that I really realized, “Oh, I don’t have to say every single thing that I need to say right here and right now, I don’t have to end this album on any note of finality.” I wanna do this for the rest of my life—I’m going to make more music, I have more stuff to say. So I think it was a way of taking pressure off of ourselves. This album doesn’t have to be everything right now, because there’s always more to come. FL