The family that plays together stays together. In the case of The Band Perry, that family also records massive crossover hits.
The country-pop trio consists of the three Perry siblings: Kimberly (lead vocals), Reid (bass) and Neil (mandolin and accordion). The brothers join their sister on harmony vocals.
The Perrys call for an interview from their family home in Greeneville, Tenn. It's a rare day off. They're so busy on the road these days that the tour bus has become home. "We tallied it up, and over the past two years we've been on the road 630 days," Neil says. "It's been playing shows pretty much every single night."
The siblings are excited about the release of their sophomore album, "Pioneer" (Republic Nashville), which drops Tuesday. Members of The Band Perry co-wrote nine of the 12 tracks.
The Perrys are young. Neil is 22. Reid is 24. Kimberly is "the elder statesman at 29," she says, "and I'm going to stay that way." They make for a striking trio, the two dark-haired brothers flanking the petite sister with the blond mane. Despite their youth, the three have been working together as a band for 14 years. They are also classic siblings, a mixture of competitiveness and solidarity.
"We are very competitive with each other, but I think it's because we literally grew up doing this," Reid says. "Kimberly was 15, I was 10 and Neil was 8 (when we started playing together as a band). We've focused our whole lives on music. People ask us what our hobbies are. They ask us what we do when we're at home and not doing music. We tell them, 'We do this 24/7.' We enjoy it."
The Band Perry — or TBP, for short — was a success out of the box with its 2010 self-titled debut. The release yielded five hit singles, including the dark and lovely No. 1 song, "If I Die Young," an arresting number about "the sharp knife of a short life."
A rootsy, romanticized lament from a young girl imagining her early death, "If I Die Young" was an unusual song to make it through the tight bottleneck of country radio. Written with startling skill by Kimberly, the song is a classic mixture of Southern gothic ("Sink me in the river at dawn/ Send me away with the words of a love song") and teenage angst ("Funny when you're dead how people start listenin'"). The lush video features a supine Kimberly floating on the water in a canoe, her eyes closed. In her hands is a book of poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson that contains the poem "The Lady of Shalott."
On YouTube, the video for "If I Die Young" stands at more than 68 million views, proving that TBP knows a thing or two about cultural resonance. Talented, photogenic and driven by a hard-core family work ethic, the Perrys are always willing to take chances.
"Pioneer" ups the commercial ante with a turbocharged country-pop and rock sound. Like
"Pioneer" was produced by Dann Huff, a respected producer and session musician who has helmed releases for the likes of
"Dann was absolutely the guy to bring that home for us," Kimberly says. "We knew that we needed to embrace more of our rock 'n' roll roots to accommodate an exciting live show. We have always had our live show in mind. Before we were even recording, before we were doing interviews, we were playing live."
"I think one of the things that really made our songs more arena-prepared is that we wanted a more aggressive drumbeat in our live shows where you could find the truest picture of who we are," Reid says. "Dann did a great job of bringing in the aggressive drumbeat. Even our background vocals this time are more involved, at some points even a little
"We listened to a lot of
The reference to the theatrical rock band as a musical touchstone shows how far The Band Perry has come from what most folks would consider traditional country music. The band is tight and slick, fashioning a skillfully layered sound to reach all the way up to the nosebleed sections of an arena.
The best cut on "Pioneer" is the dark hit "Better Dig Two," written by
"When we made the decision to put "If I Die Young" on our first album, we were a little bit naive about how risky that was," Kimberly says. "I will say that the one thing that defines us in our creative decision-making is boldness. Being at this point in the sophomore process, we had to keep making decisions based on the bold steps that brought us to the dance in the first place."
The young Perrys salute their mother, Marie, in the song "Mother Like Mine." Both parents are major players in TBP's career. Their mom travels with them and serves as their coach and stylist. Their father, Steve, a pediatrician, finds time to handle a lot of their on-the-road scheduling.
"We are a family," Kimberly says. "Every day, every discussion that we have revolves around our lives and music. It's the family business for sure. In another life without kids in the music business, our mom and dad would have been in management and artist development, because they just have an innate sense about how to do that."
"Our parents are kind of the fourth and fifth members of The Band Perry," Reid says. "They've been doing this as long as we have."