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Pernice Brothers 'Live a Little' in new album

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By Regis Behe
Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006

Joe Pernice occasionally thinks about what it would be like to have a career that provides at least a semblance of stability.

Instead, he's like the vast majority of musicians who don't have tour buses, personal publicists or fawning acolytes waiting for them at every tour stop.

It's not the easiest way to make a living, but Pernice, who performs Saturday with the Pernice Brothers at Club Cafe, South Side, really isn't worried about becoming rich or famous.

"I learned a long time ago you don't stumble upon things too often that hit you with this much impact," Pernice says. "For me, writing songs and making music, I accidentally found it, this thing that I really feel strongly about, that I really love doing more than any other thing. I think about any other career or job or how I could spend my time in any other way, and there are very few things that come close to this. "

Pernice's passion is evident in a body of work that exhibits a dogged resistance to trends. "Live a Little," the new album, is filled with melodic miniatures, breezy pop confections that gain ballast from trenchant, intelligent lyrics.

It's music, Pernice says, that is outside the mainstream. But it also is music that is not created with an audience in mind. There's no conscious attempt to be different, trendy or anything other than Joe Pernice.

"I just try to make music that is honest," Pernice says, "and has an emotional connection, an emotional importance, to me. And then, I kind of just go from there; let the chips fall. Which is kind of why I wanted to start my own record label."

Pernice's Ashmont Records allows him to concentrate on music without having to worry about demographic studies or meeting sales quotas. He admits this might not be the savviest way to do business, but it does allow him to write songs that might be summarily dismissed by record executives.

For instance, if Pernice took the song "B.S. Johnson" to a major label, they'd think it was a song about someone prone to exaggeration. Actually, it's about the British experimental novelist and writer B. S. Johnson who was the subject of Jonathan Coe's book, "Like a Fiery Elephant." In the album credits, Pernice gives nods to Johnson and Coe, and also gives kudos to mystery writer George Pelecanos, who often cites musicians in his work.

"It is amazing, and yet it makes sense," Pernice says of the confluence of writing and music. "Artists like different things. I like George's writing, I love the TV show, "The Wire," that he works on. It just makes sense. It's not that unusual. When you start connecting all the dots, I don't know if it's people who influenced each other or people who just like each other."

There certainly are enough people who enjoy Pernice's work to make music a viable career for him. He says that his fortunes grow better every year, even if he's selling less than he would on a major label. Pernice makes 10 times as much on every record he sells, and owns all of his publishing rights. And with the Internet, there's a possibility that Pernice's music can be heard by a kid in Olympia, Wash., or a kid in Sweden.

"Even better than that, some kid in Olympia, Wash., or a kid in Sweden can put up his own record and be a star just over a weekend on its merits," he says, "whether it's fashion or quality or both. It's viral these days, which I think is pretty excellent."

Additional Information:

The Pernice Brothers

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $12; $14 day of show

Where: Club Cafe, South Side

Details: 412-431-4950 or

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