Interview: Periphery Discuss Their New Album, 'Periphery II: This Time It's Personal'
Periphery talk about taking their music to the next level with Periphery II.
Amidst the virtuosity, the album has plenty of hooky choruses, so you are completely capable of writing a fairly radio-friendly song. Is that something you are opposed to?
MANSOOR I don’t think it really occurs to us. We just write music that sounds cool to us.
Dream Theater had a hit with “Pull Me Under,” and the classic progressive band Yes had several hits, including “Roundabout” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” They managed to write for the radio and maintain their dignity.
MANSOOR I don’t think we’re against writing a radio song, but I have a hard time imagining sitting down to do it. It’s funny: many of the album’s most commercial moments come together in such a weird way. One of the catchiest choruses on this album is on the song “Ji.” We wrote the instrumental backing tracks first and gave them to Spencer to write lyrics and sing over. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what he was going to do because it was so weird harmonically. Somehow he reeled it in and was able to make it really hooky with his vocal line. That’s part of his genius—he can write a great melody over anything.
“Scarlet” is probably our most conventional, because it has a verse-chorus-verse-chorus arrangement. When we were working on it we noticed that the first couple of riffs were pretty catchy, and we decided to follow that—we thought it would be an interesting exercise to make each part ear candy. That’s probably the closest we’ve come to writing something commercial, but it certainly wasn’t premeditated.
Your music often features three or four independent melodies that happen simultaneously. There have been studies that have shown that listening to Bach’s four-part inventions or music that regularly employs two or more independent melodic voices stimulates your brain. Will listening to Periphery make you smarter?
BOWEN [laughs] Yes, I think it can! I think if the rhythms and the melodies are stimulating enough, you might notice things about music that you haven’t really considered before. Any musical intelligence I might have is from listening to bands that play stimulating music.
MANSOOR I’m not sure whether our albums will make you smarter, but I’d say that it probably doesn’t hurt your brain to be challenged with something you like.
Is it me, or does this album have less “djent” moments in it?
BOWEN It’s not you…
MANSOOR Well, where it happens, we tried to make it count.
Jake you were quick to say, “Yes, we did cut back on that.”
BOWEN Yes, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
MANSOOR That’s funny. I didn’t even know Jake felt that way! That’s fine, and that’s probably a big part of why the “djent-y” moments are a little less evident. But it’s also probably an example of how we work. We don’t really talk that much about our music. We just play and get excited over ideas and riffs.
On the previous album, Misha wrote most of the music. It’s been mentioned that this album was more collaborative. Can you give me some examples of how that worked? How about “Have a Blast”?
MANSOOR I was jamming around on the opening series of riffs forever and I remember being very intimidated by them because they were a little all over the place. But I would pull them out on occasion and play around with them to see if anything developed. I got up to the two-minute mark, right after that first solo and that bit right after it, but that’s all I could come up with. So the beginning of “Have a Blast” just sort of sat around for two years. It was a little frustrating, because the initial idea was cool, but I just don’t know what to do with it. Mark came over one day and we just put our heads together.
HOLCOMB We were on our U.S. tour last September and I was soundchecking on a couple of riffs that happened to be at that same tempo as the ideas Misha had been working on. I made the connection, and soon we were on our way to a six-minute song.
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