of Verona

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of Verona

Mandi Perkins has taken her sweet time to find her place in the music industry. After moving from Toronto to Berkeley (where she received two degrees!) to Los Angeles, she finally switched to a solo gig several years back. In 2008, she released a solo EP, which we enjoyed, but then promptly fell off the map entirely.

Fast forward to 2011 and she has reappeared as the lead singer for the glitter grunge band of Verona, and the band’s debut EP, Fall Like Roses, is gathering some serious buzz from critics while being played by rock heavyweights like KROQ. To say that she is loving life in spite of the ups and downs that have come along is a bit of an understatement. Perkins recently spoke to us about what went wrong with the solo career and how everything turned out for the best.

SSv: Why don’t you start by telling us about your EP you’ve recently released?

Mandi Perkins: We just finished our debut EP, Fall Like Roses, and we released it for free on July 19. So far it’s been available on our website and on Facebook, and we are working on our first full-length album right now, which should be ready in the fall.

SSv: Wow, that’s exciting.

I’m much more of a band kind of person. You’ve gotta have a very specific type of personality to be a pop rock solo artist as opposed to being a lead singer for a rock band.

I’m much more of a band kind of person. You’ve gotta have a very specific type of personality to be a pop rock solo artist as opposed to being a lead singer for a rock band.

Mandi: I know! We recorded the EP pretty much on the couch and it’s produced by the band, written by the band and recorded by the band, so it was very much done in-house.

SSv: Nice!

Mandi: I know! We’re really proud of it. It’s been getting a lot of good attention and we hopefully are going to get a little bit of funding for our full-length album at some point.

SSv: Sweet. Yeah, that’d be nice. Now how long did it take you guys to record the EP?

Mandi: We recorded Fall Like Roses over probably a four- or five-month span. We would write a song and then record it, and then we’d go back to it and if we didn’t like it… you know, we didn’t have a set amount of time within which we were going to record the EP. We kind of recorded it in between doing other stuff, so I would like to go back at some point when we do the full album and maybe dust off some stuff, maybe some of the vocals. We’re really proud of the record and the massive amounts of rotations we’ve had so far. Obviously I’m a little biased, but I think the songs are dope.

SSv: Yeah, it would be a little bit curious if you didn’t think they were.

Mandi: Well, I haven’t made a ton of recordings in my life, but I’ve had songs I haven’t actually liked that ended up on my solo stuff, and sometimes songs just don’t come out the way you want them to. But pretty much, I listen to this EP all the time. Maybe I don’t listen to all seven songs all the time, maybe three here and four there, but I listen to it every day and that’s really weird to me. I’m not that narcissistic of a lead singer that I like listening to myself that much. But I genuinely listen to the EP and there are things I hear in it that I haven’t heard before, and I’ve listened to it for months now.

SSv: That’s good that you can still listen to it every day. You would think after all these months you wouldn’t necessarily get tired of the music but maybe you would listen to it less, so that’s good that you still listen to it regularly.

Mandi: Oh dude, the music just speaks to me. There are times where I listen to “Castles” and it just pumps me up! I listen to it and it just makes me want to go out. Or if I’m exercising it makes me want to push harder. And “Fall Like Roses,” if you’re just wanting a blank narrative or something when you’re in your car, you just put that song on and it just takes you to a different place. It’s crazy because I wrote the song and yet I still get taken to a new place by it every time. And if you’re bummed out, you put “Raining” on. And if you want to make out with somebody you put “Match” on, although I will say I do not make out to my own music, because that would just be creepy.

SSv: No doubt. That would be a little different for sure.

Mandi: Yeah. I don’t want to hear my own voice. Well, I don’t want hear my own voice recorded when I’m making out with someone. [Both laugh]

SSv: So “Why Pretend” off your solo record appears on this EP and gets a bit of a facelift this time around. Why the change in sound?

Mandi: Well I was signed as a solo artist and then I made an album, but it never got to come out really because right before we were gonna go to radio with “Why Pretend” my record label got fired and the label collapsed.

SSv: Yikes.

Mandi: So I never got the chance. The album never had a chance to do anything. It’s not like it got pushed into stores and got ignored by the public. Pretty much we were about to start doing stuff — we were going to do a video, we were gonna go to radio, we had a radio date — and it just all fell apart, which sometimes happens. And I’m not gonna look back on it and say that it’s the worst thing ever—although at the time I was really sad—because now I’m in a band and I absolutely love it. I’m much more of a band kind of person. You’ve gotta have a very specific type of personality to be a pop rock solo artist as opposed to being a lead singer for a rock band.

SSv: Right.

Mandi: But I just never thought “Why Pretend” got a good chance. Alice In No Man’s Land [her 2008 solo release] didn’t have a good chance, “Why Pretend” never got a good chance and finally I was just like, “You know, it deserves a chance.” It gets played live and I love how we’ve redone it. It’s fantastic. It’s got a different vibe to it, and the best part is it’s really resonant while I’m singing it. I still believe what I’m saying when I sing it. I don’t know if it will go on the full-length, but I feel like it just needed a little chance to come out on the EP.

SSv: So is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming album? Will a lot of the songs from Fall Like Roses make the cut, or do you have any idea how that’s going to work out at this point?

Mandi: Well, we’re still in the middle of writing it right now. We’ll probably take a least four songs from the EP, maybe five, and maybe we’ll do a few things differently to them because our album is actually going to be for sale. [Laughs] The EP was kind of like a sampler. You know when you go to a place and you’ve never tried their food? And you go to like Sephora, well you don’t [Both laugh], but if you were a girl and you went into Sephora and you wanted to try cream and they give you a sample of face cream you’d go home and use it for a week. Sometimes you go “This is like the best cream ever” and you go out and buy it.

It’s kind of like that because no one knows who of Verona is. I just made the switch over… I didn’t make a huge deal about switching from Mandi Perkins to of Verona, so I didn’t take a lot of Mandi Perkins fans with me, you know? They didn’t know. Hopefully they’ll find out again and be like, “I wonder whatever happened to Mandi. Oh, she’s in this band. Cool!” But of Verona wasn’t super well known so we wanted to just give something to the fans to start getting our name out there. So that’s working really well.

SSv: Yeah it is.

Mandi: I think we’ll pick some of those songs, tweak ‘em a little, and then we have about seven new songs we’ll add to it. Tentatively the album is being called The White Apple. I’m pushing for that, severely. My vote does count—a lot! So I’m thinking it will be called The White Apple and it will have maybe 13 or 14 songs.

SSv: Sweet, that’s a hefty one!

Mandi: Yeah, we have too much sruff! It’s gonna be an album you put on that you can like watch with a movie, like Alice in Wonderland or something trippy where you can listen to it and watch the movie with it at the same time.

SSv: Nice.

Mandi: Yeah, we’re aiming for one of those things. Except we’re not gonna sit around and do drugs. I’m not exactly sure how that’s gonna work out, but we’re very nice and clean and sober, and the album’s gonna be trippy!

SSv: Looking forward to it.

Mandi: I’m not gonna be like, “It’s gonna change the scope of music history” or anything, but I predict that our album will be quite next levelish.

SSv: Next levelish, eh?

Mandi: That you can quote me on. [Laughs]

SSv: I’ll do that. That has “caption-worthy” written all over it.

Mandi: We don’t expect everybody to like love our stuff since music is so subjective.

SSv: Sure.

Mandi: And how can you really judge anyway what makes something good or bad? It’s all based on opinion and we realize there’s a certain amount of subjectivity in all that, but we hope people will listen to the EP and at least recognize the validity of what we’re doing, which is something that is different. You don’t have to like our style, but it comes from a very real, honest place. It was made on a Mac and it’s got this cool electro vibe and this 2050 heartbeat, but it’s real, it’s passionate. There’s no trickery in it, you know?

It’s about things that have actually happened and every song is about something that means something. There’s nothing that’s just there because we were like, “Oh, we need to write a song about this or a song about that.” They’re just songs that were written because they needed to get written at the time for whatever reason. So we hope that people will listen to it and know that it’s just a real honest effort and that it will at least be judged on that.

SSv: You talk about the songs coming from a very real and passionate place and needing to be written, so I’m curious about the inspiration for “Raining” because that one sounds heavy.

Mandi: Well, my brother, who I was very, very close to, my only brother, he got brain cancer about two and a half years ago, and I wrote “Raining” maybe a year and a half ago actually so that he could listen to it while he was going through chemo and stuff like that, to make him feel better. And unfortunately he passed away in April.

SSv: I’m sorry.

Mandi: That’s okay. He actually passed away the week the EP was finished. I mean we released it in July but the week we actually finished recording it he got to hear it. But it’s a song that was written from a very, very dark, sad place trying to show that even in the darkest, darkest place there can be beauty out of it. Which is kind of like saying to him that his situation is the worst thing ever but I’m gonna take it and make it into light so that when other people listen to the song hopefully it will help them out a bit. So it’s obviously a very important song to me, and when I sing it live, you know, I think that it’s a song where people really get what they need to get from it.

I think it’s going to be one of those things that people are going to listen to at the time when they need to listen to it, and they’re gonna be like, “I totally understand.” I know, I know, you can apply that to any situation: relationships, boyfriend-girlfriend stuff, husband-wife stuff. It can be applied to anything. But when I wrote it I was trying to say that “I know you’re in a world of hurt.” For most of that I was in the room with him when he was doing chemo, like writing that song. I didn’t want to be there doing any of that stuff but I wanted to show that at some point he’ll see that he didn’t suffer through this for no reason. So hopefully people will listen to it and they’ll have life from it, and that’ll honor his spirit I think.

SSv: What does music mean to you and why do you feel compelled to make it?

Mandi: Everybody goes through a bummed out period, and I think especially when you’re a teenager, with the right song and the right lyrics and the right melody, you can put it on and it will literally transport you somewhere else when you’re so sad in your own life and it’ll make you feel better. And I feel like now I have a chance after going through a whole lot of crap and sad stuff to maybe… people can listen to our music and feel better.

That’s always been the main goal is to hopefully make people feel a bit better. And the reason I make music is because it is who I am. I have a degree, two degrees actually — I’m over-educated — but I don’t think that anybody who ultimately chooses to do music for a living chooses to do it because it’s an easy road or because it’s like a fast track to anything, you know? It’s a struggle. There’s a lot of rejection, there’s a lot of people telling you different things and giving you their opinions, and it’s tough because it’s so subjective. It’s really hard when people are harsh on you with their opinions and feedback because how do they know any better than you? So it’s not an easy life, but it is a beautiful life.


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