Listen up, music fans–especially those of you that like Saint Slumber–
This is urgent.
A few weeks ago, it was rumored that two EPs—YOUTH//1 and YOUTH//2–were going to be wiped from the Internet.
LISTEN UP, PERNA.
This is unacceptable.
I don’t care how fire your new single is.
Stream “NO DUH.” by Saint Slumber on Spotify:
I’ll concede that “NO DUH.” by Saint Slumber could easily be the song of the summer, but please be reasonable, Josh.
You can’t just delete half of the music I listen to on a daily basis because of your recent banger streak!!
I mean, how to lose your self last year– followed by this–
I get it. You’re on a roll.
But the earlier work has its place in the Saint Slumber story too!!
I believe in it so much so that I am making the biggest, most public fuss about it that I can.
You pissed off the wrong English degree holder, buddy.
By the power vested in me by the SUNY System and MendoWerks Magazine–here is a publication 7k+ words in length defending YOUTH// by Saint Slumber.
(Don’t worry, most of it is an interview with Joshua Perna himself!)
But Ambur, Who The F#CK Are Saint Slumber?
You’re not the only one to ask, don’t worry.
But that’s changing, and quick.
To catch yourself up to speed, you can read about their 2021 EP, how to lose your self, in “Release Radar’s Greatest Hits Vol 3“.
But, to save yourself a little bit of time, here is the band’s biography, courtesy of their website:
“saint slumber is the best band you’ve never heard of.
vocalist joshua perna and guitarist aaron brown grew up together in the suburban sprawl between new york city and philadelphia. in 2017, they started saint slumber.
from 2017 – 2020 the band debuted their first era: the YOUTH// trilogy. over the three years they released three EPs, each garnering more attention and success than its predecessor. in their first year, they went from their first house show to their first arena, amassing millions of streams in the process.
the band shared the stage with acts such as thirty seconds to mars, walk the moon, judah & the lion, and more. collaborating across genre lines with acts such as adventure club + armnhmr, the band found success in multiple sounds and scenes, spanning from alt rock to EDM pop.
in 2020, era 1 came to a screeching halt along with the touring music industry. the band wasted no time connecting with their friends and fans, releasing singles that would be the beginnings of their second era, donating the proceeds to at-risk groups during the year.
the next era is beginning.
welcome to saint slumber.”
To me, Saint Slumber is special because no one knows how the hell to talk about it–including the folks in it. To them, It’s “a marketing nightmare” (Perna, 11/2021). It’s “the best band you’ve never heard of”… “the best//worst band on earth”.
But in reality, while it may feel like a marketing nightmare–their unique, inimitable sound is what sets Saint Slumber apart. They do the “no two songs are alike” thing in the most gorgeous, most cohesive way possible.
Much like with grandson, when you hear a Saint Slumber track, there won’t be a moment of “is this [one of a few genre-splicing acts]?” curiosity that takes you away from your listening in order to find out.
Instead, as you become familiar with the band, you’ll be met with a moment of comfortable familiarity–and the knowledge that you’re in for a treat.
Content-wise, every track that Saint Slumber releases takes the human experience and puts it under a microscope. Be it something huge, like the onset of a global pandemic, or something seemingly mundane, like finding yourself at the mercy of a tumultuous crush–they’re able to tease out the importance of the moment and write something gorgeous about it, without forcing anything.
In other words, even in their early years, Saint Slumber has always been able to find a balance between honesty, rawness & relatability… while proving time and time again that they know exactly what they’re doing, regardless of what main genre they’re working in.
It’s easy to “do too much at once”, but even in their craziest songs, Saint Slumber has never crossed that line.
Even Spotify is starting to catch on.
While Saint Slumber’s discography may not be directly about your life, or your experience, there is a level of relatability and intimacy found in the music of Saint Slumber unlike anywhere else. It’s almost like each track is a small novel–not a diary entry–in this way.
And I believe that has tremendous value.
You can learn so much about yourself, about others, and your relationships with others–about the human experience at large–by reading novels.
And in this case, by listening to Saint Slumber.
It’s so rare to find a band where their discography is like a treasured time capsule–or an old bookstore–where each item is to be savored, carefully unearthed and examined.
Of course, the earlier EPs may feel simple, as compared to something as complex as how to lose your self–or as gorgeously put-together as “NO DUH.”–and one may feel that they do not fit with the newer stuff for this reason.
But no two experiences will ever quite be alike, will they?
Between humans, or even between one’s own past and present.
Within the YOUTH// trilogy, you can find songs about so many powerful “coming of age” moments that one can definitely relate back to their own life–either retrospectively, or as one is going through it.
And if you plot the entire discography as one single, continuous story–as lore, I suppose–you can see, in some ways, how the emerging adult in how to lose your self got to the point that they’re at.
From “COOL” to “doomy”.
The above meme was included in “RRGH Volume 3” because it’s a fun depiction of what it’s like to listen to Saint Slumber’s discography on shuffle. But now, it’s taken on a new meaning for me.
Let me explain.
Much like in any coming of age story, and in life, we often start bright-eyed and curious, ready to take on whatever it is that our life throws at us.
There are calls to action, plot points, turning points, resolutions….
(Chris, my lovely first creative writing teacher, this is for you.)
In story writing, we have this thing called a plot paradigm. Long story short, it originated as a thing in screenwriting–so, writing for film and TV–but novels and short stories can be conceptualized and plotted this way, too. In fact, I prefer it that way, when doing my own fiction writing, and used this practice for my fiction-related thesis.
Point is, almost every single story can be paradigm’d.
Including that of Saint Slumber.
Here are your plot points:
In the lore of Saint Slumber…
The goal (or, in paradigm land, our conflict) is to get to here. To “NO DUH.”, and to the era where the band is releasing music they’re beyond excited about. Our inciting incident is actually a project that came before Saint Slumber that you’ll learn about in the interview. (Josh, I’ll have you know, I can hear a little bit of “the s word” in “NO DUH.”–but only in that ‘omnipotent voice’ way. ‘The s word’ has value.).
This earlier project is what Saint Slumber emerged from, so I consider it part of the overall story. And the rest? It all continues to line up. Even with Josh’s insistence that “our discography starts in 2020 with ‘It’s Okay To Be Afraid'”.
After all, it’s the second plot point that sets the reader up for the highest point of action–the climax, the biggest moment of change–in the story. In this case, the 2020’s singles (plot point 2) and how to lose your self (our climax) plot perfectly along that line–but only if we include YOUTH//.
I’ll spare you the full analysis, but between the “eras” of Saint Slumber, and remarks from the band itself… the music truly does fit a full arc.
We’ve now reached the resolution–the renaissance of Saint Slumber music. We’ve reached “NO DUH.”. And without YOUTH//, it would be an incomplete journey. An incomplete story.
And in turn, an incomplete discography.
We can’t truly appreciate “NO DUH.”, or how to lose your self, if we don’t know how we got here.
But you know what?
Dear readers, please decide for yourself.
Are YOUTH//1 and //2 worth saving?
Here they are in a neat little playlist for you to listen to as you go on to read an interview with the menace himself, Joshua Perna.
Read on to learn more about the band, his side project, King Leer, the YOUTH// triology, how to deal with creative burnout in the digital age, corn, and much, much more.
Two Chats with Joshua Perna of Saint Slumber
What initially started this feature was something that Joshua Perna had said in a Discord group chat message a few months before this talk of YOUTH// cancellation.
He said, “I definitely have a success bias sometimes, which is sad.”
When I asked him about this (after sharing some happy Saint Slumber related anecdotes), he elaborated, “It’s hard to explain, but it really can be isolating on this side of things; we have millions of streams and hundreds of thousands of listeners but it just feels like numbers, It’s easy to forget each one of those numbers is a real human being listening to the music in real life.
“So when a song ‘does well’, it feels like success, and when a song like ‘GRIEF 1993’ doesn’t go algorithmic, It honestly feels like a complete failure.
“So it’s really cool to see and hear that there still are thousands of people who listen to it and actually enjoy it.”
That haunted me.
As a music lover, and as a creator myself, his words really struck a nerve.
“It’s easy to forget each one of those numbers is a real human being [consuming our art] in real life”.
So many people needed to hear those words.
You probably do, too–whether you’re a creative, or just occasionally bummed by the single-digit interactions you get on your personal social media posts.
So I asked if Joshua would chat with us about all that–about imposter syndrome, creative burnout in the digital age, among other things.
Here is that interview in full. I recommend reading to the end. He’s got a lot to say, and it’s inspired me over and over again.
AM: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started with music?
Joshua Perna: Yeah, I’m the vocalist for Saint Slumber, but I’m also a songwriter, I’m a producer for other artists. I do session work. So, I’ll just, like, be a drummer or be a bassist for some artists.
Just this year (2021) we are having our 10 year anniversary of Aaron and I making music.
But that’s not even entirely accurate because we made music for probably like four years before that. But it was just so abysmal. We don’t even count that.
So yeah, we started The Soviet 10 years ago. So, I wrote like my first song as like a vocalist 10 years ago, but even before that, we were in metal bands. We were founding members of a band called Lorna Shore that has since gone on to become one of the preeminent deathcore bands. Like, we’re still going, and we were in that band, like, 14 years ago.
Which is insane.
Yeah, so we’ve been really hacking away at this thing for a really, really long time.
I’ve always loved music. I’ve been banging on pots and pans since I was a child.
So, yeah, we’re just constantly in the process of reinventing ourselves and trying to take what we learned from the last thing and apply it to the next thing.
Like, I’m just starting my solo project now. And I’ve been in the game for 14 years.
So, it’s like, I’m a month in on square one, yet again. I’m just kind of always doing that.
I just love playing music and whatever application I can find myself playing music is what I end up doing.
AM: That is one hell of background. Thank you. Wow. So, from death metal, to like, cute acoustic rock [as in King Leer] to, you know, everything all in one–I like to call it genre splicing–a la Saint Slumber.
What made you kind of like, go from point A to point B, If you don’t mind my asking? Do you have a preferred genre to work in?
Joshua Perna: I think part of my problem is that I just have a deep and broad love for music. And like, you can just kind of see it in the fact that, you know, Saint Slumber is a band I’m in, but I also want to be making acoustic music, and I also want to be writing for other people in different genres.
And then even in Saint Slumber– What did you say? Genre slicing?
AM: Splicing. Yeah. Like, you guys pull from so many different types of music that I-I can’t really define you.
Joshua Perna: Splicing. I like it. Okay, so like I was saying, that should show you that I have a focus issue in terms of picking sounds and finding sounds that I want to work with.
Because you try your best to follow where inspiration leads you, right? And inspiration leads me everywhere.
So I ended up having to put limitations on myself because if I don’t rein it in, I’ll kind of just play in way too many spaces. If you listen to our back catalogue, we have acoustic music, and “Infinite” is one of our biggest songs, which is an acoustic song.
And I had a lot of acoustic music, but we also were going, like very electronic, and very bombastic, and like–arena rock.
“Because you try your best to follow where inspiration leads you, right? And inspiration leads me everywhere.”
Joshua Perna: Because to try to fit everything under this umbrella would just be a marketing nightmare. [laughs]
It’s very difficult to advertise and market your band when your band is a bunch of different stuff.
So, you know, at one point, our top five songs were in five, like, completely disparate genres. Which, if you’re a fan of us, that can be very cool and very refreshing. Like, if you’re along for the ride.
But for a new fan? You hear a song like “Infinite” you know, [and think], ‘oh shit, I absolutely love this song. I want to hear more.’ And then you go in and then you hear, like, an EDM song. Like a weird electronic-metal song. Like, you end up just kind of backing away–‘Okay, they just did the one song I like’ and then they don’t get more invested.
So as of late, I’ve been trying to focus more. I’m trying to like, focus in, and really find what is Saint Slumber’s sound. Because that’s a definitely a problem of mine. I love too much music and I like to tinker with too many sounds.
AM: Hey, I just gotta say. by the end of 2020, I dove into grandson like, massively. And I was in search of someone who did similar amounts of, like, dabbling, in a lot of different sounds, where it like, actually works really well? And when I found Saint slumber, I was like, “This is it, this is it!!! They do everything!”
But, as you know, that is a huge selling point for me. I do completely understand what you’re talking about with, you know, needing to kind of compartmentalize and focus–
Joshua Perna: I totally get it. Like, if you’re a fan, and you’re already in, it’s great, because you’re like, I can go to this one place, and kind of go on a journey with these guys.
But when you’re on the other side, and you’re like, “I have to try to sell somebody on it”?
Because people will be like, ‘Hey, you’re in a band, what’s your band sound like?’
I’m like, “Uhh… Well, what do you like?’
I’ll have to try to like, tailor my pitch to them, like ‘what kind of music are you into? And I can probably find you a song that you’d like, at least think was cool.’
You know what I mean?
Joshua Perna: Yep.
AM: On that note, how do you generally decide between projects? Like, when you come up with a concept for a song or like, get an idea, how do you decide which direction is gonna go into? Like, whether it’s going to be a King Leer song versus pitching the same song for Saint Slumber, versus something you’re gonna pitch to someone else?
Joshua Perna: That’s a really good question–and it’s kind of like an imprecise art.
It’s basically just the vibe– I had to make some decisions, because for a while the two were crossing over arbitrarily. And I was like, ‘Yeah, this one’s definitely this.’
I think as I’m getting more focused, it’s like, okay, Saint Slumber– the DNA of a Saint Slumber song is more–It’s accessible, I suppose. A little more like pop in its in its structure. Whereas King Leer allows me to kind of get a little more. I don’t know…abstract? And a little more nebulous.
It’s tough to say.
The easiest way to think about it is, like, obviously, Saint Slumber songs are higher energy.
And they’re, like, bigger and louder.
Whereas, like, King Leer can kind of get more intimate.
Joshua Perna: But, you know, there’s, there’s exceptions to the rules.
Sometimes I want to fit like a kind of weird song into Saint Slumber’s record. Like, you know, I like concept records. So it’s like, every once in a while, I fit something that could very well be a King Leer song, but I’m like, this kind of needs to exist on this [Saint Slumber] record, because it exists in this concept.
So yeah, I just kind of feel it out.
And it’s a gut feeling. You know, where it can decide, like, this is where this needs to go, or this isn’t where this needs to live.
And you are going to hear a couple of songs come out as King Leer that are redone versions of Saint Slumber songs, because I originally wrote them as King Leer songs, put them out of Saint Slumber.
And then I’m like, now we definitely have to do it as King Leer.
AM: I like that you used the phrase and “imprecise art”. I think that’s powerful, because I think all art is kinda imprecise, in a way, you know? Everyone’s kind of you get an idea of what you want to do. But while you’re doing it, it all kind of shifts in one direction or another.
Joshua Perna: Yeah, absolutely.
AM: So… on balancing multiple projects–and edging into the creative burnout type of topics we’ve touched on previously–how do you make time for both projects, while also making sure that you have time for yourself?
Joshua Perna: Hmm. Okay. Um, really good question. Hmm. So, there’s the creative answer, which essentially is, I kind of just have time where I’m making music, and something will come into fruition and it’ll be like, okay–this is a thing, it’s going Saint Slumber; this is a thing, it’s going to King Leer.
I keep a lot of records; I have a whiteboard that I’m always writing on and I have, you know, apps on my phone just to keep everything kind of aligned.
And then as due dates drawn near, you make the decision like, ‘Okay, I have to focus more on this project right now, to focus more on this.’ or whatever.
I am getting better at the balance between work and time for myself because for a while, especially in the pandemic, my ability to parse those things apart… it was a very poorly exercised muscle.
You know, when you’re your own boss, any free time you have, you’re like, ‘What should I be spending this on? Should be spending this on my business? Should I be spending this on my career?’
And especially during the pandemic, when everyone was locked indoors? I kind of took that as a challenge where I’m like, ‘Okay, you know, no one’s touring. Everyone is like indisposed right now. I’m going to take this opportunity to double my output.’
“You know, when you’re your own boss, any free time you have, you’re like, ‘What should I be spending this on? Should be spending this on my business? Should I be spending this on my career?'”
Joshua Perna: Like, that’s what I told myself. And I started doing the songs that were like, instantaneous reactions to what was happening in the world.
We had this song, “It’s okay to be afraid”, and I wrote that song and submitted it within days.
Like, while stuff was locking down. I wrote that song, and I had it out even before like the entire country was locked down.
Like, that was so fast.
I had to, like, pull that out of a hat so quickly.
And I was proud because I’m like–I think I did literally the first pandemic song.
I’m almost positive I did, because it was out April– like, April 3rd, or whatever. It was so quick.
(2nd April, 2020–he was so close!)
Joshua Perna: But for the 18 months following that, that’s just how I was working.
I’m like, ‘Gotta do the thing–got to do it–Now!’
“Peachy” was in response to kind of the protests that are happening around the country. ‘Gotta get it done, gotta get it done.–Now!’
“Guillotine” we did in response to the January 6 insurrection.
And I was just flooring myself to get all this stuff done as soon as possible, to be the first to get it done, you know?
I’m writing, recording, producing, doing it all myself. And I was under this sort of impression that, ‘Hey, if I do it myself, it’s free.’ You know? If I’m not paying someone to do it, that means I’m saving money, and therefore it’s free.
But I ended up realizing nothing’s free; you’re just burning a different fuel.
“While you might not be spending money, you are. You’re spending your time. And that is not a renewable resource. Your energy is finite.”
I just thought I was able to, you know, run myself into the ground without any repercussions.
And [in the beginning of 2021], I started to definitely feel the repercussions of, you know, burning myself as the fuel instead of money, or resources.
So, the answer to your question is–I’m not the expert on how to separate between my projects and myself [laughs].
I’m definitely learning as I go along.
I’m on the other side of it now. Earlier in the year, my body, like–there was a definitive point where my body was like, ‘Hey, you’re done.’ You know?
So I had to change what I was doing at that point.
And things are definitely a lot better on this side of 2021.
AM: We are definitely really happy to hear that. What kinds of what kinds of measures do you take now to avoid that kind of burnout? Are there any red flags like, ‘Oh, I’ve been working too long’ or any, like, specific breaks you make sure to take?
Joshua Perna: It’s about setting the boundary ahead of time. Because when you’re following the muse, or whatever, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I could definitely go until 2AM on this.’
But doing it for long enough, you go, ‘Okay. Never worth it.’
On setting time boundaries–I try not to work past like 6PM anymore.
For a long time, I would work until like 10, 11PM. And I’m a very sensitive person. Some people are able to kind of just muscle through stuff. But if I’m on the computer until 10, 11PM? I come off like buzzed and I can’t go to sleep. So it’s learning to accommodate for oneself…
For a while, I thought I had to be like, what culture is telling me I have to be. Like, ‘you gotta hustle, you gotta grind. You got to be built different. You got to do the nights and weekends.’
But I’ve learned that, you know, that it’s a cultural narrative. And it’s not even true!
But even if it was true, like, I don’t have to treat myself that way. Because I can know like, ‘Hey, like, you are more sensitive to things than other people are. You get more frazzled, you know, than the average person, so accommodate for yourself.’
Then really set in, Build in time. Or, like, at 6pm you’re done working.
And take a weekend.
Because during pandemic I counted– I worked–for one stretch I worked 70 days without a day off.
At the time, that was a badge of honor.
I’m like, “Yeah, I’m just grinding bro!”
And then you know, you have your first actual breakdown.
Joshua Perna: And, you’re like, you know, you’re going to pay for that. There is going to be a consequence for that amount of work on a longer scale. Because if like yeah, when I’m tired, I go to sleep–
But you know, there’s daily tiredness.
But then there’s like weekly, and monthly, and yearly tiredness, where it’s like you are starting to have a debt that has been months in the making.
So yeah, the answer is definitely set boundaries and be kind to yourself.
Treat yourself like any other thing you’re taking care of. Because, yeah, like I said, you’re not a renewable resource, infinitely.
AM: I hear ya. And I love all of that. I apologize for the silence; I’m not sure what to say. I’m a bit taken aback because that resonates so much with me right now.
Joshua Perna: I don’t think we’re alone. I think a lot of people are learning these lessons, specifically this year, and I think we as a culture are starting to understand like, ‘wow’, you know? We have been going at a pace that is not sustainable.
AM: And the pandemic definitely didn’t help any–because, you know, that transition to working from home and all those boundaries of, you know, being able to have your drive to get mentally prepared for your day is gone, and then you had your eight hours in your dedicated workspace, and your drive home to decompress. But now, your, you know, that separation is completely gone in a lot of cases.
Joshua Perna: Yeah, the separation is gone– but even sometimes people realize, ‘Oh, actually, the way I was doing things before was really fucked up. Now that I’m home, and I don’t have to do that two hour round trip commute, and the nine hours at work, I remember what my kids are like–‘
You know, whatever it is.
In a million different ways, I just think it’s been a huge reset, you know? It made people take a step back and actually look at what they’ve been doing. Whether it’s good, bad, new, old, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow.’ Like, ‘This is not sustainable’ you know?
AM: Absolutely agree. On the flipside of recognizing burnout, what advice would you have for recognizing achievements and avoiding feelings of like, ‘I’m not doing enough’ or other symptoms of impostor syndrome–stuff like that–now that you’re over the hurdle?
Joshua Perna: At the end of the day, people don’t want to think about this. But it’s like, at the end of the day, nothing you’re doing is ever going to ultimately matter. There’s nothing that you’re doing in your career, there’s nothing that you’re doing at work, or with your band–like, eventually, everything turns to death.
So that means, like, enjoying something is a subjective thing.
You need to make the decision, whether you’re going to always be chasing the carrot, or if you’re going to stop and look at what you’ve done and spend some time to congratulate yourself, you know?
Joshua Perna: We’re sort of geared biologically to always think, you know, that happiness or satisfaction is just one more thing away. And then you get the thing and you realize, ‘I’m not really as satisfied as I thought I would be. So it must be that! Or that [other] thing!’,
And then you’re always just on that treadmill, until you’re 65. And you’re retiring, and you’re looking at your career in retrospect, and they’re like, ‘Hey, all of the all of the good times are behind you.’ And you’re like ‘I wasn’t enjoying it then. I’m sad about it now.’ You know?
When were you supposed to appreciate what you’ve done?
That’s why the answer is like, you have the opportunity to look at it right now.
No matter where you are in the arc of your career, whether you’re 20 or 40, or 60–you have the opportunity to right now, in this moment, to appreciate what you’ve done, how hard you’ve worked, and you know, rest in that.
AM: Amen to that–seriously. That was really powerful. […] In terms of downtime and stuff like that, because we all do need a break–and I figured we could take a moment to talk not work stuff. [laughs].
Tell me a little bit about a hobby that might surprise your fans and our readers. What’s something that you do in your spare time, maybe something that’s kind of fun or quirky?
Joshua Perna: Fun, quirky. [laughs]. Yeah, we um–
AM: Oh! Or horribly boring, you know–whichever you prefer. [laughs]
Joshua Perna: Oh, horribly boring–that’s it. [laughs]. Yeah. Especially when when a musician or any creative becomes a professional in that creative field.
It doesn’t happen immediately, but eventually you end up having a bit of an identity crisis because you go, ‘Okay, the thing I was doing for fun and to express myself is now something I HAVE to do.’
And even if you’re enjoying it, you’re like, ‘Okay, my career is my hobby, is my expression, is my sense of identity.’ And for me, those wires are really getting crossed in a bad way. Because what ends up happening is you go, ‘Okay, this thing that is so near and dear to my heart, my creative expression–um, it didn’t do well. This song didn’t do well at all.’
So it’s like, that can mean I’m not talented, which means I’m not good professionally. It can mean that people don’t like it, which means that they don’t like this little piece of me.
So, so many wires get crossed in a really unhealthy way.
So I’ve really been taking strides to like, find like, who am I–music not involved? just like, take music completely off the table. So my career’s gone. My social status is gone. This particular hobby, gone.
[Turns out], I absolutely love to read. I try to read 20 to 30 books a year. Actually, I would like to write a book–or at least a novella–in my 30s. That’s a goal moving forward. And, like, replacing one creative pursuit with another is kind of cheating. But I just, I love reading.
We like to watch a lot of films, we’re huge movie people. We like to talk about directors and cinematographers and DP’s and composers– we really like to break down art in that way.
Removing art off the table, I’ve been getting really into, like, artisanal stuff. Like, sartorial stuff, getting really into clothing, and fashion. Really into watchmaking, you know, the machinery of watches,
AM: Like, tinkering with the gears and everything too? Do you make your own wristbands?
Joshua Perna: I’m not making them– I’m studying watchmaking. And that’s because it’s just something that people can do with excellence. I love zeroing in on [the details]. Been listening to a lot of sommeliers talking about wine… It’s just–
For me, passion is really contagious.
So anyone who’s really good at what they do, and has a lot of knowledge on it–I love reading about that. I love listening to them speak.
Yeah, I know, that’s a lot.
Something more mindless–We like hiking. I hike a lot.
AM: I mean, that love of zeroing in directly translates into how to lose your self, because it’s clear that there’s so much detail there… I do have a question regarding that EP. What came first: “never /nowhere” the track, or “never/nowhere, the concept” for this overall piece?
Joshua Perna: I’m doing it all alone, so I have to think, ‘Okay, where did it start?’
I, like, really, genuinely don’t write a song; I always write in the idea of a record. And that’s a decision that I’ve just made for myself. Everything in the market, in the industry, has shifted away from that, but it’s just, it helps me write better.
When I’m trying to chip away at something from a bunch of different angles, it seems way more daunting for me to like, write a song and then be like, ‘Okay, it’s time to write about something completely different.’
Like, albums, really, for me….
You know, you have all these individual songs, and the album as a whole is like where I was that year.
So looking at albums that I’ve done, they really are little time capsules. Like, when you look the YOUTH// trilogy, that was really me, you know, trying to come to terms with the idea of becoming an adult. There’s a reason that’s such a common theme amongst young artists. You can see it from the beginning, all the way to the end of it–the arc of sort of grieving getting older.
I was doing YOUTH// for such a long time…
I started writing it in like 2014, and it went until 2020. Basically, it’s like half a decade. I was just kind of playing in this headspace and I had to go, ‘Okay, like, I’m definitely done with this. I’ve definitely tapped this particular well. What do I want to do next?’
And that’s the sort of conversation that started to shift into identity, and the idea of who I am, or what I am, and if I’m anything at all.
And that started to evolve, you know, and that started to take shape in different ways.
Joshua Perna: I think the concept of “never/nowhere” came first, probably.
“No self, no fear” is another motto from an author that [I came across]. I know nothing about him other than that’s one of the mottos for his work and it, just, like, jumped right out at me. Because, you know, my particular cross to bear is like a deep anxiety. Some people are depressive, some people are anxious–I am on like the panic attack side of anxiety.
So these conversations and questions about my identity–who I am, what I am–along with, like, the dissociatative nature of panic [and] anxiety, kind of led me into this thematic area where I’m talking about like, “I’m afraid–but like, what is the thing that is even afraid inside me?”, you know?
AM: Is that why you have this space in “your self” versus combining it?
Joshua Perna: Yes. Yeah. very intentional.
You’re not losing yourself, you’re losing your sense of self.
You know, ‘ego death’ is another word for that. So yeah, that’s where it all kind of came from.
And just the idea of, you know, the self being the ego, being the source of all joy, and also the source of all suffering. I think that is where everything kind of stemmed out of.
The original title for the record was just going to be “n.n.n.n”, but because I like a good weird kind of thing. But it ended up as how to lose your self because it’s a little more on the nose
AM: It’s very effective, in my opinion. So- speaking of suffering- you were around since the Myspace age, and so you’ve seen pretty much every iteration of social media, the rise of streaming culture… and now with covid turning everything 100% digital, including things like online concerts…
What impact do you think all of this has had on the music industry–and artistry in general?
Joshua Perna: Music always historically follows technology, not the other way around, you know? So before there were recording devices, music was something that you would go out and you would listen to. You would go see an orchestra or whatever. So, long form. When a composer would write something, that shit would be 35 minutes– 40 minutes– an hour.
But, you know, as soon as the invention of the phonograph came around, and you’re like, ‘Oh, we can only fit like, six minutes on this”, composition just radically started to shorten and, you know, along the way, we’ve been in this sort of phonograph era–
Like, we still call things records, even though that hasn’t been a thing for a really long time. It’s coming back. But as a novelty.
So, you’re seeing now, with the advent of the Internet, and specifically, with the advent of social media, really shortening attention spans. And I really feel like you’re seeing the commodification of music, in a way, unlike ever before.
Because it doesn’t even matter if music is new anymore. Because there’s so much music, that when a 15 year old comes online and is like, “Oh, music’s great!”, it doesn’t matter if they’re listening to The Police, which is from the 80’s, or if they’re listening to Bruno Mars, or to a song that sounds like The Police, in, like, 2011.
To them, there’s no actual difference, because they weren’t around for the progression of it.
So 70’s, or 80’s music, is now a genre, where it’s like, ‘Oh, I just want to listen to 80’s music today!’
And they don’t even have to dial in on any particular artist–they can just shuffle a playlist.
So we’re even seeing this on the scale of our band, which is obviously 1/1000th the size of The Police, where it’s like, we have, I don’t know, however, many million people listened to us a year. There’s no way of knowing how many of them actually even really know who Saint Slumber–who we are. I would say like maybe 25% of them would even recognize the name Saint Slumber. Because sometimes it’s just in playlists, and they’re just doing the dishes, and our song happens to come on, and then it goes, and there’s no way of knowing.
For example: find Saint Slumber & other favorites on Spotify’s Indie Pop playlist, linked below!
Joshua Perna: And then out of those 25%, who– like, do they know who’s in the band? Do they know what we look like? If they saw my face, would they recognize? it’s about 1% of that.
So the commodification of music is a such a real thing on the Internet because you can open up your phone, you know, the second you wake up, and get a constant stream of fresh stuff 18 hours a day, every day, for the rest of your life, ’till you die.
There’s no real need for any one of us anymore; you’re being consumed like a product. And you always have been, to a degree, but it’s become more and more impersonal, I would say.
That’s what it feels like it’s doing.
It feels like it’s really separating music fans from just, like, music listeners.
And it’s my decision that I’m going to play towards the music fans, you know? If I make this concept record, and you tell me that only 1% of the people who listen to us are going to actually pay attention and care about it, like, that’s totally fine with me.
I would rather do the extra work and pour in the blood, sweat and tears to make that connection with 100 people as opposed to just flinging music out for millions of people who don’t really care who I am–
That was a really long answer.
AM: No, no, I appreciate it. It’s a detailed answer–it’s an honest answer. That’s what I appreciate the most. I know that you are all very active on Discord and stuff like that, so I was wondering–
How do you feel about the use of social media as a tool to connect with fans? Do you think it’s a good tool? Or do you feel like it’s almost like an additional performance, in a way?
Joshua Perna: Social media started out in a performance-y way. And the farther along we go, now that every human being is on track to be on the internet soon, you know, you’re starting to find more niche situations. like when they first invented television, there were three channels, and everybody on earth consumed the same channels.
But as time went along, and everybody started getting TV, and it became cheaper to make, you know now there are 5000 channels on TV and stuff gets more and more niche, and now we’re onto Netflix, and no longer do you have to make something that everyone’s gonna like.
You can really just be like, ‘We’re gonna fund this kind of crazy high concept thing. And even if a smaller percentage of people consume it, you know what? Whatever.’
The same thing is happening to social media. No longer are people like “yeah I want to go on whatever and have someone kind of talk to me and 5 million other people.”
You’re getting things like Discord and Twitch, where it’s like, there’s only 50 of us here, but we’re all interacting with the person who’s speaking, you know, and that’s more meaningful.
It’s more like small communities.
So I think that’s really the power of the Internet right now.
And it ties into my answer to the last question. It’s like, yeah, I don’t really care about the million faceless people who listen to us every year. I would rather interface with the 100 people who are really invested in our music, and you can see that in what it’s like on the discord every morning. It’s like, “Good morning, how’s everybody doing?” We’re all just like checking in. That means way more to me than, I don’t know, like, getting a TikTok to go viral.
Because it’s just like–it just becomes a number. It doesn’t mean anything.
It’s just like, oh, wow, 1 million views.
Like, you can’t conceptualize that. You can’t wrap your head around it. The human brain has only evolved to be able to fathom really 100 human connections; like, tribally, our brain can only really understand that many different people.
So, it’s like the idea of a million people seeing something you do is meaningless.
So, social media is all how you use it, and how you how you target it to the people that matter.
AM: I like that take. It’s really optimistic–it’s a take I haven’t quite heard before. Thank you for that.
Forgive me for not asking sooner, but how did COVID end up affecting the process for recording your last EP? I imagine lots of Zoom meetings, and the like.
Joshua Perna: We actually were prepared for this, because we stopped The Soviet because I was unable to afford to record with other people. And it was moving my artistry at such a slow pace, because it’s like, I would only have the opportunity to record one or two weekends a year. So I would sit at home and I would practice music and we’d save up money. Then we’d go to a recording studio and you have like, 10 hours to just, like, get it all done real quick.
That was just not working. I wasn’t getting as good as I wanted to be as quickly as I could.
So, starting in 2015, I started recording myself. And it’s just been a learning experience through 2020. Then, everything shut down. Bands can’t hang out anymore, can’t go to rehearsal studios; we can’t go to recording studios.
And I was just uniquely–not even uniquely, because a lot of people have been doing it in their bedroom–but I was one of the people lucky enough to have a setup at home.
As I said before, I made that decision; I’m like, ‘I’m going to do double the music I did last year, this year, from my bedroom.’
And in a strange enough way, like we’ve had our biggest hits, “in COVID”, just, you know, during the chaos of the pandemic. We just made these tracks and they were kind of like, heavy and angry… and we did them from my bedroom.
And we shipped them out and they they you know, [resonated] with people.
AM: I’m honestly just very happy to hear that you guys were prepared for this.
Joshua Perna: Yeah. COVID really set the direction of the band. Because at the end of 2019, we had played the Met. We played Madison Square Garden. We were like playing pop music, you know, like our biggest song was “Mantra”, at the time.
And we thought like that’s the direction we’re going and we’re gonna be like a little angry Imagine Dragons or something. And then COVID hit and I was like, “I don’t feel I’m making pop music right now. Like, everything’s falling apart.”
Joshua Perna: It would’ve felt so disingenuous to make music that was, I don’t know, talking about going on a date or something. It just really felt dumb. Because I don’t know if you remember this, but for a while, people were like, ‘Should we even be putting out music? This seems a little fishy to be putting out music right now.’ It felt like everyone was like, ‘I don’t want to promote my record right now. It seems kind of like, tasteless.’
So the only way I could put out music is I’m like, ‘Hey, this is weird. Everything’s terrible. I just wrote a song about it.’
And like, yeah, in the beginning, we donated all the money to COVID relief, because I’m like, ‘this isn’t about money; it’s not a cash grab. Like, I’m just processing things while you guys are processing the same things.’
So it really changed the content of my music.
I don’t know if how to lose your self would have happened if COVID didn’t happen, because it was such a introspective and isolated time. A lot of thinking, you know? You’re locked in your room. Like, that’s what this record came from. COVID definitely made this record happen conceptually. I don’t know if I’d be making like, way poppier your music if the pandemic never happened. Who knows?
AM: That EP truly might be the one good thing to come out of all this mess, then.
So–do you have time for one last question? I promise it might be a fun one. As a newbie in the Discord server, I was kind of overwhelmed by the the “lore”, so to speak… Do you care to go on the record about all this corn shit? Like, what’s up with all the corn?
Joshua Perna: I don’t know. [laughs]. And that’s the thing. Like, I don’t even want to get into the corn thing specifically, because by the time this article comes out, it’s gonna be something else. It’s going to be something not corn related.
It’s just–it’s just the rapid evolution of a small community.
This is what I’m talking about. It’s the beauty of it–It’s the beauty of it. You think I got to talk to any of my heroes, growing up, about corn? No.
But, like, anyone can come on our Discord and just like, I don’t know, make fun of our haircut and talk about vegetables.
And it just becomes a thing.
Like, our Discord community is so tight knit.
And we already have a subculture. Like, we have inside jokes. And it’s like, that’s the beauty of the Internet right now. And I would way rather have that than just like a sort of one directional communication method, you know? I think it’s dope that everybody gets to write the Saint Slumber story at the same time, as a group– even if it ends up being about corn.
AM: that’s a beautiful answer. And I promise not to make the featured image for this article an ear of corn. [laughs]
Joshua Perna: I would love that so much. That would mean so much– for you to not do that. [laughs] Yeah.
(author’s note: corn is still relevant and I am still confused)