He’s the quick-tongued front man of infamous indie rockers Say Anything, and she’s the whimsical, brightly colored singer and guitarist of Eisley. Together, Max Bemis and Sherri Dupree-Bemis form the dreamy pop outlet Perma. With the release of their debut full-length, Two of A Crime, on Mr. Bemis’s label imprint Rory Records, we caught up with Mrs. Bemis to talk about music, marriage and ComicCon.
How was your weekend?
It was good. We had a show in Dallas – Eisley did. So it was fun, really just an easy festival show.
So Perma is finally releasing their debut full-length. How excited are you?
Oh, I’m so excited! It’s so funny; I mean, it’s been such an easy… like, the whole process of doing this record has been easy because it’s just Max and I sitting around making music together, which is just such a natural thing for us. At this point in our lives, we’ve been doing it since we met. It’s been so fun and I hope our fans love it and aren’t turned off by the whole amount of sappy songs we have on there (laughs).
I’m sure it’ll be awesome. So the album’s titled Two of a Crime—
Were there any fictitious or nonfiction partners in crime that had some inspiration on the title and the title track?
Yeah. We were inspired by the whole Bonnie and Clyde idea. On that song especially, it seemed like it had such a cinematic element to it, just the title. So we kind of latched on to that when we started getting together, the whole inspiration for the art and just setting up the whole art side of the record.
The art’s awesome, by the way. (Editor’s Note: Jerrod Porter did the artwork for the album.)
Aw, thank you!
Do you have any favorite songs off the new record?
Well, “Two of a Crime” is one of my favorite ones, but then there is the song “Let’s Start A Band”; we had so much fun writing (that one). It’s really, like, a blatant pop song, and it was just fun to embrace that. Max and I, in our own bands, we write very melodic songs, but neither one of our bands write blatant pop songs, but we do love pop music. So getting to make some of these songs fun with that very melodic, pop kind of feel, just to have them be about something that’s completely natural to write about – which is our love and our life – it was really exciting to do that.
Describe the process of recording the full-length. Was it recorded in your home studio? Was the album self-produced?
Yeah. We built a studio in our garage; we did it whenever Eisley was recording our last record, Currents. We wanted to have the accessibility of being able to step outside into our own yards and be able to work on whatever music was in our heads at the time. It ended up being a big payoff for everybody because everyone has their side projects, and … it’s been great to be able to have everything right there at our fingertips.
A lot of it came together in the studio, as well. Max is really good at producing things in his head, on the spot whenever we’re in the studio working, and so a lot of that happens once we were in there actually working on the songs.
So Eisley would go and record a song and then maybe take a break then Perma would come in and record?
Well, we weren’t doing it at the same time, but Eisley had just finished doing the Currents record. We had just wrapped it up, and that’s when we started working on Perma, right after that.
Eisley and Say Anything sort of differ in sound; I know you talked about that a little earlier. But the two coming together is quite unique. How did the concept of Perma’s sound come into creation?
It was, kind of, just a natural progression. Max and I, before we even met in person, we talked online because he had asked me to sing on his project Two Tongues that he did with Chris Conley from Saves the Day. We started talking online and kind of fell in love through the Internet, which is not that uncommon these days (laughs).
Before we even met, we started writing and sending each other love songs, kind of like love letters almost. In a way, it was a way to say how we felt about each other without just typing it into emails or chat. You know, just writing these songs to each other.
I know you said you were both influenced by a lot of pop records. Was there any certain song or record that influenced Perma’s sound?
Not really. Most of it was the idea of having these sing-along love songs. With our own bands, there are definitely plenty of love songs. You don’t want to write something too specific to your own experiences, sometimes, at least with Eisley. I know Say Anything is a different band lyrically; Max kind of puts everything out there in his own way, which is just really, really cool and unique.
But with Eisley, when I write love songs, even if they’re about Max, (I write them) broadly so people can apply (them) to their own relationships in life. But with Perma, they are literally love songs for each other. It’s kind of a selfish little project in a way.
We’re really open with our relationship and our lives, and we love sharing with fans and hearing fan stories about how our weird little family inspires them, especially after all Max has been through in his past, with being bipolar and the mental institutions. You know, seeing someone that’s come out of bad situations – and I’ve been through a divorce – and seeing them find true happiness … It’s fun to be able to share that with fans, and to see how it helps them and touches their lives. Which is amazing to me that it even does, but it’s so cool for us.
The title track has this sort of calm, dreamy acoustic sound with edge to it. Will the rest of the record be like that, or can we expect more instruments like a full band?
No. It’s basically a pretty stripped-down record. We wanted to do that on this first record, have it be like you were hanging out with us in the studio as we were putting these songs together as a couple – which is basically what we did – so a lot of this stuff is very simple.
We did have my brother Weston play on drums on a song, so there are some songs that are rounded out with drums and more guitar and stuff. But it’s still mostly just us in there programming and doing it ourselves. On future projects, I think we’ll probably want to broaden our horizons as far as bringing in members to play. But for now, I think “Two of a Crime” is a pretty good representation of what you’ll hear on the record. It’s kind of a taste of everything. There are more mellow songs and there are more poppy songs. I think fans will like it and find something on there they can connect to.
Going back to years ago when you first started talking to Max online and he wanted you to do guest vocals on that Two Tongues record, did you ever think that would lead you where you are today, married with a daughter and Perma?
You know, it’s so funny to say “yes,” but we just have one of those crazy experiences where almost instantly we just knew. Not that that happens every time with people, but sometimes you think you know but you don’t. Like I said, I went through a divorce. But it was this crazy thing where when I even got his first official email asking me to be on the project, I just had a weird feeling about him.
And I listened to Say Anything a little bit; I really didn’t know much about them. I liked their …Is A Real Boy record, and that was the only one I had, but I just had a weird feeling. Apparently I go to find out that he actually had a crush on me for a while (laughs). That was his motivation behind asking me, specifically, to collaborate on the Two Tongues record. He was a sneaky little guy. It was funny how it worked out.
But now, I couldn’t have seen how – obviously – incredible of a crazy blessing my life would turn out to be. I just wake up every day going, “I can’t believe how blessed I am with this man and this baby.” And the fun we have together, the music we get to create – I just feel overwhelmingly blessed. My life is too much fun sometimes to believe it’s real.
It’s obvious the songs are very personal and reflective of your marriage. I’m sure writing with Max and then singing these words with him are quite the experience.
It really is, yeah.
Can you talk about releasing the album on Max’s imprint, Rory Records? What was that like?
That’s something that’s been really exciting. … Eisley was signed to Equal Vision, which Rory is an imprint of, and we love the label. (Say Anything) was getting out of their contract with their label or had gotten dropped or I don’t even remember what was happening, but they were looking for a label, and I was just hoping so hard… They were looking at a bunch of labels, and I was just really pushing – I mean, I was pushing silently. I wouldn’t push him ever to do any career choice he didn’t feel instinctually. But I was secretly hoping really hard they would get at Equal Vision because they’re such an amazing label.
It ends up they were already Say Anything fans and obsessed with the band. They signed Say Anything to their label, and in talking with Max and picking his creative brain, (they were) like, “You should have an imprint under this label. That would be such a good idea. You’re the perfect person to do that.” And it’s been awesome. He signed my brother and sister’s band Merriment, and they’re putting out their amazing record early next year.
Right now, it’s been mostly family and friends that he’s signed under Rory, but he’s got Saves the Day on there now. It’s been this amazing little community of family and friends he’s been able to grow under this imprint and cultivate. So it’s the perfect state to have our project Perma out under that same umbrella.
You know, I’m proud of him. He just does so much in his brain; it’s like on overdrive, like his creativity. It’s fun to see.
Let’s talk about touring. You recently released a list of tour dates with Matt Pryor and Merriment. Both you and Max are listed as separate acts, as well as Perma. Does that mean we’ll be hearing Eisley and Say Anything songs on this tour as well? What made you decided to do that versus it strictly being Perma?
Even though Max and I have our own established bands, since Perma is a new project, we didn’t just want to go out and do a headlining tour right off the bat. We didn’t want to just presume that fans would come just because it was, you know, “Max and Sherri from Eisley and Say Anything’s new project.” We wanted to have it be as if we were doing an opening band slot, but it’s just with us, ourselves.
With your own bands, becoming new parents and with your respective side projects, how do you ever find the time to focus on Perma?
We’re very low-key parents, probably because I grew up in a family that was so big. It made everyone really relaxed parents. Having a kid can be a very stressful thing, and it does add on these new stresses in your life.
But it’s honestly so much more fun it becomes very second nature to have the kids there. You just do your same thing, but all the time you have a baby there. And the babies – they’re so adaptive. They love music, so it makes it actually very easy to sit around and work on music, especially now that they’re all over four months old. They just sit around and play on the floor, and you just take breaks and hang out with them and feed them and change them. They love the environment of it all. It just came as a very natural thing to us; it just brings so much joy. It honestly hasn’t been a struggle.
Max does his song shop, where fans get the opportunity to purchase a song written by him. Recently, fans were given the option to have guest vocals by you on their song. How was that experience for you?
It’s fun. Hearing these songs, some of them are just – these experiences that these kids go through and want Max to write a song about – some of them are really heart wrenching stories about illness or death. There are a lot of love songs, and there are some really silly songs, but it’s never ending. You have to really just get into the moment and use your brain to wrap your head around someone else’s, portraying what someone wants, filling their creative need whenever it’s not one of those things they can do themselves.
Doing that is a lot of pressure, but it’s so fun. Like, for example, Lucy is such a quiet baby that I’ve had her just sitting on the floor next to me when I recorded a lot of these vocals for these song shops I worked on. The way that
Max has it – he’s just a pro at song shop, he’s written thousands – he writes a song and he leaves an empty space, musically, for me, or empty spaces throughout the song or bridges or a chorus and I just listen through and sing whatever I feel is fitting, and I make up a melody.
Since we work together so well, it makes it very easy and natural to work on a project like this together. It’s just another extension of (our) music.
That was a really long answer, I’m sorry. I just went off on a tangent. I just finished my last one today. I think there were 200-something we did with me on them – and we actually just finished them today, so I’m in that headspace – but it was a lot of fun.
Max recently worked on his first comic book. He was a writer for “Polarity.” Have you two ever thought about turning the Two of a Crime story into a comic in the future, where Max does the writing and you do the illustrating?
No! That’s actually a cool idea, though! With “Polarity,” he would have a free download for a song that went with every issue. In a way, he did a musical comic thing there, but it would be fun to do a book together in the future, even if it’s a children’s book that had music that came with it. Something like that would be totally up our alley. I would definitely see some stuff like that in our future.
Who are some of your guys’ favorite artist?
Oh gosh. You know I have my favorite — you say artists as in musicians or writers, or what do you mean exactly?
As far as visual artists, since we were talking about the comic book.
Well, Max could list his favorite comic artists for weeks. My favorite artist is Camille Rose Garcia. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of her stuff, but oh, my gosh, if you haven’t, you have to look it up. She’s just incredible, so inspirational to me. Oh God, I love it.
Were you guys able to make it out to ComicCon this year? I know you’ve gone in years past.
Yeah, we were supposed to, but we had just gotten off tour a few days before it came through San Diego, so we were just wiped out. Couldn’t even deal with the thought of going to something like ComicCon, even though it’s so fun. It’s an overwhelming experience. We’re probably going to go next year, especially because Max will probably have more projects out by then with his comic company.
Would you ever dress up Lucy for ComicCon?
Oh, hell yeah! She’s definitely going with us next year. I don’t know, we’ll see. Her middle name is actually Jean after my grandmother, but also after Jean Grey from X-Men, so there’s that whole angle.
It’s cool to see little babies in R2D2 strollers and stuff.
Oh yes. I would go just for the costumes; it’s so much fun. I always look at the pictures online after ComicCon, and I love the idea. I’m all about being a kid, even when you’re older. The fact that there are just hundreds and hundreds of adults who will go to these conventions dressed up in costumes – I love it!
What about you and Max, what would you dress up as?
Hmmm. I don’t know. I’m definitely into a lot of the colorful hair stuff, so I’m sure I could find a fitting character based on whatever my current hair color was at the time. I wouldn’t mind seeing Max in a Superman outfit though! That would be pretty funny (laughs).
What is Max up to right now anyways? Is he watching Lucy?
He is, yeah. I don’t think it’s going real well because I hear her crying in there. She’s been sick all week; she’s got, like, a big ol’ snotty snot infection and she’s teething, so she’s really happy right now. Lucy’s great when she’s sick. She’s such a good baby and doesn’t even make it hard.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Hopefully people will be inspired by this project, even if they’ve been through some of the worst, darkest stuff in life, there can be a light at the end of the tunnel when you least expect it. Sometimes, going through the worst stuff is just priming you for blessings you can’t even be ready for. I would encourage people to hang in there, because you might find your Max or your Sherri (laughs).
Perma was posted on October 7, 2013 for HM Magazine and authored by Melissa Sanchez.