Q&A: Sandro Perri On Quicker Turnarounds, The Name Game, And Watching The Throne

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Sandro Perri speaks through his music. The soft-spoken Toronto-based musician is genre-less in his approach, preferring to mold his song to his unique tastes and learnings as a way to express himself. His 2011 album Impossible Spaces (Constellation) earned him new levels of critical praise for its subtle approach to combining electronic dance music, jazz, and Brazilian tunes, as well as quite a few other influences. His tour in support of the record starts with a stop at the Mercury Lounge on Saturday.

SOTC caught up with Perri earlier this month over the phone, as he rested in Toronto before heading out on the road. He filled us in on his musical upbringing, his plans, and his love for one of last year's big collaborative rap albums (hint: it was not Ferrari Boyz).

You're playing Mercury Lounge on the 31st. Having never seen you live, I'm wondering: what can an audience expect from your live show?

Well, I think that it will probably an intimate show. The band is gonna be five of us; there's drums, percussion, flute, bass, three synths and guitar. We're gonna try—it's gonna be a more live sounding, and uh, not stripped down but a less produced version of the record, I suppose. We'll probably play a couple of older songs as well. It's hard for me to have a perspective on what the audience would experience. I've never been to the Mercury Lounge so I'm not really familiar with the venue. We definitely like playing intimate shows so hopefully it's a listening crowd.

What was the instrument that you played? Did you have any formal training when you were younger?

The first instrument I played was a snare drum. I was probably 10 years old or so, and my brother had a drum kit. About six months after that I picked up the guitar and took private lessons, just learning classical and rock music. Later in my teens, I got really into jazz and studied jazz for a few years in high school and after high school. I kinda dumped it all and got into electronics and did that really intensely for a while, before coming back to playing guitar. I'm trying to integrate that together with electronics and compositions and studio work, trying to integrate all that I have learned. The guitar iis essentially the main instrument that I play, but then there's percussion and the last few years I've played a lot of keyboard as well.

On your downtime, what type of music do you listen to? Any recent favorites?

Well, I listen to a lot of Brazilian music in particular. Some of my favorites are Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben, Maria Bethania. So I listen to a lot of that stuff, that seems to be a really consistent thing for me. I listen to a lot of Watch the Throne. [laughs] That was probably my record of the year. Kanye's solo record was amazing as well, but I thought Watch the Throne was pretty incredible. A lot of really interesting things are happening on that record, musically and emotionally. The way they interact with one another, I thought that was really interesting. I listened a lot this year to Mickey Moonlight. He's a DJ/producer from London and his record was put out by Ed Banger Records at the end of the year. I think it didn't get a lot of attention but it really should have. I thought it was really awesome, a really unique electronic record.

I don't know what else. Some of the standards. I've probably worn out my copy of On the Corner by Miles Davis and Bitches Brew and that era of Miles. Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch, I've probably listened to that I don't know how many hundreds of times in my life. It's hard I could probably go on and on, I think I don't make a conscious effort to listen to all styles but I end up listening to all kinds of styles just because I get interested in particular artists regardless of the genre and just get into their personalities. That can happen in any genre, I think.

To go back to Watch the Throne for a second because that's awesome, what's your favorite song from it?

Oh that's so hard! It's really tough, but maybe... what is it called, Murder something...

"Murder to Excellence"?

Yeah that's right, Murder to Excellence. Yeah, I think that's the one. That one really is devastating. It's really phenomenal, the production and the writing. But like I said, it's really hard to choose a favorite on that record.

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