Analogue Music | Ages and Ages

Ages and Ages

By Matt Conner

The sunny propulsion gives way to more if you're a bit more attentive.

The music of Ages and Ages has always been that way—pastoral, uplifting and certainly enjoyable. Yet the melodies on albums like Divisionary or Something to Ruin have always served as the vehicle for substantive, sometimes even vulnerable, expressions—from ruminations on gentrification to Tim Perry's own emotional state.

Recently the band has shifted release strategies away from the long player to a series of singles, but the musical approach remains the same. Take this snippet from the bouncy, bass-driven "Day From Night."

Here I am for you to read
Every page inside of me
And I hope it all ends up the way it ought to be.

Perry recently opened up to us in much the same way in an interview that reveals the heart of an indie rock band that truly wants to connect.

Analogue: You've been releasing singles over time here and I wanted to ask about the approach first before the substance of the songs. Are you enjoying this digital age?

Tim Perry: We originated as a band who already had a vision of wanting to deliver shorter snippets of thematic artistic statements. It was actually the label that picked us up that said, "Man, that’s great and sounds cool, except unfortunately that’s not the way the industry works." We were thinking of releasing 5 or 6 songs at a time, and we had a very specific reason for wanting to do that. But they were telling us that essentially, the way it works is that people say, “Cool, man. Let me know when the record’s out” in terms of reviewing it or putting it up on their platform for people to access. "Take these songs that you sent us, and you’ve got to make a record." So we did that.

Originally we wanted to release songs in smaller snippets and now we’re getting to do that. I honestly feel like it’s more of our natural state. Records are great because they allow you to create a body of work that has a motif that stretches from beginning to end, but there are downsides to that, too. On a record that takes two years, one of those songs was written a week into the process and one of them was written a week before the process ended, and two completely different moods. There was one president one year and another president the next.

The beauty of the single is that we can write a song and still feel the passion and emotions that led to the writing of the song by the time the song is released. That part is great.

Ages And Ages 2
Ages And Ages 2

Analogue: By the way, does that make a difference in the live setting?

Tim: The connectivity you have to your music always makes a difference. And one of the main components of that would obviously be the distance between you and the song, emotionally and experientially. I don’t even know if that’s a word, but it is now. It's the proximity you have to it, and there are a lot of different ways to maintain that and achieve that. I think it’s possible to write a song or to be the kind of artist that still feels proximity to your song years later, but there are different ways that you have to capture that.

Analogue: I would think the freshness of the song would be more enlivening or even fun, for lack of a better word, in that setting.

Tim: Yeah, nobody likes the feeling of regurgitation. As soon as you get to that point, it's over. It could just be because of the distance and time between you and this song or maybe I wrote the song a week ago, but I’ve already sung it 70 times. Then again it could be 50 years later and you’re still singing "Satisfaction" and, for whatever reason, you’re attached to it. Maybe you’re attached to it because every time you sing it, it makes you $150,000. [Laughs] Maybe that’s enough to sau, “I love this song! Hell, yeah, I’ll sing it again!” You’ve got to find it, whatever it is. That’s kind of your job as an artist, or else you’re just going to hate every minute of this.

Analogue: I loved "Needle and Thread" and it made me wonder how much you relish—or perhaps you don't—the challenge of distilling something complex into a lively three- or four-minute vehicle.

Tim: I do. I mean, it’s like anything—even this conversation. There’s a way for me to convey my anger such that you’ll engage in a conversation with me about it and listen to me. And there’s another way where I could just scream and make you feel uncomfortable, where you'd look at your watch and say, “Cool man. Well, time’s up. Thanks for talking. See you later.” That’s the way it is with anything and everybody. We’re constantly trying to figure out how to be honest but also how to be effective and how to keep our friends. And it’s all about love.

If you can get that rare interaction with somebody who is experiencing a true connection in a way that is impacting them positively, making some sort of dent, I just don’t know what other definition of success could be more meaningful than that.

Nobody has the wherewithal or the capacity to be frustrated or filled with loathing if they didn’t have love in their hearts, if they weren’t truly moved and upset by that which is being damaged or threatened or under siege. So how you convey that love in a way that’s productive is an ongoing challenge. Nobody is an expert. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. So yes. I do enjoy the challenge of that.

These are hard topics and hard things to talk about. I’ve always appreciated music that addresses depression and fear and frustration in a pop song. It’s just kind of totally ironic and cool and awesome, in my opinion. I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about other artists who have done that. It’s refreshing. Maybe it's a bad example, but I remember when I was a teenager and I discovered all the old Police records. I was wowed. Sting sitting here making this pop song, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing.” He's just singing, “Hey, man, I’m pretty sure I’m going to kill myself. Boop-be-de-bop-bop-bay.”

Analogue: Great example. That's true of "King of Pain" and so many others, all these great tracks that feel so much and are so compelling in their composition.

Tim: Yeah, very heady. I feel like the catchiness is the way of opening the door. It’s an invitation. Then the lyrics are the actual conversation, where you actually get to relate and talk with people. They get to talk with you, and you get to be like, “Yeah man, I hear you. And this is hard, and this is so upsetting. And it’s so dark. And life is tough. Life is a struggle.” It’s comforting to know this and to feel that other people are sharing the struggle with you—that the door is always open.

Analogue: Are you able to have those kind of conversations with your own fans? You brought up the Police and said that’s the doorway that brings up that subject. I’m able to converse about that. As you labor on that same endeavor, to kind of hold that tension, I guess I just wonder if you’re hearing similar things about your own work.

Tim: If you’re talking about fan interaction—speaking with people at shows or occasional emails and stuff like that—then yes. That part is really... I won’t say that it’s private. I mean, I appreciate the question, but yeah, there have been times I have had conversations with people I do not know and would have never known if not for this music thing. And on so many levels, that is moving. There are so many feelings about that—a feeling of humility and surprise and being blessed.

Especially in today’s music industry climate, as you touched upon earlier, it’s a struggle to really know what success means. If you can get that rare interaction with somebody who is experiencing a true connection in a way that is impacting them positively, making some sort of dent, then I just don’t know what other definition of success could be more meaningful than that.