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Sibling trio a hit mixing the romantic, grotesque


A fanatically devoted woman imagines following her husband into an early grave.

Another bitter woman fells a tree to obliterate the initialled heart that was carved into it by an inconstant lover, while a morbidly romantic teenager fantasizes about floating out of life on a bed of roses.

The last of these lyrical images is a dead giveaway (pun intended). It’s recognizably from the No. 1 Billboard Country hit If I Die Young by The Band Perry, which performs on Wednesday at Red Deer’s Centrium.

The other two examples of obsessive, even unhinged, love are also from The Band Perry songs — the group’s platinum-selling hit Better Dig Two and Chainsaw off the latest album, Pioneer.

Both are as over-the-top and as dark as stories by William Faulkner or the Bronte sisters — and intentionally so.

“We are, all three of us, big readers,” admitted the band’s lead singer Kimberly Perry, also referring to her younger brothers Reid and Neil, who make up the sibling trio.

Kimberly said she particularly enjoys the Southern Gothic writings of Flannery O’Connor, while her brothers love reading stories by The Sound and the Fury author Faulkner.

All three musicians were also influenced by the theatrical band Queen and by singer Bobbie Gentry, whose haunting Ode to Billie Joe leaves listeners wondering what exactly did Billie Joe McAllister throw off the Tallahatchie bridge before he committed suicide? Kimberly suggested it’s the mystery that makes the song so gripping.

The trio enjoys mixing romantic and “grotesque” aspects of Southern culture into music to create a heightened, and slightly off-kilter, sense of reality.

For instance, the tune Better Dig Two will leave listeners torn between thinking ‘Isn’t it a beautiful thing to be so hopelessly devoted to someone — and isn’t it also a little crazed?’ said Kimberly, with a chuckle.

“We like letting our imaginations run wild,” she added — and so far, the approach is working for the fast-rising country-rock band that’s on its first headlining tour through Canada.

The group’s self-titled debut 2010 album scored a string of hits, including If I Die Young, You Lie and All Your Life. Kimberly said she was particularly gratified to hear from some young fans who credit her “healing” lyrics to If I Die Young — with their message about appreciating life’s beauty — with giving them a reason to carry on.

“They were inspired by its spirit, (asking) am I making the most of the time I have? And also contemplating, if I pass on today . . . how will it affect the people that I love?”

Pioneer, the trio’s second album, has already produced two No. 1 country smashes — Better Dig Two and DONE. But it’s the title track that became a “lifeline” for the group, recalled Neil, a drummer, mandolin and accordion player.

After the huge success of the country-pop crossover hit If I Die Young, the musicians were understandably anxious about following it up. Since there were so many unknowns about which direction their careers would go next, Neil said, “We put all those questions into the song and it led us to an entire new album.”

They now define pioneers not just as historic characters but as anyone who’s embarking into the unknown.

While that description could certainly fit the notion of Mississippi-born, Alabama-raised musicians touring Canada in frigid January, the trio doesn’t appear fazed by potentially stepping onto a deep freeze.

Reid, the bassist, said he and his siblings are used to various hardships of the road — and each other — by now.

“It’s been the three of us for 15 years,” added Reid, who believes the group dynamic hinges on democracy. “The way it works is majority does rule.”

“We really are good friends,” added Kimberly, who plays the guitar and keyboards. “Our parents raised us that way.”

Fighting was never an option because the three were always told if ‘You don’t get along, you’ll be in big trouble,’ she added, with a laugh.

Now that they are sharing a tour bus “24/7,” she believes that makes a whole lot of sense.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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