With his first two records, Mike Hadreas (a.k.a. Perfume Genius) established himself as a master of the spare, potent outsider narrative. But his latest, Too Bright, finds the queer Seattle songwriter embracing a more robust, varied sound. Pianos give way to menacing distortion and tribal percussion, whispers turn to howls, rage bleeds through the hymnal, ethereal balladry. This is not only Hadreas’s most assured collection yet, but also one of the year’s most transfixing albums. Below, Hadreas on everything that inspired it.
Watch the video for " Queen". Too Bright is available Sept. 22
PJ Harvey: “She’s 100% committed. There’s no levity, no winking or apologizing. When she sings, ‘I’ve lain with the devil,’ she sounds like she means it. She’s proud, and there’s power in what she’s saying. I want that conviction in my music.”
The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir: “My boyfriend played them for me when we first met. Even before I started writing, I wanted to make music like them. They always sound like they’re on the edge of a cliff, pleading with God.”
Suspiria: “When I first wrote the song ‘Longpig,’ it sounded like Goblin, the band who did the soundtrack for Suspiria . It’s kind of demony. That music always terrified me, but I was also obsessed with it, like I was with horror movies themselves.”
Diamanda Galás: “She’s just right there all the time, tapping the source directly. People either think her music is amazing or ridiculous. Most things I like are like that. And she’s Greek, and I’m Greek.”
1980s Fantasy Films: “Movies like The NeverEnding Story, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth [marked] the first time I saw something beautiful and mysterious and dark all at the same time other than in my thoughts. I felt kind of occulty as a kid.”
1960s Crooners: “Some of the things I did with my voice — like singing in a lower range on ‘Don’t Let Them In’ and ‘I Decline’ — were sort of rockabilly and inspired by old-timey straight dudes like Elvis and Roy Orbison. I like the confidence and swagger in their voices.”
Photo credits: Luke Gilford (Perfume Genius). AFP / Getty Images (PJ Harvey). Daznaempoveche / Wikimedia Commons (Bulgarian Choir). Andy Newcome / Wikimedia Commons (Diamanda Galas). afp / Getty Images (Elvis).