Sandro Perri plays himself

Sandro Perri, a.k.a. Polmo Polpo, revisits his acoustic roots on new record

Sandro Perri has been involved in many musical projects, including Great Lake Swimmers.
Sandro Perri has been involved in many musical projects, including Great Lake Swimmers.

Interview: Sandro Perri @ The Artel, Dec. 1

The more Sandro Perri changes, the more he stays the same.

The Toronto-based musician recently released an album of his past work under the pseudonym Polmo Polpo, reinterpreted in a different style as Sandro Perri. Sandro Perri plays Polmo Polpo was released on Constellation Records last September, and showcases his past electronic meanderings in a new, acoustic light.

“I think it’s an interesting thing for somebody to revisit themselves,” Perri told the Journal over the phone. “It’s good to reflect on what they’ve done in the past, and look at how that’s brought them to where they are in the present.”

Sandro Perri Plays Polmo Polpo blends two different genres—or, rather, two different stages of Perri’s life—together. Perri has always been a guitar player, and his new album revisits the electronic stage of his musical life through the lens of an acoustic guitar.

“As opposed to doing something, recording it and leaving it as this document of a certain time that can never be changed, I enjoy reflecting on things I’ve done in the past, and taking them into the present.”

For Perri, being a musician isn’t about having one specialized niche or talent, but experimenting with different genres and instruments. As he explains, artists and their work should never be static, but evolving as new interests enter their lives.

Perri’s musical past is dotted with genre excursions, from electronica to indie.

Starting out as a jazz student at Humber College, he made his first transition.

“[Humber College] wasn’t exactly for me,” said Perri. “I learned a lot, though. I learned about what I didn’t want to do and I realized I didn’t want to become a jazz musician. I wasn’t that excited about it.

“The timing was funny for me … I was just out of high school, and a bit restless … not disciplined. I dropped out. Electronic [music] was a reaction to that.”

Polmo Polmo—Perri’s first project—began in the late ’90s. After hearing electronic bands from Germany, such as Panisonic, Fauxtech and Squarepusher, the young musician started experimenting with sounds in his basement. By 1999, he had released his first 12-inch under the Polmo Polpo name.

“I met a handful of people who were experimenting, and had musical relationships that went beyond [what we had at Humber]. This led me into electronica.

“I was interested in composing to tape … writing music while recording it,” he said. “That’s very much how electronic music was made. I wanted something a little more challenging ... not just dance music.”

Polmo Polpo, perhaps Perri’s best-known solo work, is a mix of electronic elements, and ambience. A collection of his early 12-inch records were released on the album The Science of Breath on Alien8 records in 2002. The follow-up, 2003’s Like Hearts Swelling was released on Constellation records, the same label as post-rock staples such as Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Do Make Say Think.

“The Polmo Polpo project has been going on for a long time, but I never meant to be something specific.”

While performing and writing music as Polmo Polpo, Perri was also a member of the indie rock band Great Lake Swimmers. Despite only playing a supporting role in the band, of which Perri is no longer a member, he found the experience motivating.

“Playing with Great Lake Swimmers was more of a back up thing. I was playing in a band that was supporting Tony [Dekker]’s songs.

“It was a very good challenge and a great experience. [Dekker] was one of the people amongst many friends who have inspired me to make music and perform out in public.”

Perri has also performed and written songs under the names Continuous Dick and Glissandro 70, amongst others.

“It’s kind of confusing for people from a consumer point of view. But the marketing decisions are pretty low on my priority list.”

For Perri, the advantages of changing the name of your music project outweigh the disadvantages.

“In one way it’s nice to refresh people’s ears—it’s kind of a way to force people to listen to something in a different way. Using different names is a superficial thing,” he said. It doesn’t mean anything, but it has to do with people’s perception. It asks people to hear with fresh ears.

“People are less likely to refer back to your past work if you’re of the same name, especially if you’re trying different things. I guess [the music I make] has to do with where I’m at at any giving moment. I’m interested in trying to explore different ideas, or the same ideas through different mediums.”

Sandro Perri plays tomorrow night at the Artel, 205 Sydenham St. Advance tickets are available at Brian’s Record Option for $10, or at the door for $12. Doors open at 8 p.m.

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