Loufest preview: Pernikoff Brothers
The Pernikoff Brothers, a local St. Louis trio consisting of Tom and Rick Pernikoff and drummer Dan Germain, have had a busy year. The trio released their debut album, “On My Way” in 2011, and have been touring across the country since. They’ve made appearances at the Austin City Limits, the CMJ and Sandestin music festivals, garnered a spot in PlaybackSTL’s top albums of the year, and were named one of St. Louis’s best opening acts this year. What are they excited about next? A new album, and LouFest.
But sitting down with Bros Pernikoff for coffee and a chat in a quiet corner of Starbucks, the bearish pair are pensive and soft-mannered, surrounded by papers and open Macbooks. Tom explains that they’re in the midst of completing their sophomore effort with the help of studio phenom Brian Deck, and it’s been a draining experience.
“We’ve been pushed artistically, musically. And it’s just a change, being pushed out of our comfort zone.” His dark, bearded visage is locked on his coffee cup. “He’s probably the most musically creative guy we’ve worked with. … It’s a huge opportunity for us.”
Yet traditionally, the Pernikoff brothers seem not to mind leaving comfort zones. After Tom and Rick pursued non-music majors at Brandeis and MIT respectively, the two cofounded a startup in Silicon Valley. But music was indeed their larger calling, and the pair left in 2010 to return to their roots in St. Louis.
They recorded their first album in Nashville, rippling with energized, beefy folk rock varnished with big budget studio sheen. But unfortunately, the band needs more than a strong debut. Tom explains that “in this day and age, I don’t think it’s realistic, especially for bands like us, to think that we’re going to be able to support what we do based on sales.”
When: 1 p.m. - midnight or so, Aug. 25 & 26
Where: Central Field, Forest Park
How much: $70 for the weekend; $40 a day
Yet the brothers don’t seem bitter or bothered by this reality. “For us, it’s all about the live show,” explains Tom. He looks to his brother for assistance.
“Nah, you’re better at this stuff,” Rick says, smiling sheepishly and leaning back in his chair. Yet after a pause, he says, “We love playing live, the chemistry onstage. The album is great, it has cool stuff, has energy, but playing together live … things happen that can’t on an album, these moments happen.”
Both are nodding emphatically, trying to communicate the nameless magic of a live performance.
And after watching the Pernikoff brothers perform, those magical moments onstage are the reason this band succeeds. That, and a gaggle of whooping, loyal fans who cheer for the brothers by name.
The expensive studio veneer and calculated recording ethic are stripped away the moment they get in front of an audience: Tom’s curly, shoulder length hair flies wildly in tune with sharp syncopated acoustic peals, while Rick bounces smoothly to his reverberating bass plucks. All three band members sing, and watching them draw even with their mic stands to belt out the chorus is a riveting moment.
In the day and age when music can be obtained with a few clicks, this experience is what becomes valuable. As Tom said, “It’s about giving the fans an hour or two experience that they can’t get online, that they can’t pirate – they have to go, they live that.”
So what do the Pernikoff brothers have planned for the new album? “It’s definitely more rock … there’s some psychedelic things, too, but I had to say, it’s just a lot more rock.” Rick sends a sidelong look at his brother, and adds “Yeah, there’s a lot more samples, a lot more electric guitar. It’s not too psychedelic.” The pair smile.