Perfume Genius Talks to V About What Shaped His New Record

Perfume Genius Talks to V About What Shaped His New Record

The singer’s fourth album explores a quieter side of life without sacrificing his trademark grandeur.

The singer’s fourth album explores a quieter side of life without sacrificing his trademark grandeur.

Photography: Inez & Vinoodh

Styling: Mel Ottenberg

Text: Joshua Lyon

Domesticity suits Mike Hadreas. For someone whose existence thus far has included addiction, recovery, a YouTube ban for “promoting mature sexual themes,” a song that closes the second season of Transparent, and several albums of raw, emotional music, you might expect that the guy who performs as Perfume Genius leads a titillating, drama-packed life. That may have once been the case, but Hadreas, along with his boyfriend, relocated last year from his hometown of Seattle and hunkered down in Tacoma, Washington to record his latest release, No Shape (out May 5 from Matador). “It’s changed my music, not being in a little apartment where I had to be quiet,” he says. Fans have nothing to worry about, though: Hadreas’s songs remain undeniably his—ghostly vocals that glide effortlessly into a falsetto and melodies woven with subtle yet powerful key shifts—but the majority of the lyrics are a little less, well, confrontational than usual. In contrast to the pointed lyrics of “Queen,” Hadreas’s sashay won’t be posing any threats to family this time around.

“When something is heartwarming and triumphant, and not corny or preachy, it’s such a powerful thing,” he says. “I think I really wanted to try and make stuff that gave you a feeling of warmth and sweetness, and not in an after-school special sort of way.” To help achieve this, Hadreas changed his standard approach to songwriting by working on the music first and the lyrics second. He explains, “I needed to have a feeling that I was writing differently this time: focusing on the melodies, instinctually singing, and not trying to have a story beforehand.” The process led to some stunning arrangements, like on the first track, “Otherside,” which starts simply—just his voice and minimal piano—before it erupts into a grand, starry explosion of sound.

A summer tour will also help kick off the new record, and it couldn’t come at a better time, given the nurturing space his concerts tend to provide for the LGBTQ community. “The best shows are when it feels like a circle,” he says. “Knowing that when you come, there’s going to be a lot of other people to feel safe around, a lot of other weirdos and outcasts.”

Once his travels are over, Hadreas plans to move to L.A., but doesn’t expect that returning to a big city will have any real effect on his recent homebody ways. “I still feel like being good is living against my instincts most of the time,” he admits. “I’m just better at doing it now.”

JACKET AND PANTS ABZAL ISSA BEKOV F/W 16 TANK VEX CLOTHING
Credits:

Makeup Dick Page Hair Rutger (Streeters) Manicure Gina Viviano (ABTP) Executive producer Stephanie Bargas (VLM Productions) Production coordinator Eva Harte

(VLM Productions) On-set production Tucker Birbilis (VLM Productions) Lighting director Jodokus Driessen Digital technician Brian Anderson Photo assistant Joe Hume

Stylist assistants Malaika Crawford and Ali Kornhauser Production assistants Erik Hanson and Gus Potter Location Industria Retouching Stereohorse

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