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Melody Maker

Acclaimed indie pop songwriter Joe Pernice returns to Richmond.


The band has just released its fifth critically acclaimed album, a wonderfully produced palette of jangly, expansive pop tunes titled "Discover a Lovelier You" on Ashmont Records, which he co-owns.

"With each record you always try something different," says the slow-talking Boston native critics have called one of the best pop songwriters working today. "On this one, I played more acoustic guitar because we wanted a lot of space and a clearer sound. ... But it's really about taking each song and trying to record it the way the song suggests."

Pernice creates smart pop songs with lovely melodies that often mask darkly poetic or bitter lyrics — which may explain why the band's song "Baby in Two" was used on an episode of HBO's "Six Feet Under."

Pernice studied poetry while earning his master's in fine arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, but he says neither his lyrics nor his poetry inspires the other. "But I'm a severe editor, and I caught that from writing a lot of poetry and prose. ... Usually I need distance from an emotional experience to find the clarity."

While he has drawn comparisons to such wide-ranging pop heavies as Elvis Costello, Brian Wilson and The Smiths, Pernice says his main influences growing up were The Beatles and Jimmy Webb, whose songs he has covered.

Known for allowing taping of his live shows, Pernice says as a record company owner and an artist, he is a firm believer in intellectual property rights,.

"If file-sharing leads to buying records, I'm all for it," he says. "But at the end of the day, you can't control it anyway. ... You lose some sales and gain others."

For now, Pernice doesn't seem worried. Each of the Pernice Brothers records has sold better than the previous ones, and major critics are still drooling. Future plans include turning his novella, "Meat is Murder," into a film. S

The Pernice Brothers perform with openers The Cloud Room and Jose Ayerva at Alley Katz on Monday, Aug. 29. Doors open at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $10 at the door or $8 in advance through Ticketmaster, or Plan 9.

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