Meet the dream-punk project of 18-year-old bedroom producer, Sam Perry.
Imagine a particularly sha-la-la, tie-dyed in the wool version of the carefree, born-in-the-90s sound espoused by bands like Peace and Swim Deep and you might come up with something like Zen Mantra. The New Zealand-based teenager is only 18, but he’s already dreamed up enough summer tunes to fill an album’s worth. We speak to him about the release of his first LP, How Many Padmes Hum?
How popular is your version psychedelic dream punk, or as you describe your sound, ‘male-led Summer of Love girl group’ in NZ?
There’s a good amount psychedelic pop bands (Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Opossom, Glass Vaults to name a few), but I like to think I’m doing my own thing.
Are there any particular bands that have influenced your sound?
When I write music I try to be influenced by how certain bands make me ‘feel’, as opposed to what they ‘do’ (otherwise I tend to just rehash their ideas). I don’t really share the same love for most of the bands or artists I liked when I was younger (it took awhile for me to figure out what I was actually into), but I still really like Justin Timberlake. He was my first concert, maybe that’s where my obsession with pop hooks stems from?
It’s pretty impressive that at 18, you’ve produced your own sound. What was the process of creating your debut album?
I wrote and recorded it slowly over the course of a year. When I write music I have to wait for inspiration to strike naturally, otherwise the song ends up being no good. I wrote all the bass/ drums/ synth/ percussion digitally with a midi-piano roll because I wanted to have recordings that sounded half decent but I didn’t have the money or space to mic up drumkits, bass, guitar amps etc. I recorded the guitars and vocals, but having everything else in a digital format meant I could chop and change everything till I liked it, and meant I was able to write music on the move, mostly between classes at school.
How did you become involved with your UK record label, Stroll On Records?
I put out a track on Soundcloud (‘La La La La La’) and Stroll On Records sent me an email asking if I wanted to work with them.
Who are your dream collaborations?
Lockett Plundt, Christopher Owens, Brian Wilson, David Byrne, Syd Barrett.
Can we expect music videos in the near future?
Yeah! The video for ‘La La La La La’ comes out in a few days, and I’m currently working on one for ‘Fossils’.
What was the reason to dedicate ‘Fossils’ to your Father, Bill Perry?
He passed away around two years ago, I wrote that song recently after it happened. I felt like we wasted all the time we had together, he had a job that kept him away from home most of the time, and I was a stupid teenager who was didn’t make an effort to spend time with him when he was around.
What is your first memory?
Walks in the park with my mum.
Favourite TV show?
The His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman.
Dogs or cats?
What are you most excited about for album debut in the UK?
Having people I don’t know listening to my music, being on stranger’s iPods.
Most nervous about launching in the UK?
Not nervous about any of it, to be honest.
What does the future hold for Zen Mantra? Any projects coming up?
I’ve almost finished demo-ing my second album, and I’m thinking of moving over to the UK next year, post-high school.
Words: Elise Marraro (follow Elise on Twitter: PardonMe_Lissie)