Even if ex-Replacement bassist Tommy Stinson thinks his band's steadily-increasing batch of new songs are close cousins to the high-energy sloppy pop on Perfect's debut EP, When Squirrels Play Chicken (1996) some things are changing in Perfectown.
For one, Perfect leader Stinson has switched back to the bass, relinquishing guitar duties to Dave Philips, formerly of Jack Logan's band. "I haven't played bass in a band in a long time," Stinson said. "It's really fun to play it again, mainly because I haven't done it in a while, but it's a new challenge to play and sing at the same time. It frees me up a bit, since I'm more used to playing bass, even though I've been playing guitar for a while."
Also, in maturing as a songwriter, Stinson has apparently recognized his limitations.
"The new stuff is pretty similar to the old stuff in a lot of ways," Stinson said about the 20 songs he's prepared to take into the studio when Perfect begin sessions for their full-length debut.
Peter Jesperson, founder of Twin/Tone Records, the original home of the Replacements, said he recently started sending out five-song demo tapes of the new songs to "everyone from small fry to some gigantic fish" producers. "I'm trying to contact as many people as I can," Jesperson said about the on-going process of finding the right fit for his protege's band. "Now I'm just waiting for that magical phone call from somebody who says, 'I think this is the greatest batch of demos I've heard in years.' I think they're brilliant songs. I listened to them at home and they gave me goose bumps and shivers."
Stinson and Jesperson attested to the growing songwriting strength of the former 'Mats member, who joined the band while just barely in his teens. "I'm still learning how to write songs," Stinson said, conceding that his former bandmate and Replacements leader, Paul Westerberg, wasn't "too bad" a teacher. Jesperson, who said the new song "Turn it Up" was one of greatest things he's heard from Stinson, quoted some acerbic lyrics from the tune as proof of his pride in his former ward. (Jesperson acted as Stinson's legal guardian during his early 'Mats years.) "You pray to God/ I'll pray to anyone who'll listen."
That song was one of several examples from new tunes such as "Better Days," "Making of an Asshole," "Don't Look Down," "Seven Days a Week" and "The Last One" that Jesperson said would establish Stinson as a force to be reckoned with.
For his part, Stinson remained fairly modest about his songwriting abilities. "I think my musical style doesn't really go that far off," Stinson said. "I write pop songs, we're a pop band with varying degrees of aggressiveness and volume. You know, my same old shit."
Perfect played their public debut with the new line-up at a private party on Aug. 9 at their Los Angeles rehearsal space. The show, attended by 30 close friends and record company flacks, featured two identical sets of nine new songs. Jesperson said the new line-up rehearsed together for two weeks in late July and early August to "make sure he (Philips) fit into the stew. They had a natural chemistry, and I really think Dave is one of the best guitar players I've ever worked with."
In keeping with the camaraderie between Stinson and Jesperson, the former said his decision to sign with Twin/Tone/Restless was an easy one. "It's just amazing to work with Peter again. He's someone I've trusted since I was a little kid," Stinson said, adding that none of the myriad A&R representatives from the half-dozen labels that expressed interest in signing Perfect had "an iota of Peter's knowledge about music."
Both Jesperson and Stinson were hopeful that, once a producer is secured, the Perfect album would be released in early 1998.
A solo Stinson track, "Hate It," will appear on a Restless Records sampler that will be a promotional item in an upcoming Request magazine issue. Stinson played everything on the track, including percussion, bass, guitars as well as singing the double-tracked vocals, which he finished recording just last weekend.
The CD will also feature tracks from Jack Logan, non-LP tracks from Spain and the Radar Brothers, and songs from the Penny Dreadfuls, Suncatcher, Moog Cookbook, Lori Carson, Hang-Ups, Chopper One and the Golden Palominos. [Mon., Sept. 8, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]