Interview by Maddie Farr ’18
On the Bandcamp page for Carmen Perry’s new album as Addie Pray, Screentime, she writes: “Screentime is about waiting and learning how to feel like you deserve to be happy.” This message permeates Screentime, whose songs wander through anxiety, worry, comfort, and ultimately, happiness. Like all of the Addie Pray albums (which can be found on Carmen’s Bandcamp), I listen to it with a sometimes painful, always grounding recognition. I’ve listened to Carmen’s music on rooftops and buses and on my feet and everywhere she reminds me that it’s ok not to be happy, but also that I deserve to be.
So it was such an honor to be able to interview Carmen–who graduated from Kenyon in 2015–last Friday, when she returned to open for Free Cake For Every Creature at the Horn Gallery. We talked about P.S. Eliot, SPORTS–her band, also formed at Kenyon, with James Karlin ’15, Benji Dossetter ’15, Catherine Dwyer ’14, and Jack Washburn ’16 (the last two also played in Addie Pray at the show and participated in this interview!)–religion, and more! It was a good time and I laughed a lot. I hope you do too, at the funny parts. Thank you again to Carmen, Jack, and Catherine. Enjoy!
Maddie: My first question is kind of silly.
Maddie: I was wondering what your astrological sign is, and if you identify with it?
Carmen: I’m a Gemini.
Maddie: Ooh, wow.
Carmen: Yeah, yeah. I think I identify with it. I guess the basic understanding that I have of Geminis is the whole split personality thing. [To Jack] I guess, what would you say?
Jack: Sure, Gemini, seems fine…
Carmen: I suppose.
Maddie: Yeah, Geminis are very complicated signs, so there’s a lot there to dig through!
Carmen: [laughing] Yeah, I’m like, pretty complicated, so…
Maddie: What are some of your musical influences, and who do you listen to?
Carmen: Ooh, yeah. Well, I really like Rilo Kiley. And Katie Crutchfield. PS. Eliot [Katie and Allison Crutchfield’s band from 2007-2011] is like my favorite band ever. I usually think that Rilo Kiley is how I got interested in music, and P.S. Eliot is how I got interested in playing music. So those are two very big ones for me.
Maddie: Awesome! P.S. Eliot is also one of my favorite bands. And I don’t hear about them very often… my dream is a P.S. Eliot reunion tour, where they go on tour and play those songs.
Jack: One day.
Maddie: How did you get into P.S. Eliot, and how have they influenced you?
Carmen: I don’t remember… I remember listening to them my freshman year here [at Kenyon], like right before they broke up. And I think I just saw their breaking up, and I went on the internet and downloaded all their albums and really liked it and really identified with it. I listened to it a lot when I was here.
Maddie: How was touring with SPORTS?
Jack: It was great!
Carmen: It was really fun! Benji got us sick… you can quote me on that.
Catherine: I’m still sick…
Carmen: Catherine’s still sick cause she’s an idiot.
Jack: I didn’t get sick.
Carmen: Jack did not get sick, incredibly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you sick.
Jack: I don’t know about that…
Carmen: But other than that, it was really fun. That was the longest tour we’ve done so far. It was not that long, but…
Jack: It was a week and a half.
Catherine: We stayed at my house for a lot of it.
Carmen: Yeah, Catherine slept in her own bed a lot. But yeah, it was fun. Looking forward to touring more!
Maddie: That’s so exciting! What do you like to play live? What’s your favorite song, as Addie Pray or SPORTS?
Carmen: That’s a tough one! Well, we started working on some new stuff right before this tour, for SPORTS. So that was pretty fun to play live, especially since everyone thinks we’re not a band anymore. We’re hopefully gonna record some new stuff soon, so I’m excited about that.
Maddie: Sweet, now I’m excited about that too! Where does the name Addie Pray come from?
Carmen: It’s from a movie called Paper Moon, which is based off a book called Addie Pray. It’s a movie from the 70’s about this man in the 1930s who’s a con artist, and he somehow ends up with this little girl that he has to take care of. Her name is Addie. She’s just like a very weird little girl, and she’s very tough and also smart, and sort of joins in on the con schemes. And I really liked that movie when I was a kid, and I still do. I didn’t really want to use my own name, so I chose that one.
Maddie: I love that! So this is a broad question, but I know that you were a Religious Studies major [at Kenyon], because I’m also a Religious Studies major…
Carmen: Oh, cool! Awesome!
Maddie: Yeah! So I was wondering if that at all bled into your music? I’ve noticed that some of your songs have moments, like “Hail Mary,” or at the end of “After All,” with the lyric about the pope, and “all dogs go to heaven.” I was wondering if there’s some connection, or overlap of themes, or thing’s you’ve learned?
Carmen: Yeah, definitely! Religion is something I think about a lot, and I think that’s why I liked being a Religious Studies major so much, because it gave me the space to think about how religion affects my life, among other things. I grew up Catholic, my mom was raised Catholic… but I don’t really, like we don’t go to church or anything anymore, and I’ve had weird experiences with the church. But it’s still something I really identify with, just because that’s how I was raised, and thats’ how my family was raised, and it’s tied in with our culture and our heritage. So it’s something that’s still very important to me, but in a way I haven’t totally figured out yet.
Maddie: Thank you! I totally get that as a Religious Studies major, how great it is to have the space to just explore religion.
Carmen: Yeah, it’s something I didn’t really learn about at all when I was in high school, or before college.
Maddie: So I know you write about a lot of personal stuff [in your music], and I was wondering, has that gotten easier with each new album you make?
Carmen: I think it’s easier now that I’ve done it so much. I think it was the easiest when I first started putting out music, because there was no previous context to anything. And then I think it got a little harder, because I was worried about writing things with the intention of people hearing them, which I think affected me negatively. But I kind of don’t really care anymore, so…
Maddie: That’s awesome. Along with that question, has your writing process changed with each new album, or does every album have a different feeling or tone?
Carmen: I like to think I’m becoming a better musician, and I think that I can hear that with each album. I don’t know if other people can… [laughs] But yeah, I’ve been experimenting with different sounds and stuff, and it’s definitely different from when I first started making music. And I try to have the albums feel cohesive.
Maddie: With SPORTS also being a project you do, and other musical projects, how do those interact with each other?
Carmen: Yeah! That’s a good question. I get asked that a lot, like how do you distinguish one project from the other. I don’t really know, I think I’ll sit down and write a song and it’ll turn out being a SPORTS song or an Addie Pray song. I think it’s more about the tone of it, more than anything else. Because I don’t think that all of the Addie Pray songs would work as SPORTS songs, or vice versa. But it’s nice having both outlets for different stuff.
Maddie: That’s very Gemini, with different sides to the personality. We came full circle!
Carmen: Haha, yeah we did, wow!
Maddie: Thank you so much!
Carmen: Thank you!