November 24, 2015

Stream: Addie Pray - Screentime

Stream the new solo album from SPORTS' Carmen Perry.

Carmen Perry delivered one of the best biting lyrics of 2014 when she sang, "You're jerking off to Al Jazeera and making your bed / I could be at Crossfit like you but I'd rather be dead". This hilariously millennial-specific burn is what comeback insult dreams are made of and is was just one of many lines on her band SPORTS' debut EP, Sunchokes, that show off her quick-witted tongue. Over the last year, the initially Ohio-based SPORTS accumulated a following on the strength of the album — someone on Bandcamp referred to it as "like Avril Lavigne if she didn't suck", which could be considered a compliment. But while she was gaining attention for SPORTS' insanely catchy hybrid indie pop/pop punk songs, she was also working on a more minimal, experimental solo project called Addie Pray that is getting its first physical release, titled Screentime, on November 27th on Father/Daughter Records. Addie Pray may be a major sonic deviation from the project Perry is known for, but without SPORTS, Addie Pray might not have ever existed.

Perry had been tinkering with music and songwriting for most her life before teaching herself guitar in her early teens. In a sample of what was to come, she posted a song on her Facebook page that she wrote in 2004 that includes the epic lyric, "He doesn't know what he's doing because he's just a small helpless little baby." But it wasn't until her freshman year at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio — a small town about an hour northeast of Columbus — that she made the jump into performing due to the encouragement of her friends and soon-to-be bandmates. "I started playing with my friend James (who is also in SPORTS) when I was a freshman in college, and that really helped me be able to put myself out there more," she says. "We recorded a demo on cassette, and then that summer, I started recording stuff on my own (mostly out of boredom), and that became Addie Pray." Perry marks 2013, while she was studying abroad, as the start of the project. She spent the next two years writing songs while she was out of the country in Thailand, at college in Ohio, and at home on break in New Jersey, slowly putting it together on Garageband. "I just did it in my bedroom with a tiny mic that I borrowed from my friend Cody," she says. "It felt really good to have made something myself from start to finish."

Perry points out that while this is the first official Addie Pray release, there were some songs that she wrote for it that eventually turned into SPORTS songs, and she describes the two as complimentary to each other. But even with the overlap, this is the first project that is totally her own. "I love the way we build songs in SPORTS, but it's also nice to have this project in which I have complete control of the production because I think that makes the final product feel a little more intimate and like more of a personal triumph," she says. As a listener, it’s fascinating to see the difference between SPORTS and Addie Pray. Perry's signature lyrical mark is there, but both projects explore different sides of her musical personality. In SPORTS, Perry is a force to be reckoned with, delivering her emotions at light speed. Her songs as Addie Pray burn slower, with simple yet intricate production and a more controlled voice. Her strength in both projects was powerful enough that Father/Daughter decided to release not one but two albums by Perry in the span of a month.

Jessi Frick of Father/Daughter Records initially had no connection to SPORTS, but was such a fan of Sunchokes that she decided to reach out to the band. "I sort of hit them up on a whim, not knowing if they were actually working on new material or not," Frick says. "Turns out they were and the timing was pretty serendipitous." The band was working on their second album, which would result in October's follow up to Sunchokes, titled All of Something. It was while working together on All of Something that Perry showed Frick her work as Addie Pray. "I love her voice and her songwriting style so there was no chance in hell I wasn’t going to help her release Screentime," Frick says. "I like the album particularly because it sounds like pages out of her journal. There aren’t any production frills to mask the awe-inspiring lyrics Carmen writes. The music is fragile yet commanding — it sort of makes me think of how I feel when I express my true emotions to someone."

Frick's praise of Perry's writing isn't undeserved, and this is especially obvious on Screentime. The album title also acts as the theme that ties the 12 songs that span two years together. There are some obvious clues, like songs titled "Email" and "Watch TV", but also more subtle references like when Perry pokes fun at herself on "Hi How Are You" when she sings, "And I've got lots of things to do / But I don't want to leave my room / And I'm not getting enough rest because I can't stop watching Top Chef". Perry's decision to loosely revolve the album around this idea comes from using the Internet and TV as a coping mechanism. "A lot of this album is me feeling neurotic and freaked out about things in my life," Perry said, "When that happens I just kinda shut down and watch the Kardashians for a while because then I can focus on something that is not related to me at all". It's a concept that all people can relate to but is rarely so articulated or put in the context of dealing with other problems in life, such as relationships, pets dying, graduating college and beyond. On standout "Perspective", Perry opens the song with: "Creep around the Internet / And you'll write my name on a cassette / Watch me, I can pay attention too / Leaving never meant a thing to you". Never has the description of lurking on the Internet packed such an emotional punch.

The album isn't solely focused on living inside your computer, though, and addresses deeper existential struggles. "I think the album as a whole deals with being on the precipice of change and how you interact with yourself and other people while you're existing in these weird kind of liminal stages of your life," she says. "It's kinda like that feeling when you finally get something that you've always wanted and then you immediately have to think about what's next and deal with the reality of always having to think like that. That's something I've struggled with for a while, and so I think Screentime is about sort of forcing yourself to enjoy being happy or just content for once even though you don't feel like you deserve to, and the tension that exists there internally." But Perry has a lot to be proud of, and she's aware of that. "I'm in a totally different place from when I first started the album, both physically and emotionally, ha. So it's pretty cool to think that what I was doing then, which was just writing about my feelings in a very unfamiliar place with no goal or purpose really, has turned into something real that I can actually hold in my hands," she says. "All this time that I spent alone in my bedroom playing guitar and watching TV has actually been real."


Listen to Addie Pray on bandcamp.

Written by Emily Thompson