Premiere: 'Perennial' by Corsicana
Corsicana is the project of 20 year-old Denver musician Ben Pisano. Indie rock with shoegaze and electronic influences, this project has evolved throughout the years and their third release demonstrates the growth. All of us at Lady Cactus are so excited to premiere their album, Perennial, exclusively on our blog. We had the chance to meet up with Pisano at Stella’s Coffee in Denver and chat about what making this album was like for him.
Pisano refers to himself as a slow songwriter, although we think you could say he is intentional. The oldest song on this record was written in July of 2016 (right about when his last release, Haven, came out) so it has been a long time in the works. The process has been centered around writing a more sonically cohesive record, rather than focusing on being thematically cohesive. When recording each for each instrument, Pisano was intently focused on finding one specific sound and feel that he would use for the entire record. He was not only more intentional with the songwriting, but with each part and sound that went into the album as a whole. We hear it not only in the instrumentation, but in the ambience that pops up in the backgrounds of songs like Severn, feeling both comforting and dreamlike. The poetic nature of Pisano’s lyricism has a similar effect, both describing specific moments in painstaking detail as well as massive concepts that are metaphorical in nature.
This is not a concept record, and Pisano didn’t want it to be one. But it does have a core concept. Perennials are cyclical, and he appreciated the double meaning both regarding plants and the idea of recurring themes in general. Every time cyclical plants come up, it pushes you into reflection. Pisano went into this album wanting to write more about the nature of relationships between people - not exclusive in a romantic way, but just people relating to each other. There are so many repetitive instances of things that he noticed in himself and in other people.
Do yourself a favor, and listen to the entire album from start to finish. It is well worth the time. If you only listen to three songs, we recommend:
Parallax brings up ideas of how a relationship between two people can be viewed as something entirely different based on perspective. On the surface, it’s very much about this feeling of having a fake friend with no genuine connection, feeling like you have to maintain it and tend to it… but ultimately, it acknowledges that it’s just perspective by the end of the song. Pisano mentioned that he believed this song, specifically the verses, comes the closest to connecting the lyrics with the musical composition and overall meaning.
Lockjaw conveys an inability to relate, but more on a visceral level. The idea of being able to show up somewhere and feel completely out of it, unable to speak to people. Pisano said that this song has been absolutely coming alive during rehearsals with a lot of new and strange production ideas that he had never tried before.
Opaque has a dream sequence warmth to it that is new to Pisano. With little to no repetition, the through-written song concludes with layered call and response vocals from a distance, ending the song in a way that feels intense and emotional. Pisano noted that of all the songs on the album, this form feels the newest to him - and he wants to write more songs like it.
When asked if any bands influenced this record in particular, Pisano laughed and told us that he actually listened to Radiohead (outside of the hits) for the first time after years of ignoring people saying he would love Radiohead. His initial response was, oh my god, why haven’t I listened to Radiohead before? He mentioned that The Antlers will always be staple in what he does, and will never not influence his music. He also listened to a lot of Gleemer during the process, which was fitting with Coffman from the band helping with the recording and mixing process. He was still in school when he started writing this album, and taking guitar lessons to learn new styles. One that stuck with him was a mix of folk, jazz, and bossa nova - specifically, a niche of Devendra Banhart, Kevin Crowder, and Sea George that is influenced by bossa nova. He was inspired by that second degree of styles he was learning and worked to implement some of it into his own styles. He also started listening to more R&B and soul, including Anderson .Paak, Sam Cooke, Leon Bridges, and more. We hear a mixture of Rhye and The Postal Service, making for something truly captivating and special.
In keeping with former processes, Pisano recorded everything on the album except for drums, which were recorded by Corey Coffman of the band Gleemer. Everything was recorded in Pisano’s basement, aside from drums, and nearly everything was performed by Pisano as well. The only exceptions are the band’s current bassist (Jordan Leone) and former drummer (Amos Chase) who both performed on three songs each, and a ‘cameo’ appearance by current guitarist (Melanie Steinway of Tyto Alba). Pisano noted that it was interesting and different to bring people physically into his basement to record them, which was new to him in this record and had a special intimacy that came with it. The record was also mixed by Coffman, breaking tradition with past Corsicana releases which were primarily mixed by Pisano. This choice was made purely to do something different, and he strongly believes Coffman has a deep understanding of the genre and feel that he was striving for in the release. The album was mastered by Joe Lambert out of New Jersey, who has also worked with bands like The Antlers, Daughter, Foxing, Jay Som, and more.
Pisano said that he prefers not to change band members, but it sometimes takes awhile to find the right people for something so intimate. The current lineup includes Jordan Leone on bass, who has always been a constant in the project in some way or another, Melanie Steinway (of Tyto Alba) on guitar who joined in 2017, and Sumner Erhard on drums as of late 2018. Pisano said this lineup feels the best it’s ever been, and he is excited to see where it will go from here.