When Tim Perry went into a 10-day meditation retreat, he says he wasn’t consciously doing so to formulate all of the material for his band’s latest album. But after more than a week without speaking to anybody or being spoken to, the songs that poured out of him formed a bulk of “Divisionary,” the second full-length release from Ages and Ages.
When we speak with Perry, we’re outside of a Brooklyn club, where the raised highway above is the best alternative to the music pumping out of the PA inside the club. Perry requests this setting though, because he’s fighting a sinus infection and doesn’t want to blow out his voice before the band’s final show of the CMJ Music Marathon.
“I went away for a while to a place where nobody was talking, and I didn’t have access to the outside world in any way: No technology, no pen or paper, no guitar. And I just sat and meditated silently,” he explains. “Just to distance myself from…”
He searches for a word, and when a particularly loud motorcycle revs by on the 278 overpass above, he settles on the word “this” to indicate exactly the type of noise he wanted to distance himself from.
“About 99 percent of what we immerse ourselves in is missing the point, so I was just hoping to have some alone time to try to figure it out,” he continues. “It’s really simple. It’s almost boringly simple.”
But the resultant music is far from boringly simple. Ages and Ages combine soul-searching lyrics with the harmonic exuberance of Fleetwood Mac, the personal vitriol of Elliott Smith and the rich production sensibilities of The Shins.
The “Divisionary” album begins with a group sing-along statement of purpose in the song, “Light Goes Out,” which usually begins the band’s shows. The refrain in the song goes, “All I wanna say are the words with any meaning, and I’ll be that way ‘till the light goes out.”
“I wanted to make a statement about what we do,” says Perry, “and it’s also battling the idea that discussing death and darkness is not the same as being morbid or negative. It’s being honest.”
And when the subjects of death and darkness are dealt with through the six voices of the band members blending together in perfect harmony, Perry’s reasoning makes sense. There’s a palpable joy onstage that spreads to the audience by the first time the band members strike their instruments.
“In a world where a lot of negativity exists, and where some of the problems are just downright overwhelming, how do you carry yourself amidst that? You know, without falling into apathy or just giving up, or just getting depressed,” explains Perry. “But at the same time without just saying ‘f— it. I don’t care,’ and being maniacally happy about the next Taylor Swift single or whatever.”
Where have you heard them before?
Ages and Ages received a welcome boost in sales earlier this month when 6,000 people downloaded their song " Divisionary (Do the Right Thing)" after its effective use on the Season 2 premiere of "The Blacklist."
"We've done other shows before, and I've always found it, not embarrassing, but not anything I'd want to hang my hat on," says Perry, "but I was happy with the placement. I think they did a good job. I liked it."