The Sheila Divine
New Parade (Roadrunner)
An interview with vocalist Aaron Perrino
by Scott Hefflon
I usually keep up on who’s getting the buzz around Boston, but The Sheila Divine really snuck up on me. Signed to CherryDisc before most people’d ever heard of you, then with the demise of CherryDisc, signed to Roadrunner when many, many CherryDisc bands got dropped. And now Roadrunner is backing you to the point where I wish they’d shut the fuck up about how much they think you rock. So how’d it all happen?
Well, we were a band for three months when we recorded a three-song demo tape. We got invited to CherryDisc’s Christmas party by a friend of mine, and when she was really drunk she took our tape and put it in John Horton’s tape deck (Horton, formerly of CherryDisc, now A&R for Roadrunner). Two days later, he called us. They wanted to sign us, but we only had, like, eight songs at the time. They were already in negotiations with Roadrunner, so we waited to sign until the deal went through. So Roadrunner kinda had to take us. But as it turns out, we’re one of the number one priorities of the label.
You had a five-song sampler thing in certain stores – what was the deal with that?
It was a developmental thing Roadrunner did because our record isn’t coming out ’til February (May, actually. Ya gotta love this biz), but they wanted to get us on the road to build the name. So they printed a bunch of EPs and gave them away to press and certain stores. It’s an amazing deal. I don’t know anyone else who’s ever gotten this kind of treatment. They didn’t charge us back for the CDs they printed, and they even gave us a bunch of copies to sell on the road when we’re on tour. We’re also the guinea pigs of the bunch because Roadrunner is like the heavy metal label of the world, and we’re this new alternative band…
Does Roadrunner have anything else on their roster that’s even remotely similar to you?
They put out a band called Drugstore, but I think that’s it. They also do some electronic bands. I think the biggest one was Junkie XL, but they have a whole new staff, so I think they’re going to be doing more alternative stuff in the future.
What genre do you consider The Sheila Divine?
The most asked question, aside from what the name means…
That question’s coming…
…is what style of music we play. I think we’re just a rock band, but I guess you have to be more specific. I don’t think we’re especially emo or whatever because we don’t mess around with two-minute interludes or anything. We don’t do a lot of start/stop stuff, I think we’re a lot more pop oriented.
I hear you also have some music theory…
No, none. I’m self-taught.
…Um, “‘Aaron and I were in Music Theory class together,’ says Shawn” – that’s in your bio.
Oh, yeah, I took the class, but I did terribly. I barely passed. So no, none of us are trained. Shawn, the drummer, played when he was 12, but he quit soon after. When Jim (bass) and I were playing a bit, I had a spare drum kit and asked Shawn to come over, thinking he used to play drums. He hadn’t played since he was 12, but it all worked out really well.
Why’d you want to be in a band?
Why? Well, I’ve been in bands since I was 16, but this just seemed to be the one that clicked.
What other bands have you been in?
My first band was in the industrial phase, so it was kind of an electronic-type thing. It was kinda New Orderish.
Did you believe in that at the time?
Well, yeah, but I was just a dumb high school kid… Then I was in a band in college called The Waverlys, and that’s why I moved to Boston…
To live it down?
No, I moved with the band, but we broke up after six months. That band was harder than The Sheila Divine. All I ever did was scream. We just weren’t talented enough to do anything but scream and play really loud and hard. But that was about three years ago.
Graham (formerly of CherryDisc) mentioned you have a music industry background?
Yeah, Shawn and I went to school for that stuff. But I quit college to move to Boston and become a musician. I always thought I could get a job at a label here if things didn’t work out.
Yeah, Boston’s just overflowing with positions at all the labels we have here. What do we have, two, three labels?
Yeah, but I really wanted to play.
What specifically was it about Boston that made you wanna move here from upstate New York?
I thought it had a great music scene, and a lot of my favorite bands have been from Boston. Like The Pixies, The Lemonheads, Juliana Hatfield, The Blake Babies, and all that.
Did you move The Waverlys here?
No, Shawn was kind of our manager, and we went to school with Jim, but he just happened to move to Boston, too.
How long ago did you move here?
About two, three years ago. The first show I saw when I got here was Cherry 2000, The Elevator Drops, and The Dambuilders, and that was my first hands-on impression of the Boston music scene. I realized right there that we had a lot of work to do. Soon enough I realized that was a rare, amazing show.
I didn’t know Cherry 2000 was around that long ago?
That was their first show. But I still think Boston has one of the best scenes in the country.
A lot of what are called “Boston bands” are basically national bands and have little do with what’s going on in at the club level. But speaking of which, you bypassed the whole club thing and went straight to the national market… You didn’t really pay your dues here, did you?
No, not really. I was very determined though. When I wasn’t in a band for a year or more, it was really frustrating. I answered all the ads in the Phoenix and I’ve tried out for soooo many different bands. I always tried out for bands as, like, the bassist or the guitarist, but I always knew I wanted to be the main guy, the guy in charge, the jerk… But even when I wasn’t in a band, I hung out at The Middle East and all the places I had to, and I made all sorts of friends with people I knew I should make friends with. So by the time I got in this band, I already had half the pieces of the puzzle. We got our first show at The Middle East after only being a band for a week. We had three weeks to practice, so we practiced three hours a day, six days a week for the three weeks. We had people knocking on the door of our rehearsal space asking who we were. We used to play at The Music Complex in Charlestown, the whatever that place was in the South End that got closed down because it was a toxic waste dump or something, and now we’re at The Sound Museum in Allston.
So you did all the networking before you were even in a band?
Yeah. Well, I knew I was going to be in a band, even if I had to be a solo acoustic singer/songwriter guy for a little while if I had to, but I really need drums.
And then the tape ran out…
But to answer the question that’s burning in everyone’s mind, The Sheila Divine got their name from an Australian slang term for a sissy (as in guys who don’t play sports or wield broadsword-sized pocketknives like Paul Hogan in “Crocodile” Dundee [who, coincidentally enough, called the transvestite in the bar a “sheila” after grabbing him/her down under]) and divine, as in “the best.” Not Divine, as in the famous transvestite. And “The” as in, “No, we are NOT the back-up band for some sing/songwriter tart named Sheila Divine. We’re THE Sheila Divine.”
(536 Broadway 4th Fl. New York, NY 10012)