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The Jayhawks make music for a rainy day

By Dan MacIntosh, May 2003

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"It's not based on a personal experience," Perlman explains. "It's fictional. It is about somebody who loses a friend, so it is serious. To be honest with you, I wrote it originally for a movie. And for some reason, they (the movie producers) didn't accept it. The movie was called "Stolen Summer." It was one of those Matt Damon/Ben Affleck Project Greenlight films. We always try and bring in songs for soundtracks, and we wrote it for that. Otherwise, I didn't have any songs that Gary or Rick Rubin liked well enough to go on the album."

It's a fine song, and one has to wonder why Perlman doesn't write more songs for The Jayhawks or if his lack of contributions may be at least a small source of frustration for him. But he doesn't see it that way at all.

"Gary is sort of the focus and the talent of the band," he says. "And that's the way we're recognized. If I was singing, and we had my songs on the record, I don't think it would be a Jayhawks record."

If he ever gets a free moment, Perlman enjoys playing music outside The Jayhawks. But he doesn't have any serious side projects.

"Sometimes one of my friends will be doing a show in Minneapolis, and I will come play bass with them. But I don't have any specific projects. I just don't have time. So when we're home, we all continue writing and demo-ing songs. We have a little studio that we work in."

While many rock bands end up in the bright lights of the big city, Perlman and The Jayhawks appear to be happy staying in Minnesota.

"It is my home," Perlman says. "I could move anywhere else, and I would still feel like I was just visiting. I have lived in other places. I've just always felt like it was temporary. We all live within 15 minutes of each other."

After completing this new album "the talent of the band" came down with an illness that caused The Jayhawks to cancel a few gigs. But like every other road block that has gotten in its way, these dedicated ones somehow got past this one, too.

"It was potentially serious, since he had an infection of the heart lining," Perlman explains. "And anytime those viruses and bacteria get to the heart it can pretty serious. And luckily, I think they caught it in time. If they had let it go, it could have become very serious. This happened in the winter, when we were supposed to go on tour. That's why we're on tour now."

Producer Ethan Johns deserves a lot of credit for the success of this album and the ease that came with recording it.

"He's a very pleasant man," Perlman recalls. "He's very mannered. He's laid back. We didn't really hang out outside of the studio. Everything was so easy. The tracks came pretty quick, and there weren't a lot of worries. Our biggest worry every day was what we were going to order out for lunch."

These Jayhawks don't exactly eat like birds, by the way, as they often associate the making of each album, with the food or foods of choice during each particular session.

"We usually remember each record by our culinary intake," Perlman jokes. "On 'Town Hall,' (1992) we ate a lot of Italian food and put on lots of weight. For 'Tomorrow The Green Grass,' (1995) we ate a lot of Tommy's and In 'N Out burgers, and put on a lot of weight. And for 'Sound Of Lies,' (1997), we decided to go on a diet. We sequestered ourselves in a studio in Minneapolis, and we lived on rice and beans for an entire month. We all lost weight for 'Sound Of Lies,' and I think it shows in the recording."

For the recording of "Rainy Day Music," the group seemed to find a balance between those two extremes: of fattening and non-fattening foods.

"There were like a few different delivery places we ordered from," explains Perlman. "But we ate a lot of tuna melts. We really got into some tuna melts, and some fish sandwiches. It was very seafood-y."

It may take a truly trained ear to hear any of these seafood intake influences on the group's music. But there have always been common denominators throughout The Jayhawks' repertoire over the years. But these haven't exactly been the edible kind.

"In our music, there's always a lot of clouds, and lightning and rain. We're a very elemental band, in that way," Perlman explains.

The more spiritually accented elements on this - and any - Jayhawks album come as no surprise to Perlman. They're all par for the course, as far as he's concerned.

"Gary's always going through some sort of a spiritual phase when he's writing a record," Perlman notes. "There's always something he's going through. I'm not sure. We never sit down and actually talk about that sort of stuff. To be honest with you, we're kind of the band that actually likes music when we don't know the whole history of a song. We've always considered music to be sort of open to interpretation and my opinion is that if a songwriter writes something so personal that it only relates to the songwriter, then to me that's sort of boring. To me, a good song should not only relate to the songwriter, but it's something that you could say, 'Yeah, I've had that experience too' or 'I understand that.' 'I feel that,' or 'I felt like that.' That's the kind of songs we try to write."

But many songs are written first for the songwriter's own benefit. And if they help somebody else with it, that's just an added benefit.

"I think Gary writes songs as a form of therapy," Perlman explains. "I know I do. I'll get pissed off, so I'll write a song about it."

And if you think about it, the genesis of The Jayhawks in February 1985 oddly points back to group therapy of a sort.

"He (Gary) happened to be not in a band. And I happened to be not in a band. And Olson happened to be not in a band. And we were maybe the only three people we knew that weren't in a band. We didn't want to be left out. We wanted to be able to go down to the bar and be able to have conversations with all of our friends who were in a bands, so we had to form a band."

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