It only took 15 years, but Joe Pernice is finally on the road to making amends with the friendships he left behind when he quit — and effectively dismantled — the Scud Mountain Boys in 1997 to focus on the Pernice Brothers with a rotating cast of musicians, including his brother, Bob.
DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY “It started to get a little sour,” admits Joe Pernice of the demise of the Scud Mountain Boys (left to right: Stephen DeSaulniers, Bruce Tull, Tom Shea, Pernice) in 1997. “Not so much that we didn’t like each other — but I got bored with the music.”
The Northampton-based Americana quartet of local music friends and drinking buddies was still rising on the tailwinds of their 1996 Sub Pop debut, Massachusetts, when their de facto frontman walked out. A deal with a record label of Sub Pop's repute would have seemed otherworldly to Pernice during the Scud Mountain Boys' most casual years in the early '90s; yet it was the Boys who were the catalyst for the relationship with the label, one that Pernice would parlay into the release of the Pernice Brothers' seminal 1998 orchestral-pop debut, Overcome By Happiness.
"There was resentment, and there were things that shouldn't have been said," says the Toronto-based Pernice of the Scuds split, from his parent's house on the South Shore. His closest friendships, founded in harmony and camaraderie, became as dilapidated as the sound of those early Scud Mountain Boys recordings. Stephen Desaulniers (guitar, piano, bass) and Bruce Tull (guitar, lap steel, pedal steel), once extremely close with Pernice, had no contact with him until this past summer, when Pernice — moved largely by the untimely December 2009 passing of Scud Mountain Boys fan Ray Neades — began reaching out to his former bandmates via email.
It was only Tom Shea (drums, mandolin) and Pernice who were able to maintain a tense friendship over the years. And it was Shea who would serve as the go-between — for Pernice on one side and Desaulniers and Tull on the other — as the four came together ahead of the reunion show that will hit Brighton Music Hall this Saturday. "I think Steve and Bruce were a little more reluctant," says Shea who, along with Desaulniers, plays regularly with the Ray Mason Band. "Most of all it was a friendship outreach. We all missed each other."
"I've always thought that [Pernice] had talent as a songwriter but, in a lot of ways, I believe he learned his craft in the Scud Mountain Boys," says Tull, who has remained active himself in a number of projects. "We kinda liked the fact that people would bring their grandmothers to our show, and that their grandmothers would like us."
Looking back, Pernice says, "If I had been in the band that broke up because someone left, I don't think I would be knocking on anyone's door to get back together and play."
But for Pernice, the chemistry both on- and off-stage has an undeniable pull. "What I've found playing with a lot of people over the past 15 years, you don't come across a lot of musicians that often that are both good players, and good players with a unique and soulful style. And these guys are players."