When Two Voices Become One
There’s a fleeting, hopeful moment in Charles Bukowski’s poem “Nirvana” where its unnamed protagonist, a young man riding a bus through North Carolina on a snowy day toward no place in particular, disembarks with the rest of its passengers for lunch “at a little café in the hills.” He absorbs his strange, idyllic surroundings in total admiration and comes to the bold conclusion that, “Maybe I’ll just stay here.” Yet, when the driver signals that the bus is leaving, he submissively returns to his seat among the unaffected, and the reader is left with only the imagined sound of tires on the snow and an overwhelming sense of melancholy.
Adam Hawkins and Kate Perdoni’s “Nirvana” moment came two winters ago when the clutch on their motorhome went out just outside of Greensboro. The couple was on tour as the Golden Hearts, playing a nubilous, Yo La Tengo-inspired brand of shoegaze that they were fashioning at various campsite stops and friends’ homes along the way, when a little café called the Green Bean where they had once played stuck out in their mind.
So they decided to stay; not much chance, but also not completely cut loose from purpose. The couple had been on tour with their 9-month-old son Lio at the time and the decision to bring their itinerancy to a halt, if only for the time being, was driven for his comfort after being on the road for most of his life to that point. They had adapted their live performances to meet his needs; one would attend to him offstage while the other — both are well-versed in a their keyboard, guitar and drum arrangement — would create the songs. Eventually their refugee nanny Wajiha came along and allowed them to perform alongside one another.
“When we first got pregnant, we told our friends and they were kind of shocked. ‘Are you going to keep making music?’ ‘What do you mean? We’ve been making music our whole lives, so why would we stop now?’” Perdoni said in an interview at the very place that fomented their decision to call Greensboro home. Lio, now an affable and curious 3-year-old, played a few feet away. “We’ve totally incorporated him into our lifestyle, but he’s been great and he loves to travel. We’re really lucky that he loves it just as much as we do.”
It wasn’t long after they settled that they received a ceaseand-desist from ex-4 Non Blondes guitarist Roger Rocha over the use of their band name, so they adopted the name Eros and the Eschaton from the lecture of the same name by metaphysical philosopher Terence McKenna, a person whose work in psychedelic theory had already made a profound imprint upon a younger Perdoni and formed the basis for her spiritual kinship with Hawkins. McKenna’s ideas would also form the basis of many of their songs as Eros and the Eschaton, which released its debut album Home Address for Civil War on Bar/ None Records, the Hoboken, NJ label that gave birth to They Might be Giants and Yo La Tengo.
“The first time I heard [McKenna] orate I was 25, and his perspectives on the use of psychedelics just spoke to me. I’m past that now, but in my youth it was a big part of understanding the world around me,” Perdoni said. “It made me realize connections I was blind to and could carry with me; this realm of anything is possible. Just because things exist in a certain framework and people are comfortable with that doesn’t make it the best way. The idea was, ‘Don’t be ashamed for wanting to be different.’” The urge to defy the conventional extends manifests as much in their sonic aesthetics as much as it does in their parenting style. There’s a discrete duality to the music on Home Address for Civil War. On one hand, it’s a stunning passive listen. Opener “20 Different Days” ripples with ascendant pop noise while Perdoni unfurls sweet vocal melodies deep underneath like the third Deal sister. The defining sound of the album — and the group itself — comes with Perdoni and Hawkins’ harmonies, a seraphic union that obliquely recalls Mike Milosh of Rhye in its rigorous androgyny. On the other, it’s a record that can stress attention. The album’s thoughtful lyrics are obscured beneath the duo’s love of big, lovely sounds and purposefully so.
“We hear people say, ‘We can’t tell what you’re saying,’ and I say that’s part of the point. It’s a feeling too,” Perdoni said. “Lyrics are really important to us. We spend a lot of time trying to find the right way to express it, but at the end of the day we also don’t care if they come across.”
Perdoni references her experience with Beach House’s Teen Dream, ascribing her own meaning to the duo’s slurry psychedelia. In a sense, the lyrics are a mode of discreet communication between Perdoni and Hawkins; a language only lovers know. Perdoni and Hawkins aren’t married, however, at least not in the signed and notarized sense, but the moment they look upon in hindsight as their pledge to one another also serendipitously led them to their label.
Still the Golden Hearts, they invited friends of theirs from Omaha who operate a video-production company to visit their house in the country just north of Greensboro. They brought furniture from inside into an old abandoned barn out back, drank some whiskey and filmed themselves singing “You Know I Do,” a blissful paean to impermanence and company that Perdoni, almost out of 14 years of habit, sent to Bar/None. This time, Mark Lipsitz of Bar/None got back almost instantly.
“We had no idea how to play that song for the video. We had been recording this entire time, but we figured that song out,” Hawkins said. “We weren’t playing shows and now [Mark] was talking about coming up to New York to meet him. That was amazing motivation to start booking.”
Eros and the Eschaton will hold their debut album’s release party on that same spot this Saturday before embarking on a national tour that will begin at the Green Bean, New York Pizza and the Hopscotch Music Festival. They’ll be expanding their lineup to include additional drum and keyboard support for the time being, at least until Lio is old enough to hold those duties down.
Said Perdoni: “I asked Adam, “How old do you think Lio has to be to play with us on stage?’” “Twelve?” Hawkins responded. “I was thinking 4.”
Eros and the Eschaton will post details for their album release show on their Facebook page (facebook.com/erosandtheeschaton) in the preceding days.