Perfume Genius Is Still Figuring Out How To Be In Love Mike Hadreas' new album as Perfume Genius, No Shape, centers on his relationship with boyfriend Alan Wyffels. The couple tells NPR's Rachel Martin about making music as recovering addicts and gay men.
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Perfume Genius Is Still Figuring Out How To Be In Love

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Perfume Genius Is Still Figuring Out How To Be In Love

Perfume Genius Is Still Figuring Out How To Be In Love

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's an old, old story line. Rock star makes it big, gets hooked on a substance, lands in rehab. The rest of the career is the comeback. Our own Rachel Martin met a musician, though, who did things differently.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Mike Hadreas is the heart of the band Perfume Genius. He is a rock star in reverse because his career started in rehab. He was bullied in school for being gay, and he started to drink.

MIKE HADREAS: I'd felt like I was on the outside growing up. And then I moved to the city and I met other people that were also on the outside but it was, like, a magical, fun, creative way, you know? And that kind of got tied in with drinking. It was just social. And it just got progressively more dangerous, and I just didn't care until you wake up the next day and you're like, how could I be at a point where I didn't care if I, like, lived or died?

MARTIN: Mike Hadreas moved back home. He went to AA and made a new group of friends, who were also in recovery. And that's where he met his boyfriend, Alan Wyffels. Together, the two have made three albums that explore the dark places that led both of them to addiction. Their new album, though, is noticeably lighter. It's called "No Shape," and it celebrates what it means to build a life after addiction or as he calls it on the opening track, the other side.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OTHERSIDE")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) Rocking you to sleep from the other side.

MARTIN: So, Alan, when you met Mike, what was your vibe on him?

ALAN WYFFELS: So I was immediately charmed by him but kind of trying not to be just because I didn't want to be, like, a creeper, you know what I mean? I didn't want to be like, oh, who's this fresh, sober meat, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

WYFFELS: I do think a little bit though that Mike kind of used music as, like, a way to seduce me, I believe.

MARTIN: Whoa.

HADREAS: Well, no. I was obsessed...

MARTIN: Oh, you were too?

HADREAS: ...For sure. Like, I would just sort of be, like, rocking back and forth (laughter), like, thinking of him in general, you know?

MARTIN: How come? What was it about him?

HADREAS: Well, he's really hot.

WYFFELS: (Laughter).

HADREAS: That's part of it. And he was, like, very goofy and strange and silly but then oddly very serious and, like, contained.

WYFFELS: For, like, the first six months, like, we were both obsessed with each other and not talking about it. And then we let the cat out of the bag and we were both like, we're obsessed with each other. And we like...

MARTIN: Wait, can I just indulge myself for a minute? Like, where were you? Where was that moment? What happened?

HADREAS: We went to QFC and I got, like, a ham sandwich or something.

WYFFELS: (Laughter).

HADREAS: And then I kissed you outside of QFC. And then we moved in together, like, a week later.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUST LIKE LOVE")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) Just like love, love. Just like love. Just like love.

MARTIN: Your first three albums were pretty heavy. And, Alan, what was it like to hear him when you were sitting in your apartment or your living room and just listening to him go to these dark places?

WYFFELS: At first, it was really confusing and kind of scary for me 'cause, you know, I'd go to work and I would go do that and come home. And Mike would have wrote this, like, really intense, like, essentially suicide letter song. And I'd be like, are you OK? Like, do I need to, like, take you to the hospital or - you know what I mean (laughter)?

MARTIN: Yeah.

WYFFELS: Like, is everything OK?

MARTIN: You know what he's talking about, Mike?

HADREAS: Yeah, I do.

MARTIN: So this album, "No Shape," is lighter. It's brighter. That's intentional, I imagine?

HADREAS: Yeah. It seems like things are better. And I know that they are. And I guess I feel sort of very bratty that I don't feel that way a lot. And so I wanted a lot of the songs to be more gentle and kind and try to connect.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLIP AWAY")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) Don't look back. I want to break free. If you never see them coming, you'll never have to hide. Take my hand. Take my everything. If we only got a moment, give it to me now.

MARTIN: Do you understand what people see in you as a gay man making music and telling a story about his relationship?

HADREAS: Yeah, I do. And I actually don't mind that responsibility at all.

MARTIN: People in the crowd who come up to you and talk to you, Mike, what are they saying?

HADREAS: (Laughter).

MARTIN: He doesn't want to talk about it because it's about how amazing he is. So, Alan, what do those people say to him when they come up to him and talk?

WYFFELS: Well, I just feel like they are hearing someone sing about the things that they have felt their whole life and never heard anybody else say, you know? And that's kind of, like, Mike's, I feel like, one of his goals as a musician is to kind of be the artist that he wished he could have had as a young gay man.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLIP AWAY")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) Baby, let all them voices slip away.

MARTIN: The two of you are from a younger, new generation of gay men. And a lot of gay art that people are familiar with is about the struggle of finding a relationship. This album, though, is about what happens when you're in the relationship and the hard parts of that.

WYFFELS: You know, we live together. A lot of our work is together. You know, we go on tour together where you're just - we're together a lot, 24 hours a day. And I think we've kind of sometimes feel like we're, like, the same person. You know, like, Mike has said before if he's making a reservation somewhere, he'll forget to count me 'cause he's just - like, I'm just a part of him, which I don't know if that's healthy or not but...

HADREAS: (Laughter) I don't know if that is either. And I think that's why I made the album and sang about it in the way I did is because it is a very beautiful, epic thing and it feels so, like, easy in how it is.

MARTIN: You close the album with a song called "Alan," which is pretty clearly a love song. There's a little twist in there, though, because you sing...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALAN")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) Did you notice?

MARTIN: Did you notice we sleep through the night? Did you notice, babe, everything's all right? You need me. Rest easy, I'm here. How weird. It sounds kind of perfect. Why is that weird for you?

HADREAS: Well, it's been eight years, but, I don't know, I've been around for much longer than that. So it still feels sort of new to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALAN")

PERFUME GENIUS: (Singing) I'm here. How weird.

HADREAS: When Alan's asleep and my dog is asleep and looking at them kind of makes me - pulls me into it for a second, being grateful (laughter) or whatever. It still doesn't feel, like, intuitive. It always feels sort of strange and almost mystical.

MARTIN: Mike Hadreas and Alan Wyffels, together they are Perfume Genius. Their new album is called "No Shape." You guys, thanks so much for talking with us.

HADREAS: Thank you.

WYFFELS: Thank you.

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