Keyed Up

Perpetual Groove's Matthew McDonald

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PGroove (McDonald far right)

PGroove (McDonald far right)

If you’re not already listening to Perpetual Groove then you’re missing out on one of modern rock’s killer outfits. While the Georgia-based quartet’s roots lay in the once-burgeoning jam band scene of the early 2000s, it’s a false soundbite that doesn’t fit the sharper edged, darker hued group of today, particularly in their willingness to get a lil’ seedy and celebrate drugs, sex and other good-bad behavior we love despite our better angels. With unassailable musicianship, a bold, dynamic live presence and a near encyclopedic knowledge of popular music in the past 25 years (and beyond back to British Invasion touchstones and Fillmore West pioneers), PGroove makes rock their playground, mingling Peter Gabriel, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd and Avett Brothers covers with originals that stand up ably next to such iconic material. This band knows what great music sounds like and holds themselves to that standard, though never with the stoic self-seriousness that mars many groups vying for significance. To the contrary, Perpetual Groove, even at their most steely-eyed and focused, has fun engaging with sound and shaping it to their will.

A big part of PGroove’s allure, at least for the Impound, is keyboardist-vocalist Matthew McDonald, who provides endless texture, vibe and sonic non-sequiturs, navigating the band’s continually swirling mix of whisper intimate moments and stadium-ready bigness. His rig suggests a mad scientist but McDonald is no maker of monsters (unless he wants them), and what pours from his imagination is ever-immediate, the thinking behind it invisible as his touch strokes the unfolding now. Unlike a lot of keyboardists, it’s hard to gauge his inspirations – early Brian Eno and maybe pinches of Phish’s Page McConnell and Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes might be in the mix but it’s hard to divine this guy’s recipe. He’s got a fine set of pipes to boot, and the combination of his voice and singer-guitarist Brock Butler is a combination redolent of countless late night hotel room sessions, the camaraderie of a shared cause given voice.

Perpetual Groove is in pre-production for their long-awaited fifth studio album, and the band is touring steadily throughout the winter and spring (dates and details here).

Here’s what Matthew had to the Impound’s keyboardist inquiry.

Favorite keyboard? Why?
Moog Voyager because of all the weird stuff it lets me get away with. I get to solo like a guitar player on it, too.
Tastiest keyboard?
Tastiest is my piano at home. It’s a beautiful old saloon piano with the mirror up top and everything. It has a beautiful timbre that is unmatched by anything else I own.
A keyboard solo I never get tired of listening to is…
Solo from “Palm Grease” on Herbie Hancock’s Thrust. Never gets old to me.
Preferred brand of keys? Why?
Preferred brand of keys is Moog again. Just because of how unique they are and what they’re capable of.
Thelonius Monk, Bernie Worrell or Nicky Hopkins– which one gives you the biggest keyboard boner? What makes them SO sweet?
Bernie Worrell, just because he is oozing funk at all times. He has openly discussed how playing live is like great sex. He definitely gets “IT” with a statement like that.
One lesser known keyboardist folks should check out is…
Alessandro Cortini, who played with NIN and several other fantastic bands like Sonoio and the Mayfield Four. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever heard that he’s part of.
What aspect of being a keyboardist always makes you happy?
There’s something about the unique position I get to sit in with PGroove as the keyboardist that I find very satisfying. Brock plays very percussively so I get to sit in the middle and fill that space quite often. That means I don’t just have to use standard chords and voicing’s for songs. I get to use lots of textures and in some cases stacked loops to fill that middle. It’s a lot of fun creating atmosphere instead of just filling space.

A Weekend Groove from Mariah Dunn on Vimeo.