It’s a brisk September evening at Fountain Square’s Maltese Tiger and Ryan Perkins is ripping and tearing through a fuzzed-out set of tunes, howling as his backing band thumps right along behind him. Following each song, listeners howl right back, in approval. Do they know this lanky rocker is merely 18-years-old?
“After having seen Chives [a nickname Perkins also uses to release his music under] play music, it all sort of makes sense. His youthful exuberance turned out through some warped, rockabilly wild man,” says Jacob Gardner (Raw McCartney, BIGCOLOUR, etc.), who plays in Perkins’ live lineup from time to time. “Watching him play, you wouldn’t know that he’s 18.”
Perkins’ exploration of music started in middle school. After giving skateboarding a try, he discovered Black Flag and the early hardcore punk sound.
“That First Four Years album kind of changed my life. After I started getting into that, I just broke off into my own area," he says when we talk. "I just picked up a guitar and wanted to play along with all these songs.”
As a freshman in high school, Perkins moved on to churning out his own original tunes.
“Even if they were shitty songs, I’d write like ten songs a day," he says. "I’d plug into another little guitar amp for vocals and just scream into that and wail on the guitar.” Over the years, he continued to refine his sound, letting each new influence inspire his work. But it wouldn’t be until the death of one legendary rock ‘n’ roll animal in September 2013 that everything finally clicked for him.
“Right when Lou Reed died, I was like, ‘Wait a second,’” Perkins recalls. “Velvet Underground is like my favorite fucking band of all time. This switch went off in my head, and I just started cranking out actual song songs and sitting down and putting time into it.”
Perkins would eventually start venturing out to local gigs, specifically citing the first ever show at Westgate in February of this year as one that connected him to the Indy scene. Through attending several blowouts at the Westside venue, he eventually developed a relationship with Westgate founder Dimitri Morris, who also runs DIY record label/art collective Headdress Records.
Morris:“Chives started coming to Westgate shows earlier in the year. After seeing him a few times and making light conversation he told me he played music and promised to give me a demo next time I saw him.”
Since then, Headdress has put out two Chives cassettes (Chives and The “Chirping” Chives) — the most recent of these being a Cassette Store Day release which features Perkins covering four Buddy Holly songs.
As for the live Chives experience, Perkins says, “I'll probably never have a set lineup that will for sure be that way forever.”
“I think sometimes people might be into the idea, like, ‘Whoa. This is going to be cool,’ but I feel like they’re going into it thinking, ‘This will be cool in the sense that he’s so young,’” Perkins says. “I want people to take me seriously. I don’t want people to think of it as just, ‘This kid’s so young.’ ”
This Saturday, Chives will perform as part of the Musical Family Tree New Music Showcase. For a full listing of the lineup at this all-day local music bash, click here.