For a while in the early part of this decade, the career of Perpetual Groove, a veteran Athens, Georgia, jam-band, was as unpredictable as its music.
From album to album, sometimes even song to song, Perpetual Groove, which will play The Firmament in Greenville on Saturday, could create electronics-spiked ambient music (a sound it explored on 2004’s “All This Everything”), become a hard-rock band (2007’s “LiveLoveDie”), or switch to a more intimate ensemble playing folk-influenced progressive rock (2016’s “Familiar Stare” EP). The band built a loyal following around the Southeast over its first 15 years or so, but as the 2010s dawned, some cracks began to show in the hard-touring group’s foundation.
The band’s keyboard player, John Hruby (who’d replaced original member Matt McDonald in 2008), left the band in 2011. Then in 2013, Perpetual Groove announced an indefinite hiatus, during which singer/guitarist Brock Butler battled to recover from substance abuse issues and the other members (bassist Adam Perry, drummer Albert Suttle, and the recently returned McDonald on keyboards) started another project called Ghost Owl. The hiatus lasted more than two years, ending in February 2015 with a show at their home venue, the Georgia Theatre in Athens.
“We took a couple of years off for everyone to do their own thing and take care of some stuff they had going on in their own lives,” McDonald says. “And fortunately, we were able to do all that and come back in 2015.”
This time, Perpetual Groove wanted to do things right, avoiding the punishing touring schedule that led to the exhaustion and burnout its members experienced the first time around.
“We manage ourselves for the most part now,” McDonald says. “We still use all of the important tools like a booking agent, a CPA, and an attorney, but we don’t get told what to do any longer, which is pretty nice. We make a lot of the decisions on our own now, and there’s usually a much deeper thought process and a lot of discussion. We’ve been very cautious about what we do now.”
Part of that new approach is a lighter touring schedule, an appropriate change for a group that’s not in its 20s anymore.
“I think a lot of it comes with age and maturity and experience,” McDonald says. “We’re not green anymore. We keep reading articles when we’re rolling into town that quite often call us ‘veteran jam’ act, so we’re not kids anymore who don’t really know the industry. That really informs us when it comes to the business of being in a band.”
Shows are one thing, but recording new material is another, and after a six-year gap in releases, P Groove put out the EP “Familiar Stare” in 2016 as a warmup for a fan-funded full album that will be out later this year. The four tracks on the EP, more subtle and introspective than anything they have previously done, let them know they were on the right path.
“It was really great in the sense that it confirmed where we all thought we were,” McDonald says. “We did it in three or four days. We went in and knew what we wanted to do, and we were all happy with the outcome. That gave us a big boost of confidence.”
So musically speaking, Perpetual Groove has a future, and even better, it’s been able to hold on to its fanbase despite a few tumultuous years.
“Coming back from the hiatus was a humbling experience,” McDonald says. “On the day we announced the band was coming back, the Georgia Theatre show went on sale, and a good friend called me five minutes after it went on sale and said, ‘I think it’s sold out.’ I couldn’t believe it. Then we announced a second show, and that sold out. My buddy was sending me these pictures of the line going around the Georgia Theatre, and that continued everywhere we went. I was overwhelmed. I think that helped everyone have a better appreciation for how lucky we are to do this, and more importantly that there are people who want us to keep doing it.”
Perpetual Groove w/ LOZ
When: Saturday, June 23, 9 p.m.
Where: The Firmament, 5 Market Point Drive, Greenville
Info: 864-616-5101, https://firmamentgvl.com/