LSA junior Ian Perfitt is the ideal convergence of the left-brain/right-brain theory on personality — he has a palpable zeal for music and thoughtful intentions to maintain equilibrium within all aspects of his life.
Though debated in terms of its validity, the evidence behind the postulate suggests people are either predominantly right-or left-brained thinkers. It attempts to justify why some are more creative, abstract thinkers (right-brained), while others are more logical and conceptually-minded (left-brained). The theory poses a reasonable explanation as to why we are the way we are, or why Perfitt enjoys the University’s rigorous physics curriculum and maintains a passion for music. Theoretically, the convergence of the two would be a well rounded individual much like Perfitt.
As a physics major and musician, Perfitt maintains a balance between the realm of explainable scientific theories and the intangible euphoria of the creative process. In the spirit of his personal mantra to stay balanced, Perfitt lives out his motto. When asked which route he intends to pursue professionally, Perfitt declared his love of physics.
“I’m passionate about it, and it will also pay the bills, hopefully,” Perfitt said. “Music is my less heady thing, and physics is my heady thing, so I keep a balance with that.”
Primarily the project of his girlfriend, Music, Theater & Dance senior Summer Krinsky, and his friend Sam Naples, a SMTD senior, Perfitt dabbles in drumming and vocals for the band Caves. However, he ultimately prefers to stay out of the limelight of performing, and is recording a solo album instead.
“I’ve done a lot of performing in the past, and not to say that I’ve been there, done that, but if I don’t have to perform that’s fine with me,” Perfitt said. “With my solo stuff, I’m not very interested in performing right now. When I write songs, I’ll play them around the house, that’s my performing. I don’t need to make it a big deal on a stage. For now, that’s just me.”
Perfitt began his studies at the University last semester after transferring from Washtenaw Community College, yet his love of music began at an early age. Perfitt believes his appreciation for the craft runs in his blood, as he grew up in a musically minded family where all of his uncles are musicians.
“One of my first memories was dancing to Elvis Costello records with my mom in the house I grew up in,” Perfitt said. “I took drum lessons pretty early, my parents signed me up for lessons at age four, but I wasn’t old enough to focus on it and understand what was going on, so I didn’t start until I was nine and got more serious about it.”
By his junior year of high school, Perfitt devoted the vast majority of his time to recording. He became serious about drumming, branched out to other instruments, added vocals to his repertoire and also recorded an album. But at times, Perfitt felt out of balance.
“I wrote a lot of music, took a lot of breaks,” Perfitt said. “Sometimes you get exhausted working on songs all the time.”
That balanced attitude that permits Perfitt’s academic interests to coexist with his hobbies also extends to his music. Spanning from “Babe Has Got a Black Heart,” the electronic jam influenced by music of the ’50s and ’60s, to the deeper lyrics and harmonic structure of “Roots,” Perfitt’s SoundCloud showcases his impressive range.
He doesn’t subject his music to one distinct genre, but rather attempts to classify his tracks by the differing moods and emotions that inspired them.
“A lot of my music has deep, intellectual things and then some have some more shallow, feel-good, upbeat elements to them,” Perfitt said. “Usually it’s things that I’m struggling with, those are usually my deeper songs, and then I’ll have songs where my girlfriend will say stuff to me that inspires a song and there’s also just things that I just enjoy writing about.”
When asked of his songwriting process, Perfitt simply replied, “Write, record, release,” exhibiting his left-brained pragmatism, which followed up with a refined, right-brained explanation.
“Sometimes it just comes to me,” he said. “It’s so fascinating how you can sit down and come up with this idea, and a lot of times you don’t even know where you get the idea from and then to expand upon this idea and create something that moves people, moves yourself and no one knows how or why they’re moved. No one understands. It’s so fascinating to me.”
Once he runs with an idea, he writes a song in full with what he refers to as “scratch lyrics, or lyrics that don’t make any sense,” to fill the place of a melody and structure an outline. He later returns to and polishes up the lyrics and adds the drums and acoustic instruments, and lastly electronics.
Yet without sufficient inspiration, Perfitt cannot begin his creative venture. He mainly seeks creative fuel from his favorite artists and bands.
“My biggest influence is Baths, an electronic musician with a unique style, but sometimes I think his songwriting could be better, so I tap into people like the Beatles, who I think write great songs that inspire me to write songs, but then sometimes I feel like their lyrics are too shallow,” Perfitt said. “So, I like people like Bob Dylan and his style of lyricism. Sometimes I feel like all of that is not harmonically deep enough so I like Nick Drake a lot.”
He also accredits his artistic drive to his many, insightful conversations with the muse of his work, his girlfriend.
“I’ve written about just being with my girlfriend because that’s so important to me,” Perfitt said.
He hinted that his song, “Today,” was written about their time spent together, stating it’s about two fictional characters contentedly passing time and sitting on the beach.
Though an admirer of music’s legends and the newcomers alike, Perfitt is mindful of possible accusations of imitation, and in turn strives for absolute originality in his musical endeavors.
“I have a couple songs that sound like Beatles songs, but then I try to make them not sound as much like Beatles songs,” Perfitt said. “I would never want to write a song that sounds like Paul (McCartney) or someone wrote it. I think that everyone has their own expression, so they should try to tap into that, however you do that. I’ll think, ‘Where did my most original thought come from, and how can I keep them coming?’ ”
An enthusiast of the wisdom that follows from making mistakes, Perfitt recognizes the importance of trial and error in his songwriting that leads him towards personal growth in the craft.
“It’s important to tell myself, ‘Oh, that’s just an OK song, I’m not going to put that out, because I know something better will come,’ and once that better thing comes, you end up releasing something better,” he said. “Learning how to skip things that are just ‘OK’ is better for you, because then you produce something better. I’ve become a lot more picky with things and I think that’s important.”
Aside from his interests in physics and music, Perfitt also satisfies his creative desires with drawing. His favorite form of the craft is abstract expressionism, due to its open interpretation and lack of convention.
“I got into the whole drawing phase of my life and I remember making a lot of abstract drawings,” Perfitt said. “I emailed a UM art professor and I wanted to show him my work and see if he could teach me some stuff. I brought my work to him in a coffee shop and he just kind of flipped through my stuff and I don’t think he really liked it that much at all.”
Though criticized for his own perception of art, Perfitt concluded that the meeting with the professor was pivotal in both his personal and artistic development.
“At the time, I didn’t really have a full realized idea of what my art was meaning, but after that, I learned that I wanted to start figuring out drawing things that have meaning, or putting more meaning into my art, whether its music or drawing,” Perfitt said. “I also realized that I didn’t necessarily need to listen to him because we just had different styles. He was an art professor, so he probably knew a lot more than me, but I remember at that same coffee shop he pulled out one of his drawings, and it was just a drawing of a cat. I thought it was cool, just not the only way to make art.”
When I felt our interview was nearing its end, I asked Perfitt if he had anything else to add. His response was, yet again, an example of his stimulating intellect and commendable creativity.
Perfitt began describing the math term of neighbourhood, which inspired his SoundCloud name, albeit minus the ‘u’ and plus an exclamation point; and like any outstanding mathematician, he applied the term to everyday life … and then some.
“It’s a set of points that are a certain distance from a given point It’s used for calculating limits,” Perfitt said. “At that time I was thinking about how a lot of structures we have of reality and theories of science are similar to a neighbourhood in that they’re a set of ideas that are a certain distance from what things in reality actually are.”
The dual connotation of neighborhood, that being a community of family and friends, was also related to Perfitt’s title choice.
“Whenever I’m having trouble or in a bad place, not the happiest, whatever, I have this neighborhood community of friends and family to fall back on and they can help me cheer up,” Perfitt said. “The factorial sign at the end of ‘Neighborhood!’ came up from a conversation I was having with my girlfriend about taking a series of experiences that you’ve had and taking that factorial that adds them up and shows all the different combinations they could occur in.”
For now, those wishing to hear the sequence of events that led to Neighborhood! can listen to Perfitt’s SoundCloud of demos. He is also planning to release the demo, “Kiss and Cry Benches”, and one finalized, mastered demo of “Today.”