“Greg [Aliferis, owner of Culture Room] has a special relationship with the musicians that come through that room, and I think that’s part of the reason it’s been around for so long, because his touch is all over it in a really good way,” McDonald explains. “A lot of our longtime fans who have been with us since that first Culture Room show still come out, so there’s a nice family reunion vibe, and the audience always makes it easy to have a great show.”
McDonald grew up in Naples, Florida, and used to frequent the Fort Lauderdale concert venue the Edge (known today as Revolution Live) to see bands such as Nine Inch Nails, which helped inspire Perpetual Groove’s propulsive jams and candidly raw, impassioned lyrics. McDonald formed the initial iteration of the group alongside band members he met at Savannah College of Art and Design in 1997, and the group’s participants vacillated until 2011, when the current roster of McDonald, lead singer and guitarist Brock Butler, bassist Adam Perry, and drummer Albert Suttle was affectionately dubbed "PG 2.012" and solidified itself as the flagship Perpetual Groove lineup.
Perpetual Groove’s 2013 hiatus saw Butler take time to focus on his sobriety, while the three other artists experimented with electro-tinged indie rock in the side project Ghost Owl. But two years later, the members of Perpetual Groove reunited for a show in their native Georgia and soon found themselves back on the road in their full glory with multinight runs and regularly sold-out shows.
McDonald reminisces about the peaks and valleys that have culminated in today’s version of Perpetual Groove, along with the sense of maturity and lessons learned along the way.
“We’re all in our 40s now, and backstage we have a lot of cold-brewed coffee and kombucha,” he laughs. “There’s a group of us that go to the gym every morning because that’s just where we’re at in life. Everyone changes as human beings with age, and we’ve changed as musicians as well.”
Just as the bandmates have grown personally, Perpetual Groove’s sonic palette has evolved since their 2015 reunion. In May, the band released its first album in a decade, a self-titled, seven-track LP that centers on messages of destruction and redemption, showcasing an entirely new range of dimensions and textures while retaining their signature tug-on-the-heartstrings foundation. The band spent two years writing Perpetual Groove and brought in outside producers for the first time to assist in piecing together songs that hadn’t yet been road-tested.
“The producers helped us to go into the studio without complete thoughts, guide the songs forward, and allow us to find the voice that captures where we are now most naturally,” McDonald explains. “In the past, we’ve tended to layer stuff a lot, even live, so on this album, we were more aware of our sonic space. To be effective doesn’t mean it has to be thick and full all the time; we were able to create softer stuff without so much clutter. A bunch of simple sentences makes a great paragraph.”
Perpetual Groove had always tested unfinished records during its shows, but because all of the songs from the latest album were produced in the studio, this year’s tour dates are the first time the band's new material is being performed live. McDonald says guests can expect to hear more recent works during Friday's show at the Culture Room.
“It’s really nice to have such a deep catalogue, and you can tell there’s a certain vibe for each tour,” he says. “For this tour, our focus is definitely on the new material, we’ve been having a lot of fun with it because we’ve never played these songs on the road live before. People are receiving our new stuff really well, and it’s been a big year of change.
Beyond the release of the band's self-titled album, Perpetual Groove's year of change saw the group sign with management for the first time in a decade and move to a new booking agency. The bandmates are sitting on tons of raw material they plan to take into the studio, and they're looking forward to touring on the West Coast for the first time in ten years. After two decades of delivering their hallmark melancholy anthems to adoring fans with tear-soaked cheeks, Perpetual Groove is ready for yet another new chapter of growth.
“We’re plugged into a machine that we weren’t plugged into previously, so that’s exciting to watch,” McDonald says. “We’re ready to see where this new team brings us.”
Perpetual Groove. With Tand. 8 p.m. Friday, December 13, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-564-1074; cultureroom.net. Tickets cost $20 via ticketmaster.com.