Donning his characteristic tie-dyed T-shirt, Ryan Perkins, better known as "Chives," played a rousing set of music for a diverse crowd at Vibes Music last Saturday for Cassette Store Day. His reverb-soaked guitar and hiccup-y vocals were supported by a band featuring a bassist and two drummers, all likely at least a decade his senior.
Chives' biggest break came recently when rock 'n' roll heavyweight label and Cassette Store Day U.S. coordinator Burger Records selected his debut album as one of its in-store offerings for Cassette Store Day, and the album was added to the list of official CSD 2014 releases. Chives also released a four-song cassette of Buddy Holly covers for Cassette Story Day entitled The Chirping Chives. His releases so far have been exclusively on cassette and MP3. The affordable price point of the medium is not the only factor that attracts the young musical artist to cassettes. "I've always been into tapes and recording to tape, and being able to have an analog, tangible form of music that's compact and forces you to actually be involved with listening [rather] than just touching an icon on a screen is cool in my book," he explains.
- Charles Fox
So far in Chives' young career, he has only released music on cassette and mp3.
In case you're wondering, his "Chives" moniker actually has nothing to do with the herb. In grade school, he would do anything for money, even bringing fellow students' books to class for a dollar's pay. A peer remarked that he was like a butler doing chores for people, and he jokingly tagged him with that nickname, which he thought sounded appropriate for a butler. Chives picked up the guitar during his freshman year of high school and taught himself to play, swiftly abandoning the constraints of guitar lessons. "I just started making weird noises with the guitar. Suddenly something clicked in my head," he says. "I'd go back and show [the teacher] all this stuff that I taught myself and he was like 'What about what I tried to teach you?' so I quit lessons after a little while and went off on my own path."
Chives recently turned 18 and graduated from Perry Meridian High School. Commencement day was a turning point for him in a different way than it was for his peers. That evening, while attending a show by local act Shame Thugs, he made a strong connection with one of his chief musical influences, Sonny Blood of Apache Dropout, who now often accompanies Chives in his live show. This experience opened the door for a young artist with a rapidly expanding cache of confidence and a songbook to match.
Recently fired from his Amazon Fulfillment Center job in Plainfield, Chives now works at Vibes Music and plans to focus on music, putting off attending college this fall.
An outgoing and proactive nature helped Chives to make an immediate impact on the Indianapolis music scene. After his fateful graduation day, he began going to shows often and reaching out to more members of the local music community, including Headdress Records label head Dimitri Morris, who he asked to listen to his demo. Despite initial reluctance -- Morris didn't know Chives or his music -- the demo's three tracks eventually won Morris over, and he was pleased to discover that there was already an album's worth of material ready, and Chives wanted to release it on Headdress Records. Chives' eponymous debut album came out on June 15. Morris and Chives' bandmate Jacob Gardner, of Cataracts Music Festival and Raw McCartney Fame, are both quick to point out Chives' remarkable youth. "He is super young," Gardner notes. "Not a whole lot of kids his age are out there reaching out to people our age or trying to come out to house shows all the time. I think that's pretty rare. He sort of engaged himself, and has this exuberance for rock 'n' roll, coming to shows, and he plays and writes all this crazy rockabilly music. It's interesting the way he does it."
- Charles Fox
Chives and his band play at Vibes Music during Cassette Store Day last weekend.
Some of what makes Chives special is the extent to which he personally drives his music and emerges as the idiosyncratic leading force, no matter how much percussion propels the live show forward or who he is playing with. Most musicians who perform with him also tour with other bands, so the lineup is fluid by nature. "He's definitely got gusto on stage," Gardner says. "He kind of just goes for it." Morris expounds on Chives' singular nature: "The consistency of Chives throughout every mix and meld of that band -- it's very prominent that it's him. He's not trying to be anything. You don't really have to know Chives to feel how genuine he is throughout the record."
The future holds great opportunity for Chives, but it seems to hold uncertainty in equal measure. "I'm terrified," he admits. "I don't know how I'm going to pay for insurance next week or pay for gas for tomorrow. I'm more anxious all the time than excited. I'm excited about doing crazy shows and writing songs and all that, but real life adult sh-- s-cks and kind of equals it all out. I try to ignore that stuff for as long as I can before it catches up to me."
With his prolific song writing craft, exciting live performance and spectacular ability to forge meaningful connections in the music world, perhaps "real life adult" will be better than Chives ever imagined.
Chives will play the Musical Family Tree New Music Showcase at 5:10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 4 at Maltese Tiger. The event features 21 local musicians on two stages.