From the very first song, Perfume Genius's new album, No Shape, feels like getting caught in a thunderstorm. It starts off with just a few drops of delicate piano notes and a shift in the air pressure to a hymn-like hum. Then the sky breaks open for a boundless orchestral downpour.
It's the kind of thunderstorm that you want to stand in, arms open to the heavens, without a hint of shame. And the album only gets better from there.
Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, who performs at the Neptune on October 21, admits that it takes a certain amount of emotional energy to make this kind of music. "I work myself up into a fervor," he says. "Which is, you know, a method that requires some drama."
Previously, Hadreas has unpacked powerful, and sometimes traumatic, experiences—including coming out and struggling with addiction. His last album, Too Bright, can be read as a raw, angry take on how a queer body rebels, simply by existing, in a society that rejects it.
But this time, it's different. No Shape is being hailed as his "grown-up album," tackling subjects like the aging, imperfect body and settling into long-term love. This is uncharted creative territory for Hadreas, requiring him to allow the lyrics to be amorphous and undefined, where once he might have made them more specific.
"The things I'm writing about are not so figured out," he says. "There are not so many... nouns. It's not like street names, or little details and memories of dried flowers, because I don't really feel like going into memories anymore."
Instead, Hadreas is trying to find a new shape to pour himself into. "I talk about the edges of things now, not about the actual thing," he says. "Which is... not as tidy. And so it makes the ideas there bigger, just because they are not yet sorted out."
Hadreas grew up in Seattle going to all-ages shows. His first performance here was at Vera Project in 2010, opening for A Sunny Day in Glasgow. These days, he lives in Tacoma—"where life is a little easier and cheaper"—and has been considering a move to Los Angeles for a little while now.
"Everybody talks shit about Seattle all the time," he says. "But it's hard to leave."
Stability can be a great comfort, after all. But so can uncertainty - as long as it continues to inspire. "I never really feel stable," he says. "I think that means I'll always have something to fuss over."
Ultimately, Hadreas says he wants what Björk, his musical inspiration has. High Icelandic cheekbones? No: "To really be able to just sustain myself," he says. "And not have to alter or change if I want to crack the mainstream or something."
"Or, actually," he adds after a moment, "never having to crack it. But still being able to, like, buy a house—that would be sick."