ABOVE: Adam Hawkins and Kate Perdoni are Eros and the Eschaton.
Kate Perdoni is on tour with her band, Eros and the Eschaton. Her two-year-old son Lio is next to her, in the captain’s chair of their conversion van. “Lio is currently kicking back, playing with a toy school bus, and watching Tom and Jerry on the DVD,” she tells me. They are leaving Chicago for a show in Beloit, Wisc., two weeks into a three-month tour.
It’s a little hard to imagine: Kate Perdoni is on tour with her band, and her son. Her husband Adam Hawkins, former front man for Omaha’s It’s True, is back in the reclining bench. Drummer Matt Arbeiter is driving. Ben Zinn, guitar player, is riding shotgun. (Arbeiter and Zinn were also former members of It’s True.) Between them is Chamero, a shepherd/cattle dog/border collie mix whom Kate describes as “the epitome of a road dog.”
Since he was two months old, Lio has been a road dog too. His parents met, fell in love, had him, and in 2011 hit the road in a Toyota Huntsman motorhome. Their epic vision quest/tour took them all over the country, and landed them in Greensboro, N.C. There they rented a house, and wrote and recorded “Home Address for Civil War,” now out on Bar/None. It’s a tender album, direct and warm despite its narcotic Spacemen 3 drone. Maybe narcotic is the wrong word. Or maybe the drug is oxytocin. Either way, it’s good. Like hugs are good. Like a kind word is good.
I spoke with Kate on the phone in advance of their show Sunday, Sept. 22nd, at Slowdown with Twinsmith and John Klemmensen & The Party.
Dan Scheuerman: Are you still driving the motorhome?
Kate Perdoni: We sold the motorhome a while ago. It’s not an ideal tour vehicle for a band. You couldn’t fit drums through the back door. We have a conversion van now for all our traveling.
DS: What’s Lio’s setup in the van?
KP: Lio has a little baby area with his toys and snacks and a DVD player. We’ve rigged up a curtain system with Velcro, so we can curtain him in for his nap times and he can sleep in peace.
DS: Who watches Lio while you’re on stage?
KP: We have different babysitters for different legs of the tour. We had one babysitter from Greensboro to Baltimore. In NYC we had another set of friends. Our next set of friends, Kasey and Scott, are driving up from Des Moines to Beloit, and are going to watch Lio for the next week. It’s funny. You have show booking and the details of that, and then childcare is like setting up a different tour.
DS: How does he like being on tour?
KP: He loves it. He’s doing better than I am. He thinks it’s so much fun to meet people and go all these different places. He’s been traveling with us since he was two months old. I don’t know if it’s in his nature or he’s just used to it, or some combination, but he’s a champ. He loves it.
DS: Tell me about that first trip, when Lio was two months old.
KP: We were living in Grimes, which is a suburb of Des Moines, and we worked our way up to Maine, then to New York City, and down the coast, and ended up in Greensboro, N.C. We were on the road for three months. We played 30 or 40 shows in there. Adam was doing It’s True stuff, and I was doing my solo stuff, as Katey Sleeveless. We were playing cafes. We played like two bars. We kept it low key because we wanted Lio to be able to come with us. In the instances when he couldn’t, or when we decided it wasn’t a good idea, we would switch places. I would play and Adam would stay in the motorhome with Lio, and then Adam would play and I would stay in the motorhome. Otherwise he would come into the venues with us and he would hang out.
DS: How did you end up in Greensboro?
KP: We started playing in the area around Greensboro and Charlottesville, Va., and we just loved the area, loved the history, the culture, the people. It just felt like home. We had more shows booked, so we had to keep going, but we said, “This is a cool area. We could come back here.”
We had this intention of renting a cheap house in the country and filling it with music. And rent was really cheap in Greensboro. I remember I hopped on Craigslist and saw that you could rent a house for like $500. It was just this serendipitous combination of all those things.
DS: Do you still live in the same house?
KP: We don’t live there anymore. We lived there up until Hopscotch (Sept. 5th), then we moved out of the house and got rid of all our stuff, just like when we were living in Iowa. We are gonna be on the road for all of September, all of October, and most of November. So we’re kind of homeless at the time.
DS: I have to ask. Do you have a contingency plan in case something goes wrong?
KP: Tour is kind of a collection of a million things that go wrong all the time. Stuff breaks down. Shows get cancelled. We’ve all gotten sick over the last few days. But fortunately Lio has stayed healthy. We’re just gonna play it by ear. Adam and I have a longstanding agreement that he comes first. We’ve agreed that if he’s having a rough time or not enjoying himself, that we’ll stop and reevaluate what we’re doing. But so far, so good.
DS: What’s it like writing songs with someone you love?
KP: It was really cool. Obviously a lot of it’s autobiographical. All the songs are kind of based on our relationship, in that we’re creating together, and we have a relationship where we’re always trying to create, whether it’s a son, or a life, or a lifestyle. For the album, it was just months and months of Adam and I singing guitar riffs to each other in our house, or playing air guitar of some part, or describing what should happen, and the other person would be like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking.” It’s so symbiotic for two people who are in a relationship. There’s so much unspoken. The process was absolutely amazing. Someone would come with a chorus, or melody, or drum part, and the other person would just add a little part, or run with it and begin working on the song as a whole. Each song came about differently. I don’t know what it’s like to write songs with someone you’re not in a relationship with, but for us it was very natural.
DS: Tell me about the song “Carry the Water.” It’s incredibly tender.
KP: “Carry the Water” was written by one of Adam’s best friends, James Finch. James and Adam have known each other forever, and they were in a band called Stoplights together in Iowa. James wrote three of the songs on the album. We really liked them, and since he wasn’t recording them or doing anything with them, he said we could record them. We changed a few of the lyrics, and made a few of the arrangements. I’d never heard the song otherwise.
DS: But the lyrics seem so specific to your story.
KP: The second verse we changed the lyrics. Ours are “In a new home/ with a garden/ the seeds we’ve sown/ have sprouted/ the sword and stone/ are now divided/ for the unknown/ we have departed.” That was kind of almost a foreshadowing of what was to come. We were working on that song in the motorhome, driving around the country, and that verse was predicting the future of our life in Greensboro — our home sprouting up, and setting out for the unknown. Now, as I sing that verse, I’m thinking, “How fortuitous that that’s what I’m singing about, and that’s what we ended up creating.”
DS: You have a song named after Terence McKenna, famous psychonaut. Are psychedelics a big part of your life?
KP: Not anymore. Adam and I were both kind of wild child sort of people. When we met, I was 25 and he was 28. That phase of our lives had gently come to a close in a natural progression. It’s not a focus of our lives anymore. It’s not like we tripped together, but those experiences have played a big part in how we see the world and our understanding of the world.
DS: And what is “Eros and the Eschaton?”
KP: The name Eros and the Eschaton is a Terence McKenna thing. He gave a lecture in 1994 by that name. It’s a two-hour lecture about a lot of different things. It’s like my favorite oration that I’ve ever heard. It’s definitely something I revisit again and again. Every time I listen to it, I hear different things. I feel like I’m listening to a different lecture every time I see it.