by FAITH BENNETT
Personnes got their start almost a year and a half ago in the halls of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Since then, with practice and the addition of vital member Beverly Driskill, they’ve grown tremendously. The band has played numerous shows at assorted Jacksonville venues including Burro Bar, Shantytown, Jack Rabbits, various houses, backyards and living rooms, as well as places like the Mansion in Tallahassee. Along the way they’ve impressed audiences with music that is heartfelt and fun, without being intolerably cute. EU was recently able to speak with three members of the band about their past, present and future.
Jordan White is the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist. He also writes all the lyrics for Personnes, but as for the writing of the music, he says, “It’s a band, so we all collaborate.” Keyboardist/vocalist Beverly Driskill and guitarist/vocalist Brok Mende also contribute a great deal to the writing process that bassist Kyle McKnelly and drummer Matt Lemine also help with, giving the band the synergy that audience members have repeatedly described as “tight.”
White lists motorcycles and bands like the Smiths as influences, while Driskill and Mende cite bands like Arcade Fire, Pedro the Lion, Mewithoutyou, Sufjan Stevens, Girls and Tennis. The songs they write tend to be short and visual stories, generally inspired by true events but not necessarily factual. ‘Wedding Season,’ which exemplifies this aesthetic, can be downloaded for free on the Personnes Bandcamp page along with three other songs. The music isn’t far from beachy and wouldn’t be out of place on a playlist with Bahamas, Mikhael Paskalev or Dr. Dog. It’s perfect for summer drives, but as White pointed out, it’s also the kind of music you “sit in your room” to.
“We don’t really have much recorded,” White admits. However, Mende mentions that they plan on spending a week of June in a cabin recording their first album. “We’re going to record it all ourselves. I got a lot of equipment for it; I’m really excited.” He also says, “It’s just good because we’re going to get away from everyone and distractions. I’m really excited. We’re pulling a Justin Vernon.” A secluded cabin could be the most perfect place for a band like Personnes to be recording. Their music has a sincerity in its young and near reckless nature that others mimicking Thoreau or Hunter S. Thompson can’t capture. There are certainly other bands that aim for the sound Personnes achieves, but generally they end up sounding contrived. The lyrics not only capture youth, but examine relationships and friendships from a perceptive and honest standpoint that is refreshing in the age of wordless remixes and meta-modern seapunk and sadwave.
Personnes performs live in Jacksonville pretty frequently and tends to bring along an enthusiastic but well-behaved crowd. Most recently, they played Suntier at UNF, where the most frequently used adjectives from audience members about the performance were “really tight” and “rad,” a good summation of the band, if not the most poetic. Their next confirmed show will be on May 12 at Burro Bar with fitting stage-mates Gospel Music. Personnes will even be starting the summer with a show that members themselves are putting on at Atlantic Theatres on June 8. Unlike other shows at bars and typical concert venues, alcohol will not be served, but, consistent with their tendency toward clean fun, White mentions that “there will be Kool-Aid.”
Over all, Personnes is a band to watch. They have kept a steady growth pattern since formation, and it should be interesting to see how far they go. If nothing else, they already have summer songs on lock, and God knows that Jacksonville residents need sweet songs to drive to the beaches to or to sit inside, nursing sunburns to in the coming months.
by FAITH BENNETT