Published on June 30th, 2013 | by PRESENCE0
Signed to a national and international label with a debut album already under his belt, at just eighteen years of age, Sam Perry juggles his year thirteen school studies with his already well acclaimed musical career as the man behind the psychedelic punk project, Zen Mantra.
How does psychedelic punk music combine with the riff on a famous Buddhist mantra? I have no idea, but “the ‘Zen Mantra’ name suggestion originated from a friend and it sounded interesting so I just ran with it,” explained Perry. Buddhist mantra’s aside nonetheless, this eighteen year old, motivated by the works of Pink Floyd, Tame Impala and Deerhunter has been releasing a series of Zen Mantra singles via Bandcamp since March this year, and his trippy vibes and sound have been receiving great attention and acknowledgement both in New Zealand and abroad.
Sam Perry was in his first band at the age of fourteen, but after a move with his family from Australia to New Zealand at fifteen, Perry believed he now knew enough chords on the guitar to begin writing his own songs which was soon followed by his first musical enterprise, Psych Tigers. As a guitarist, singer, aspiring drummer and basic synth player fluent in Logic Audio recording, Perry signed with local label, Muzai Records, just months later.
First of all however, just how did this bedroom producer get into the style of psychedelic/punk and how did his project as Zen Mantra evolve and develop? “I think the punk side of it came from all the great punk shows I saw in Christchurch when I first started going to shows. Bang Bang Eche’s performance at the Archive is burnt into my mind,” Perry explains. “The psychedelic side came later” he admits. “The first psychedelic record I really loved was Congratulations by MGMT.
The creation of Perry’s Zen Mantra project came about while he was spending time in a studio working on music for Psych Tigers. Although the creation of Zen Mantra was initially Perry creating sounds on his laptop, this project began with the intention of making music with the energy of punk and the atmosphere of psychedelic music. “I wanted to write really immersive punk music that has the strong atmosphere that psychedelic bands have,” Perry explained.
Now also signed with US label, Crash Symbol and having worked with UK’s psychedelic label, Stroll Records, it has been just eight months since the release of his debut album, How Many Padmes Hum. Although “most of my fans are in Europe” Perry admits, “the album was only internationally released less than three weeks ago.”
From the beginning, this album showcases the sound and feel that Zen Mantra is all about. Embracing rough and hazy vocals which play over magnificently distorted guitars and slow paced rock drums. Zen Mantra’s ’La La La La La’ brings the noise and fuzz of classic garage rock acts to a modern setting, following a basic formula of a few lines followed by “Lalalalala’ and an occasional guitar lead accompanied by wordless vocals. Perry’s favourite song on the album, he admits, “would have to be ‘I Wonder What It’s Like Out There,’ essentially because I really like the lyrics and groove of the bass, drums, and the chorus hook. I also feel like the name is very relatable to young New Zealand musicians regarding that common dream of ‘making it,’ and ‘getting overseas’ he explains.
With the release of How Many Padmes Hum, Zen Mantra’s impressive and exceptional debut album now ticked off his list, not one to rest Perry is currently finishing off demo’s for a second album, while working on mixing a new double a-side and developing ideas for a third album.
With plans to move to London next year and begin touring shortly after that, being able to live off making music is definitely a primary goal Perry has set for himself. He admits that “being able to meet/play shows with my favourite artists is definitely something I’ve dreamt of.” Also loving the art, food, architecture and romance of Paris, where he wants to tour one day, watch out for world domination by Zen Mantra and his impressive style of creative and cohesive music.
Article by Poppy Tohill
Photography by Megan Dieudonne