“It could have been a real bloodbath,” Pernice says with a chuckle, referring to the three January reunion gigs he booked for a band whose breakup, he says understatedly, “wasn’t great.” Pernice hadn’t said a word to two of his three bandmates for 14 years. It took the death of a mutual friend, a big fan of the group, to get Pernice thinking again about the music they made. “I hadn’t listened to any of those records in years. I finally went back and listened and said, ‘It’d be fun to play these songs if we would get beyond anything personal.’ ”
A partial reunion last fall sounds like the feel-good closing scene of a Hollywood rock movie. Having convinced former bandmate Tom Shea to join him at a solo show in Boston (and knowing Bruce Tull, who now lives in Oklahoma, wasn’t available), Pernice reached out to bassist Stephen Desaulniers.
“Stephen was my best friend back then, and it was really rough between us when we split,” Pernice recalls. “I e-mailed him, said ‘Look, I’m playing this night. Here’s my set list. I’m going to set up a bass rig and microphone for you. If you want to come play, I’d love it. If not, I understand, no problem.’
“And he showed up.”
By the time all four performed together last month, hatchets were good and buried. Pernice describes four men who, far from their twenties, no longer have passion for old grudges but might have stayed estranged simply out of inertia. “It’s not often you get a chance to mop up ... I shouldn’t say that. It’s not often that we recognize the opportunity. You probably do have chances to make things right, but for whatever reason, you don’t do it. In this case I took it, and so did they, and it turned out really well.”
By no means does this mean that Pernice’s current band has been replaced by its predecessor. “The Pernice Brothers is my band,” he says confidently, noting that the group has a new album nearly ready for release and that, when he sits down to write songs, that group’s broader instrumental palette is what he has in mind. The Boys, it seems, were never destined to be the kind of long-lived unit that would follow its main songwriter down whatever stylistic path struck his fancy.
“What the Scud Mountain Boys did had a limited scope, it really did,” he recalls. “What we did best was kind of a live, super-mellow thing” that was so closely linked to informal song-swapping sessions at home that the group took to setting up a kitchen table between them on stage — performing on acoustic instruments and bringing a Gram Parsons-ish country vibe to originals and cover songs alike.