With success on the road, brothers look to build local momentum

The Pernikoff Brothers will have a CD release show at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 17 at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard.

By Dan Durchholz, Special to the Light

Most St. Louis bands strive to make a name for themselves locally before moving on to bigger markets on either coast. But just because the Pernikoff Brothers are doing it the other way around doesn’t mean that things aren’t going according to plan.

“I think right now we maybe are better known elsewhere,” says Tom Pernikoff, who, with his younger brother Rick, established the duo in San Francisco before moving back to St. Louis.

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“The strategy is that we really want to get support in the hometown. I think that’s how a lot of great bands start. People feel a connection with you. We want to help the music scene in St. Louis grow.”

Pernikoff is speaking by phone from Ocean Way studios in Nashville, where he and Rick are working with famed engineer Ben Fowler (whose credits include Rascal Flatts, Eric Clapton, and Lynyrd Skynyrd) to put the finishing touches to “On My Way,” the brother’s debut album.

A CD release show is planned for July 17 at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room.

Both Pernikoffs are John Burroughs graduates who afterwards went to college in Boston – Tom at Brandeis, where he took degrees in economics and music and Rick at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied computer science and electrical engineering.

The brothers’ earliest musical memories, Tom says, include a love of Motown gleaned from their mother. As they began playing instruments (Tom is a guitarist while Rick plays bass, cello, harmonica and banjo), they moved on to classic rock, jazz and blues. In Boston, both played in bands and sought to expand their musical horizons even further.

An opportunity to move to California arose, and the brothers headed for the Silicon Valley, joining with some friends (one of them a Burroughs grad) to found Loopt, a tech company that went “from five guys in an apartment to a 50-person company.”

The Pernikoffs are still part owners of the company, which is being run by their partners. “My brother and I just broke off to do the music thing,” Tom says. “We put in four years of non-stop work and wanted to really do music. Interestingly enough, that is what made the Pernikoff Brothers start the singing and the songwriting, ‘cause we were doing it after work, just to kind of keep our sanity.”

With only acoustic guitars in hand, they turned to singer/songwriter types, as well as the Beatles, for inspiration. They also began playing in bars and coffee shops in San Francisco, and even recorded an EP which they released in late 2008/early 2009.

Since returning home, the brothers have played a couple of shows at Cicero’s, but are looking to truly make their mark with the release of “On My Way.”

“The stuff you’ll hear on the album is pretty diverse,” Tom says. “There’s a lot of acoustic stuff, but there’s also a lot of full-band stuff. Some songs are big, like festival songs and there’s some stuff that’s really lonely. Like, imagine the darkest, quietest nightclub kind of thing. The instrumentation is pretty raw, with a live sort of feeling. I think it’s hard to classify, but folk-rock and soul are the things that come to mind.”

Their defining characteristic, though, might be Tom and Rick’s brotherly harmonies.

“There’s this unspoken communication, – right? – between brothers and family members,” Tom says. “That comes through in our songwriting and our playing and our singing. It makes a lot of things really easy. A lot of things just happen naturally. We’ve never talked about it or worked it out, we just do it.”

And while their music isn’t specifically informed by their heritage, Tom says it did play a role in the album.

“With Judaism, that’s another thing about coming home. Just feeling that connection with everybody in St. Louis. I feel like it’s a strong Jewish community. There are songs on the album about coming home. We’re not directly influenced by Judaism or Jewish music, but we went to Sunday school and Hebrew school, and we heard a lot of Jewish music. So you never know.”

The Pernikoff Brothers’ CD release show will include some special guests, including percussionist Tom Roady (who has worked with Aretha Franklin, James Brown, James Taylor and Etta James) and saxophonist Eric Rhodes (Sly & the Family Stone), plus opening act Michael Logen, a friend from Nashville.

The Pernikoff Brothers

When: 9 p.m. Saturday, July 17

Where: Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, 6504 Delmar Boulevard

Cost: $10

More info: Call 314-727-4444 or visit ticketmaster.com for more information.