Perpetual Groove's Matthew McDonald on the Band's Split: "We Want to Go Out on a High Note"

Many fans, along with the band members themselves, were heartbroken but unsurprised by the early January announcement that, after more than 15 years as a band, Perpetual Groove is going on "indefinite hiatus." Apparently, it had been a long time coming, and the reason is clear: Frontman Brock Butler has developed some bad habits and needs to focus on his health and well-being.

While this is a challenging moment for the close-knit group of musicians and their tribe-like fans, Perpetual Groove has embarked on what may be called a "pre-indefinite hiatus" tour that comes to the Culture Room -- its longtime "home away from home"-- this weekend.

Meanwhile, Butler's three soon-to-be-former bandmates have chosen to tap the creative potential of this event by founding a new band. Ghost Owl hatched less than a week after the Perpetual Groove "hiatus" announcement and is rapidly gaining the strength to take flight into unknown territory.

Rather than an attempt to replace what will soon be gone, Ghost Owl is an inspired artistic exploration, according to keyboardist Matthew McDonald. Part of their approach involves reaching out to artists from various disciplines outside of the music world in an attempt to garner fresh ideas. They call this exercise "Lessons."

New Times recently spoke with McDonald about the Perpetual Groove split, the final shows, and Ghost Owl. We reached him on the phone while he was on his way to work on the new project with bandmates Adam Perry and Albert Suttle.

New Times: How have the last couple of months been for you?

Matthew McDonald: Definitely very interesting. Kinda the whole gamut of emotions. It's this time of transition where one chapter is not fully closed and another is not fully open.

What has been announced is a hiatus. Does that mean P Groove is planning on getting back together at some point?

We're not really viewing it as a hiatus. Getting back together is not in anyone's mind right now. But, we're wise enough, at our age, having seen other bands do this, to know that you should never say 'never.'

How have these recent shows been?

The shows have been great, man. Everything else takes a backseat during showtime. It's been liberating and refreshing getting to play and not have to be concerned about the future any longer; to be focused on the now.

Describe your feelings going into these Culture Room shows.

The fans come first and we want to go out on a high note. Culture Room has been like a home away from home for us for a long time, through the good and the bad.

What can you say about the split?

I think we knew it was coming for some time. It was a pretty mutual decision, and I think when we announced it all parties were very clear as to the reasons why. Life goes on and life happens to everyone. There are different paths for everyone.

How has this affected the relationships between the four of you?

Relationships are definitely different now, but that's just part of life. These things happen all the time. And at the end of the day we have to remind ourselves that this is just a band. (laughs)

A band that has been quite meaningful to a lot of people. Reading the fans' Facebook posts from the last two months is very moving.

It is very moving. That part has been the most rewarding, touching, and humbling on a daily basis. When Albert, Adam, and I get together in the morning, we pay attention to all that.

The three of you are working on a new project. Will Ghost Owl be much like Perpetual Groove?

We're not trying to replace or replicate Perpetual Groove. The execution and even the instruments that Adam and I are playing are not what people are used to seeing us on.

How have people been responding so far?

Well, we started a Kickstarter to raise some funds for some new toys that we need to execute this live. In five days, we hit our goal. That blew us away.

And you say the social media chatter is encouraging as well?

All we have to do is click a couple times online and we see how many people want us to be successful, to create. That goes a really long way. They encourage us to push ourselves. Pretty amazing feeling.

The video on the Kickstarter page emphasizes that Ghost Owl is seeking influence from a wide spectrum of artists in order to create a new and unique live show. How is that working out so far?

It's this changing, evolving thing.The live show that we were talking about two weeks ago is totally different from what we are talking about today. It's coming to fruition and we recognize that it's changing our approach already.

Can you give an example?

We were talking about maybe having the lyrics to a song projected while we're playing it. Now, after talking with Adam's dad, who is an author, we're talking about doing word association.


It's really a big, collaborative effort. We want to channel all of these ideas that are out there. So, It's a very humbling time of transition, and very creative as well.

Are you nervous at all about whether the band will be successful?

We've had to say to ourselves, "Not everyone is going to like it, and we have to not care about that. We just need to believe in ourselves." At the same time though, we can't thank the people who are putting this positive energy toward us enough. We're realizing the best way we can thank them is to go out there and do it and be successful at it. So that's what we plan on doing.

Perpetual Groove with the Heavy Pets. 8 p.m. Friday, March 1, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Also 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2, with Zoogma. Tickets cost $16. Call 954-564-1074 or click here.