High Octane: meet Adrian Perry ’03, attorney & rock star

Oct. 15, 2010, 3:00 a.m.

High Octane: meet Adrian Perry '03, attorney & rock star
TAB the band, from left to right: Ben Tileston, brothers Tony and Adrian Perry (sons of Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry) and Lou Jannetty. (Courtesy of John Jannetty)

TAB the Band’s Adrian Perry ’03, like many musicians, lives on the edge. But unlike most, the edge for the Stanford graduate is the thin line between a normal, nerdy childhood and his rock-star roots; responsibility and irresponsibility; a legal career and a rock band. Perry’s life, it seems, has always been about striking the right chord between two worlds – rather than neglecting either, he manages to incorporate both in a high-octane lifestyle.

Growing up with his mother in Sherman Oaks, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, Perry lived a pretty normal life – normal, except for the visits of his father, legendary Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. His dad’s visits introduced him to the whirlwind of a rockstar’s lifestyle.

Perry recalled one night he was taken out to the movies by his dad and Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler. “Steven was wearing a full, onesie, red jumpsuit and a red hat with a feather in it,” he said in a phone interview. “My dad was dressed however he dresses, mostly shirtless, with leather. And I’m just some kid in a baseball hat, going to the movies with these two dudes.”

It wasn’t his rockstar dad, however, who served as Perry’s first musical role model. When Perry first picked up bass around the age of 12, he was inspired by the vibe Paul McCartney brought to The Beatles. And once Perry started playing, there was no looking back.

“It became my obsession,” he said. “I just wanted to play in a band. I didn’t want to be a sideman or a producer. I wanted to play in a band.” Nevertheless, Perry always thought he’d end up going to law school. “I had this other side of me that was a super nerd. That’s how I got into Stanford,” Perry said with a laugh.

Once here, Perry immersed himself in the unique music scene at Stanford. He focused on playing in as many bands as he could, “probably a dozen,” as well as his own band.

Beyond its music scene, Perry remembers Stanford as “a very free-thinking place” that attracts a certain kind of person, distinct from the student who chooses Harvard or Princeton.

“Stanford folks, in general, are very entrepreneurial, building these really alternative lifestyles,” he said.

“I think Stanford in particular breeds that type of adventurism,” he added. “Part of whatever you want to call what I’m doing stems from [Stanford].”

After graduating from Stanford in 2003 with a B.A. and M.A. in English, Perry moved to New York City in pursuit of “the ultimate arts lifestyle,” playing in a band and working in the entertainment industry. With a love of comedy writing sparked by his work at The Chaparral, a Stanford humor magazine, Perry picked up a job at “Saturday Night Live.” Following what Perry calls a “mixed experience” at “SNL,” he left the Big Apple for law school, a decision which he credits with reviving his rock and roll dreams.

“Being back at school refocused me, took up that part of my brain that needed to be occupied and re-sparked the creative side and got me back on track,” he said.

These days, Perry leads a kind of superhuman life – attorney by day, rocker by night. Touring with TAB the Band while working as an intellectual property law attorney at Weil, Goshal and Manges, a high-powered, New York-based law firm, doesn’t faze Perry. While he admits that this best-of-both-worlds lifestyle can’t go on forever, Perry seems to have the balance under control for the present.

“The more I do, the better I am, so the crazy situation with the law firm and the band works for me,” he said. “I like having a high-octane lifestyle.”

Ultimately, Perry’s childhood ambition to just “play in a band” remains the same. He rocks out as the frontman and bassist for TAB the Band, along with brother Tony Perry and friends Ben Tileston and Lou Jannety. TAB the Band has been described as arena rock, ’60s rock and roll and rock fusion. In Perry’s words, TAB the Band is “not just one type of band.”

Though TAB the Band’s first two records were focused on ’60s rock, their new album, “Zoo Noises,” expands the band’s horizons and reflects all their different influences. “Some stuff still has that Stonesy rock vibe,” Perry said, while other songs bring out acoustic folk or power-rock sounds. The band’s new single, “Little Water” is “a real Stones-on-steroids kind of song.”

Perry finds his experience as a rock musician to be different from his dad’s experience. When Aerosmith was starting out, it was “a different time. There was no Internet, very few record companies and very few genres of music,” he said. “It was equally hard, just for different reasons.”

But with the emphasis on grassroots advertising, today’s bands have to be more proactive in reaching their fan base.

“Aerosmith really pounded the pavement – that’s why they still have such a strong following,” he said. “They built these fans one at a time, for years, going place to place. Now it’s not the same. You have to find other ways to reach people – through Twitter or Facebook. You have all these other components [you need] to give yourself a shot now. There’s more complexity now.”

Nevertheless, in that complex and deeply competitive world of rock, TAB the Band is on their way up. Their songs have been heard on popular TV shows including “Entourage,” “Jersey Shore” and “CSI.” TAB the Band’s favorite gigs include opening for Modest Mouse, playing with Slash and the band’s current tour with Stone Temple Pilots. Perry, who grew up listening to STP and Modest Mouse, sees his band as “really lucky” to be able to open for bands they like.

Right now, TAB the Band is on the road, touring as the opening act for Stone Temple Pilots and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club through October, before taking a weeklong hiatus to record their new EP, which will drop in early 2011, before returning to the road once again.

It’s enough to make your head spin, but that’s just how Perry likes it. In his opinion, Perry hasn’t changed all that much since Stanford.

“I was pretty reckless,” he said, “and I’m pretty much the same. I balance responsibility with irresponsibility.”

“I’m kind of getting back to doing the same stuff, striking a balance between having fun and taking care of what I need to take care of.”

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