Rich Howells

SONG PREMIERES: Wilkes-Barre acoustic emo duo In a Perfect Sky falls on both sides of love in ‘Georgia’ and ‘We’ll See’

SONG PREMIERES: Wilkes-Barre acoustic emo duo In a Perfect Sky falls on both sides of love in ‘Georgia’ and ‘We’ll See’
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Valentine’s Day typically evokes one of two feelings – the love you have with someone or the heartbreak of not having someone.

The impassioned acoustic music of In a Perfect Sky delivers on the emotional resonance of both, so when it came time to unveil their next single, vocalist/guitarist Gerry Tulao and drummer/percussionist Jon Labenski decided to represent each side with a double release. “Georgia” and “We’ll See” are premiering today exclusively on NEPA Scene, two days before these love letters arrive on all major streaming platforms.

“I wrote ‘Georgia’ as a tribute to a great friend of mine,” Tulao shared.

“‘We’ll See’ is a heartbreak song and probably my most personal one off the [upcoming] EP. All these songs are personal to me, but this one is special because it, in many ways, helped me get through a lot, and I hope that if someone with a broken heart hears the song that it’ll help them too.

“I’m extremely proud of both of these songs. Usually when I write, I don’t know what I write about until after when I read the lyrics and listen to the song myself, as if I was a new listener. It’s then that I realize what it’s about. These two songs, however, I knew what I wanted to write about and I did just that, and I’m forever proud of that accomplishment.”

After leaving two successful rock bands to branch out on his own, another achievement has been creating In a Perfect Sky largely by himself, then adding only one more member rather than falling back on what he knew by starting another four-piece band to produce the sound he was looking for.

“I kind of like the idea of ‘less is more.’ I’m really into Dashboard Confessional and this two-piece emo band called This Wild Life. With Dashboard, I always loved how when their singer, Chris Carrabba, performs solo how intimate and engaging it is no matter how loud or soft he’s playing,” Tulao explained.

“As for This Wild Life, I found myself relating to them so much. They’re an acoustic band influenced by pop punk music, yet writing and performing acoustic songs that would fit well at a coffee shop playlist. Figured I wanted to try that out. Now I will say, in the future, we do consider expanding.”

Even their name is inspired by one of his favorite Yellowcard songs, “California,” from their 2014 album “Lift a Sail.”

“That song helped me a lot during a dark time in life. The line in question goes, ‘Where the sun sets, in a perfect sky. I wanna be in California tonight.'”

The “emo” label can be a bit polarizing among music fans, but the Wilkes-Barre-based duo proudly wears it on the sleeves of their tour shirts and the description of their sound.

“We use that genre term mainly because we’re basing it off of what’s influenced us. This band’s sound and vibe is influenced by Dashboard Confessional, This Wild Life, and Secondhand Serenade. Meanwhile, Jon and I are, just in general, influenced by a lot of pop punk/emo bands such as Yellowcard, New Found Glory, and Blink-182, and we always kind of described this band as ‘all the acoustic songs that pop punk bands would write for their albums,'” Tulao emphasized.

“Our songs, at the surface, are very emotional – that’s why we embrace describing the music as ’emo.’ There is a story being told. Sometimes, it’s a happy one. Sometimes, it’s from a dark place. Like all music, something is being said and you the listener can take your interpretation of it and relate it, however you see fit, to your story,” Labenski added.

Sky rise

Tulao originally made a name for himself as a founding member of Wilkes-Barre pop punk band Stay Loud.

“I started playing guitar when I was 11. At around this age was when I started getting into music. I originally wanted to play drums, but there no room in my mom’s house for a drum set, so guitar it was! From that young age, I knew this was something I wanted to peruse and wouldn’t stop until I see it through. When I started playing, I originally wanted to be in some form of rock band. In the years since, I played in various bands [and] wanted to try out acoustic music, so I started this new project,” Tulao said.

“I was in [Stay Loud] for six years. Leaving that band was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. Stay Loud was my first actual band that took off and went somewhere, and I’ll forever be thankful and blessed for the experiences I had with them. I decided to leave mainly because I wanted to try something new. When I started playing music, I always wanted to be the lead singer and main songwriter and, this past year, I turned 30 and started thinking to myself that I should finally challenge myself and do the thing I’ve always wanted to do.”

He performed with Labenski, 28, in Tori V & The Karma, which they both left last year to pursue this new venture.

“I’ve been playing in bands for 14 years now. My grandparents actually got me my first drum kit with the old excuse, ‘He’s always banging on pots and pans!’ You can imagine my parent’s faces. From there, my parents got me into bands and artists of all different genres, which is why I’m such a big fan of so many different artists today. As I got older and met other musicians in school, I would go on to play in high school cover bands and that would turn into playing in a band that wrote our own music, and that long road trip brought me here to In A Perfect Sky,” Labenski recalled.

“When I had the idea, I asked him a theoretical question if he’d be interested in playing drums/percussion and he said yes. Just to make the recording process quicker, I recorded all the vocals, guitars, bass, and some keys for the EP at Novro Studios. [Owner] Eric Novroski recorded the cajon, tambourine, and egg shakers. Once all the songs were done recording, I sent them over to Jon to learn and, from there, he was officially a part of the project,” Tulao continued.

“It’s great being in a band with my best friend because we know how to communicate with each other. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are able to build off that.”

The foundation of In a Perfect Sky was originally laid back in 2020 during the pandemic.

“I was furloughed from my job and had absolutely nothing to do. I remember trying to write music for myself again and I had the idea, like many others during that period of time, to maybe do a quarantine release. Figured something simple with just acoustic guitar and vocals. I almost came close to buying my own recording equipment to self-produce. Once restrictions started to clear, Stay Loud got back together to write and record what would be our second record, ‘Sophomore Slump.’ Because of that, I kind of put that solo release idea to the side,” Tulao clarified.

“Fast forward to 2022 and the idea started to come back. Now for this incarnation, I was thinking IAPS would be just a side project while Stay Loud and The Karma would be my main projects. I was originally just going to record an EP and just release the whole thing as kind of like a, ‘Hey! Check out my side project!’ As the year went on, I realized that these songs are too good to just be a side project gig. The moment I decided to go all in was around fall of 2022. I had a lot of personal life changes during that time, and I started to question whether I was truly happy with myself, so I decided to take a leap of faith and make IAPS my full-time band. Some of these songs’ creation periods vary from some having their inception at around 2020 to even as close as February of last year, a month before I went in to record. Heck I’ll even say the idea for our single ‘Georgia’ dates back to 2017.

“In a perfect world – or sky… sorry, had to – I would have stayed in both those bands while also doing IAPS but, realistically, that wouldn’t be possible because I’d be splitting so much time between all three and it wouldn’t be fair to anyone, so I decided IAPS would be my main focus.”

They started recording last March at Novro Studios in Swoyersville, resulting in two singles, “Summer Heat” and “Lucky Charm,” that also came from Tulao’s personal experiences.

“I chose Novro Studios because to me Eric Novroski is one of the best. Knew him since college and it’s inspiring to see his recording business grow. Worked with him on Stay Loud’s last record and had a blast. He brings a lot to the table and always understands the music he presented to record. We had a process when it came to recording. I came into the studio with six songs I knew I wanted on the EP and, within the four or five months of recording, we worked mainly on those six songs,” he said.

“Eric’s wife Sarah directed the video for our second single, ‘Lucky Charm.’ She’s amazing to work with! We do plan on doing more music videos. They’re always fun to make. Heck, we’re actually filming another one on February 16th, so as the singles get officially released, we’ll be working on a video for another song.”

Another benefit of establishing his own project has been putting his own touches on things like cover art, which feature variations of an adorable logo featuring a cat held up by balloons.

“When it came time to think of a logo, I knew I wanted to incorporate a cat in the image. I love cats – I have four at home! Thought it be adorable to have a cat flying in the air with balloons attached it to. I guess, in my eyes, the idea of a perfect sky are cats flying over us. Olivia Williams designed it. She designed Tori V & The Karma’s debut EP and Tori got me in contact with her. She’s done an amazing job! Always thought it be cool if each single had the same look but designed differently. I guess I took that inspiration from Weezer when they do their color albums and Teenage Bottlerocket where almost all their album covers are their band logo but colored and designed differently.”

Titled “This Ride Called Life,” In a Perfect Sky’s own debut EP is set for release on Friday, March 22, surrounded by a month of shows to celebrate and sell physical copies.

“This March, we’ll be doing several weekender tours as a promotional lead up to the release of the EP. We’re going be performing in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey for the first time. We have two release shows planned – one on March 22nd at Spacement Arts in Wilkes-Barre. That one will have Sweet Anne Marie and The Converse Kid as supporting acts. The second show will be the following week on Friday the 29th at Pilger Ruh Brewing in Pottsville. Pilger Ruh Brewing has a special place in our hearts, as that’s where the first official IAPS show took place. Knew we wanted to do release show there in some fashion. Now, the lineup for that one has not been finalized yet but will be soon!” Tulao listed.

“All this is still so new to me. I spent most of my music career being the musician in the back rather than the lead vocals – kind of learning as I go. People have been so nice and welcoming to this project.”

Like the Vans Warped Tour bands that inspired IAPS, they hope to tour even more throughout the summer before releasing some additional singles in the fall. Today, though, they’re content to just feel the love from their latest pair of heartfelt tunes on Valentine’s Day.

“Younger me would have originally said, ‘Fuck that holiday!’ but these days I think we all need love, though it shouldn’t just be on that one day! Love all year long, as they say,” Tulao left off.

“But I think we can all agree the day after Valentine’s Day is the best when all the chocolates go on sale.”

Photos by Ozzie Dobrowalski and Straight Edge Photography