Much has been made about the recent transformation of Mike Hadreas – better known by his stage name, Perfume Genius.
A frail, desperate wallflower on his first two albums, Hadreas – who appears at the Independent on Tuesday – unveiled a more confident, assured persona for his dazzling third album, “Too Bright,” released earlier this year. Critics duly noted he largely abandoned his insular approach in favor of a more assertive take on life, notably by boldly addressing broader issues facing gay men like himself.
While Hadreas concurs that his goal was to make a more universal album, it did not come without confronting personal demons that have haunted him in the past. “In many ways, I'm rebelling against myself on this album,” says Hadreas, a Seattle native who lives in Brooklyn. “I'm not ashamed by any means of the first two albums, but I'm a little sick of them at this point. This wasn't just about showing the world who I am, but also about telling it to myself. To be more confident with who I am.” The first two Perfume Genius albums are stark, minimalist affairs, with songs featuring just Hadreas' voice and haunting piano.
By the second song of “Too Bright” – the trippy, ornate and darkly humorous “Queen,” – it is evident the new Perfume Genius production does not follow the template of its predecessors. Before, Hadreas would never bolt, “No family is safe/when I sashay!” as he does over a din of noise in “Queen.”
“The first two albums had songs that were kind of distillations of parts of my life,” says Hadreas. “This one is much more comprehensive. I've always liked lyrics that could be funny one day, and kind of disturbing the next, depending on your mood. There is much more of that on this album.”
Yet the album is not devoid of Hadreas' trademark quiet moments. “I Decline,” the opener, is a quiet, coldly-blunt piano-driven track, and “I am a Mother,” an unnerving, almost formless rumination that recalls post rockers Talk Talk.
It's a bold step forward for Hadreas, who initially was nervous because it was such a departure. He happily exclaims that critical acclaim has alleviated some of those concerns. He adds, “I would have been proud of this album no matter what, but it is very meaningful to me that so many people like it.”
The support has bolstered him during live performances. Normally affixed to his position behind the keyboard, Hadreas has taken to embracing frontman tendencies. He says, “I'm really trying to be more audacious at my shows. It's been fun getting up front with the microphone. I think the fans have appreciated that new look so far.
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 21
Tickets: $16 to $18
Contacts: (415) 771-1421, www.theindependentsf.com