Sunday, December 09, 2007

Questions with Clipd Beaks

I first started listening to Clipd Beaks some time last year after I checked out their Myspace page for an It List post. What I heard that day was scattered hardcore, post-punk and noise influenced freak out stuff that managed to be very easy to listen to despite what sounded like a pretty honest attempt to make things at least somewhat difficult for the listener.

This year's Hoarse Lords, released on the much buzzed about Lovepump United label, features many of the same qualities I enjoyed on their earlier EPs-- a mix of the familiar and the avant garde that produces some undeniably intoxicating results. We had meant to publish this interview before Clipd Beaks' Dallas show last week, but schedule and communication issues resulted in the interview taking place about 15 minutes before their show at Public Trust, and thus, a delayed post. The guys had some interesting things to say about moving as a band, writing songs, and dealing with "buzz," and here they are:

So you guys are all from Minnesota originally, right?


And I read that some of you guys have known one another for a really long time. How did all of you meet?

Our bass player Scott and our drummer Ray met in first grade. They both went to a fine arts school so they're classically trained in their instruments unlike the other two of us, and they were both doing jazz band and stuff like that from a really early age. When I met them, they were in like a grunge band when they were like 13 years old and they were playing in my friend's garage at his parents' house. And I was like 14 and really into punk rock like Bad Religion and Minor Threat and other punk, and I saw these guys and thought they were wankers because they actually knew how to play their instruments, so I thought I'd be real cool and fuck with them, like fuck with their drums and stuff like that because I thought it sucked. And they came over and gave me a dirty look and were like "fuck you." So anyway, that's how I met them. We ended up getting to know each other, and we went to high school together, and they were a year younger than me. Scott started getting more into punk and hardcore over the years, and we started playing a lot of hardcore shows together while they were still doing their band. Their band started playing a lot of shows when I was a senior in high school, and after many years of us knowing one another and playing in separate bands, at one point we realized that if we all played together, something special would happen. So we decided to try it.

So then you moved to Oakland?

Well actually we started Clipd Beaks in 2003 in Minneapolis and then in the fall of 2004 I started to take off and move away from Minneapolis because I was really sick of it at the time and it didn't seem like our band had much of a future in Minneapolis because people weren't really feeling what we were doing and the whole vibe was kind of crushing at the time. I moved to San Francisco, and I didn't really think much about whether Clipd Beaks was still going to be a band, but what happened was that the other guys started making new recordings when I was gone, and right when I heard the stuff, I realized, and they had already realized, and other people had already told them that when we play together, something special happened. As soon as I heard the new stuff, I figured that we had to keep it going somehow, so I flew out there and did some work on some new songs, and then I told them that if they wanted to move out there (to California), I thought it would go really well. And a week after that, they moved out there and crashed on my floor until they found a place to live.

You said two of the guys are trained in their instruments and two of you aren't. Does that ever present problems for you guys as far as how you write music as a band?

Actually it works out really well because all of our songs more or less start with the foundation of the rhythm section, drums and bass. Usually the way we start a practice is to get Ray to come up with a cool drum beat, and Ray will fuck around and we'll all listen and get into what he's playing. And Scott and Ray are the ones that have known one another forever, and they have this definite connection between the two of them in terms of getting locked in with the rhythm section, and they'll kind of come up with a groove. And really, we are split down the middle, with the rhythm section which is super tight, and me and Nick are the opposite-- because the rhythm is so tight, it gives us the freedom to make as much noise as we want and freak the fuck out over that. So we have the rhythm and a bunch of random noise over that, so that's kind of our formula or our little trick that has worked out over time.

Well I was listening to your new record the other day, and one thing I like about it is that even though there is a lot of noise and chaos in the songs, you can always here a foundation in more structured pop and rock music. I like the contrast that is created there. Does that result from a combination of tastes coming out at once, or maybe the way you go about writing the songs, or is it a conscious stylistic choice?

Well with the bands we were in before, and even in the beginning of Clipd Beaks, we all came from a background of writing stuff that would be considered more conventional, accessible pop music. For me personally, I don't really listen to a lot of noise and really wacked out shit. The stuff that I'm really into is pretty much by the book what you'd expect, like New Order and the Smiths and Kraftwerk, and even bands like Suede and Primal Scream. That was the stuff that got me at a tender age and shaped my whole perspective on music, much more so than later on when I started listening to bands like Wolf Eyes, Throbbing Gristle, or Cabaret Voltaire. That's all there, but I can't ever get away from the fact, and I don't think any of us can, that we all trace our musical moment of zen back to Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream. I think for all four of us, that album or maybe Nirvana was what made the switch for us and made us think that we could actually be in a band. We really do try to incorporate everything we hear and everything we like, and encompass everything from that stuff to things we're into now, we don't discriminate between things that are cool and things that aren't cool or whatever. We want to have complete freedom, because whatever our next record might sound like could be totally different and some people might hate it, but that's just how it goes. We do this just for fun and for our own ideas about what good music should sound like.

Yeah, I was looking at some of the other bands on your label (Lovepump), and I think you guys sound pretty different than a lot of them. One similarity I do see, however, is that with a lot of the groups, the music is noisy like Indian Jewelry or AIDS Wolf and certainly abrasive at times, but with that kind of music, there is often an association with anger and aggression and darkness, while a lot of the bands on Lovepump seem to have that kind of musical aggression without the dark, heavy mood that a lot of noisier music has been associated with. Do you think that's true?

Well I definitely don't think that's the case for our album. It might be the case with some of the other stuff but I don't know. The reaction I get from a lot of people about our album is that its hard to listen to. When I listen to it, I think of how much fun we have making it, and the reason we're having fun is because through playing music, we're finding the freedom to let out a lot of the bad feelings we have. I think we are very different from a band like Health, but I don't know how to explain it though. In terms of the sound, maybe in some ways we're actually more accessible than some of the bands on Lovepump, but to us, we really don't think of ourselves as being some really artsy band, really super serious about "this is our aesthetic, this is our style, this is our sound." Kind of going back to what I was saying before, we've been doing this for a long time and we've all known one another for a long time, so to us it's kind of a relationship, it's just what we do when we're together, it's very real and personal to us, it's not based on trying to conform to some type of aesthetic of whats cool on Pitchfork in 2007. If that works out, and we connect with someone and they do think that, that's great, but it took us five years of being this band to get to this point, and at this point, regardless of however we fit in and how people might want us to be, we're still Clipd Beaks and we're still going to be doing it if it's not cool next year.

Well, the kind of music you're doing, as well as a lot of the other west coast bands you've been associated with recently, ARE cool on Pitchfork this year, you know?

Right, right. It's funny now that that is starting to happen, because we never played shows with Health or even knew them until a few months ago, and we don't know No Age or a lot of these other bands. We want people to know that we're from Minnesota because there are actually really cool bands from Minnesota that no one will ever hear. I realized at some point that no one would ever hear us if we stayed in Minnesota because its a very isolated place, but it's interesting to see how people try to make sense out of things and group things together that are easily marketable and easy to digest. I'm sure everyone thinks this about their band, but I really think our band isn't going to fit into that, maybe it's because we deliberately try to make ourselves non marketable, but where we come from is totally our own place. Minneapolis, the scene we came out of. We're not from L.A. or San Francisco, we're from fucking Minneapolis, you know, and we're doing this because we like hanging out together, not because we thought we were going to blow up or something.

And you do see that people are eager to lump all of those bands together in an artcore/hardcore scene in the west coast, even though you guys are from San Francisco and most of those bands are from L.A.

Yeah, and San Francisco has some great bands too. Right now, everyone is saying that this is a great year for noisy music, and so somehow we'll ride that wave to the top of the blog charts.

And at one time in the past, Minneapolis was a national hot spot itself. You seemed to be saying that it was pretty dead when you were there, but I wonder if there is any trace of that old Replacements/Husker Du thing that happened so long ago?

When I started going to shows it was a really amazing time, not just in Minneapolis but across the entire country. The only band that is still around from Minneapolis that I saw back then that people would still identify with is Dillinger 4. That was the first punk show I ever went to, and there were a lot of super crusty gutter punks hanging around. Back then, Minneapolis was really known for for Profane Existence Magazine, I don't know if you know about that, but it was like super crust. Anyway, I start going to shows at 14, I weighed like 100 pounds and I was straight edge, and I was moshing and pushing around totally shit faced, red faced belligerent crusty punk dudes with liberty spikes, and that was when it all kind of started for me. In Minneapolis, there are no record labels at all, so even if you're in a really good band, no one is going to take you to the next level and put out your record based on potential. So one of the things we started doing was to put out our own records. It seems obvious in a way, but we didn't just put together a CD and give it to friends, we started burning CDs and put together a list of 100 different labels we were going to send them out to, from the west coast to Sweden to Japan, we just started sending it out to people. The problem with Minneapolis is that geographically, it's a very isolated place, and it makes it hard to tour and make it to the West Coast and East Coast where more shit is happening. We did a thing for this website called recently where we selected three different MP3s from great bands from Minneapolis that are around right now just to shed some light on something that is very unknown and unappreciated, and that was a really cool opportunity for us.

Photo by Waltzcore

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh tight... ANOTHER band like this. yaaaaay. just what we need. Do they have a keyboard? If they do I bet they treat it like a novelty like most of these kind of acts do.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SR, somebody should review the film "Im not there" on this site. Its ... terrible.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous William said...

I've been digging their album and EPs quite a bit. I couldn't make it out to their show in Dallas. How were they live?

3:18, you don't know what you are talking about.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous oh dear buttons said...

go here and watch the i'm not there review

it's precious!

these boys are my cutest button clients yet.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous mc said...

"We want people to know that we're from Minnesota because there are actually really cool bands from Minnesota that no one will ever hear."


5:54 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

The Magnolias were a great Minnesota band.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Clip'd Beaks show was quite enjoyable, and another example of Parade of Flesh doing things right.

Hammerhead and the Cows were really good bands from Minnesota.

11:30 PM  
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