Archive for September, 2013


The Clientele were one of the main reasons that I began my own fanzine in the first place. I had read an interview with them in “Boa Melody Bar” fanzine back in 2000 and was intrigued by this Felt-obsessed London-based three piece. By chance their latest 7” single “(I Want You) More Than Ever” was released on the Spanish label Elefant Records, and had just been recommended to me by a friend. It was all I needed to fall in love with their music forever. That one song propelled me into a longstanding admiration of the group that continues to this day. When This interview was conducted for issue two of “SALT” in early 2001, their superb compilation “Suburban Light” was due for release, and it remains the best summary of their early style: woozy, ethereal, sombre songwriting allied to elegant band performances. Their resolutely cosmopolitan outlook was infused with large doses of beguiling Surrealist literature and a decidedly British sense of romantic world weariness. Alisdair Maclean, James Hornsey and Mark Keen’s early work gave way to a more expansive and even more glorious sound on albums like “The Violet Hour”(Pointy), “God Save The Clientele” (Merge) and in particular on the stunning “Bonfires On The Heath” (Merge), a remarkable apex that remains (for now) their full length epitaph. The Clientele also breathes life back into the short from EP format with extraordinary releases such as “Lost Weekend” (Earworm), “Ariadne” (Acuarela) and “Minotaur” (Pointy). On indefinite hiatus since 2011, The Clientele are one of the greatest bands to emerge from the UK in the past twenty years: beloved by many, awaiting discovery by so many more.
Did you plan “Suburban Light” as more of an “Introduction to…” collection than a straightforward to debut CD of new songs?
It works best for me as a document of a particular time, the 2-3 years when the band had a drive to write pop songs that were tuneful and kind of spooky simultaneously. But its good introduction to The Clientele, because it’s got the essence of our sound, it’s just that what we do now is a bit more sophisticated and complex… in a way it’s a “goodbye to all that” as well, all those hopelessly obscure 7” singles on one CD.
Why did songs like “What Goes Up” and “6am Morningside” not make it into the CD?
Wait for the American version!
There is some great slide guitar playing on “Lacewings”. Have you been playing slide for very long?
I make no claims to be a good slide guitar player, I was just messing around and grabbed a slide, improvised that guitar line during the recording. We kept it because it was spontaneous, done in one take; if I’d rehearsed it a few times it would have become a bit more formulaic and obvious, and I liked the illogicality of it, the way it goes all over the place when you consider the chord changes going on behind it. I got given a Hawaiian lap steel guitar recently and have been making caterwauling noises with that, driving my wife insane.
What do you feel are the key components of a successful Clientele song?
Everybody turning up to the rehearsal? I don’t know. A tune, slightly off-key production…aggressively pretentious lyrics?
For me as a fan, releasing singles on labels from Spain, Japan, the US as well as the UK gave you the image of a band that wanted to be thought of as international rather than be tagged as a “British band”. Is this something you were conscious of?
Yes, I was happy to distance The Clientele from the British indie thing as much as possible. I hated that Oasis thing of claiming that ‘music shouldn’t be intelligent”: the stupidity and cynicism of the scene nauseates me, we want nothing to do with it. In our own humble way, I see us as more akin with the cosmopolitanism of El Records, or some bands on early Creation. There’s a naivety in the sound, it’s something lighthearted and basically beautiful and optimistic that you just don’t see in much British music these days.
Are the plans for you to make more promo (films) after the acclaim for “Reflections After Jane”? Is it possible to get hold of it?
You should ask Julian from Johnny Kane Records. He has a very strict “no repressing” policy on all his records, maybe he got the idea from Sarah Records. There seems to be no way to get that record or the promo video except for lots of money on eBay. But both songs are on “Suburban Light” anyway. As far as the video goes, we made it for 100 and it looked lovely, so yeah, the profits of “Suburban Light” are going to be spent on some more film-making projects; maybe we’ll release a compilation video?
Who is Joe Bousquet and why did you choose a quotation of his for the CD sleeve?
Joe Bousquet was a French poet who was crippled by a bullet in World War I. He spent the rest of his life bedridden in his house in Tours, and he wrote beautiful, hallucinatory stories and poems. His work inspired a lot of our music, I guess it was realizing there was a “third way” in Surrealist writing when I was at University (needless to say they weren’t teaching him there); I could preserve the slightly old fashioned formality that I wanted to keep in what I was writing, but at the same time be relatively modern in surrealist imagery and juxtaposition. Joe Bousquet, along with Paul Elouard and Phillipe Soupault exemplified that for me; he was very unconventional in style but wrote accessibly and profoundly, traditionally beautiful things. One of his stories, “The Return”, is in English translation in the “Dedalus Book of Surrealism”, published in the UK by Dedalus Press.
Are you happier now that you’ve received some positive press in the UK? Does good press mean as much to you as the acclaim from overseas?
If I moved to New York I wouldn’t remember there even was a UK press. But we’re trapped in London and it’s keeping our egos in control. I don’t want to sound bitter about it, because I’m calm over it, but we’ve been written about in America on the strength of our records, and we eventually got some good press here because we hired a good press agent. That’s the culture of laziness and cynicism you’re up against in Britain. For The Clientele, that seems to be changing now, I just feel sorry for new bands.
Did you choose which West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band song you covered for the upcoming Earworm tribute EP, or did Dom have the final say?
No, we chose. So much WCPAEB stuff sounds suspiciously like The Clientele, we chose one that wasn’t really in our blueprint as a bit of challenge, ;Tracey Had A Hard Day Sunday”. It was great fun to do.
Forgive my ignorance, but who is Pam Berry and why do you rate her so highly?
Pam Berry is an American in London, singer for a band called The Pines. Previously in some good bands in the DC area (Black Tambourines, Glo-worm). She has a bittersweet, beautiful voice.
In a previous interview you mentioned you like the Japanese label PSF. Which of their artists do you like in particular?
Ghost, Keiji Haino, Che Shizu.
Which is your favourite song from Nico’s “Desertshore” album?
“Afraid” for its elegance and tenderness. “Mutterlein” for its production. Cale said he had a nightmare getting anything in tune with her harmonium: the pitch shifts and key instruments sound amazing to me.
If you could choose an ideal location for a Clientele gig, where would it be?
In a seaside hotel in an obscure part of the North. To an audience of 30, 000 trampling vandals. Actually, we’ve already played an ideal show: Bryn Mawr Girls College in Pennsylvania, on Valentine’s Day 2000, with snow outside and red ribbons all over the stage. Just call us the Heartbreakers.
Is there a chance that we might see you live outside of London this year?
Well, we’re off to America again at some time, but that’s not too much use to you I guess. We’ll have an exploratory trip to Brighton next month, and if more than one man and his dog come to see us there, we’ll try some other places outside London, maybe Glasgow or Manchester.


Read Full Post »