I do it all the time, but The Clear have twice been the cause of me going the wrong way. Not once, but twice I heard their woozy, soft focus psych take on classic pop on the radio as I drove around at work, and twice ‘Maria Browne’ (for that was the song) caused my body to shut down onto automatic pilot as I listened intently, and my body drove itself to the wrong place. Twice I swore loudly, but it didn’t diminish my love for the track, and further investigation revealed that The Clear are a three piece – Jules Buffey, Chris Damms and Bryan Day from Sheffield and there’s an album, Patchwork, full of these little clever pop gems. Then they went and hit us with So we tracked down Chris from the band to find out more, including an upcoming vinyl release of Patchwork.
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Can you give us a potted history of The Clear to this point?
We met just over 3 years ago through a mutual friend and the guy who plays some bass for us called Hugh Ruiz. Me and Jules had known eachother for a while and we met Bryan Through Hugh. We started writing together and we came up with America and it was played on 6music by Tom Robinson and then of course we had some interest from Labels etc. We met Meredith Cork our manager through her PR guy James who heard the Track America on 6music and within a few months we signed to Universal music Publishng in L.A. The president of Rondor International (large subsidury of Uni) ‘Lance Freed” signed us and he’d got a good pedigree signing bands and artists like The Beach boys, Carpenters, Mamas and papas…. Right up to the more modern acts like Garbage , Janes addiction and even Billy Joel just before Lance retired. So we were one of his last signings before Rondor was transferred into Uni Fully. After this we set about delivering the album. I had recorded ‘Sunlight’ with my previous writing partner Lloyd Gregory (great songwriter) and Jules at Yellow arch with Col Elliot (Hawleys co-producer and bassist) and Drummer Andy Cook (Longpigs, Finley Quaye) so we decided that was a good option to do the album there. We ended up getting a bit stuck as we had a bad case of Demoitus, where you cant let go of the demo versions so after Col helped us get down some basic drums and bass we decamped back to the kitchen table where most of the music then was recorded with one mic and one laptop. Since then we have been releasing songs as singles and finally released the album last year and it is coming out on vinyl in April in time for record store day. We’ve had a good bit of airplay on 6music with our last song “Maria Browne” having 17 National BBC plays which is good to say we were not on a playlist and supporting DJ’S were Tom Robinson, Gideon Coe, Tom Ravenscroft, Don Letts, Cerys Matthews , Rad and Mac and at BBC London we had Gary Crowley playing us many many times. Gary was the first DJ to pick up on us, lovely fella too. The album is called patchwork as its a real mish mash of styles.
You write this sort of almost retro, but classic sounding brand of pop music – with just a little sense of hazy psychedelia. Is that a reasonable description, or would you say something else?
Yes it does have retro qualities in the style of writing and some of the textures and sounds especially from Bryan are very classic sounding and he has a lovely feel in his playing. I think the psychedelia comes from a lot of sound occuring at the same time. Because we did not do it in a pro studio the way we worked was more collage than getting one or two things sounding really good , we just threw stuff at the wall and saw what stuck , so the sound it the sum of its dirty low fi parts in the main. The song ‘When you are far away’ is probably sonically and technically, studio wise the best and it has a great bass sound from Col and really nice drum from Dean Beresford (Hawleys Drummer)
Lyrically what are the themes of the record? Is there things that run through it?
There are mixed themes (patchwork) Whilst America is a nostalgic look at the American idea/dream…. ‘Yesterday Morning” and ‘When you are far away’ are classic songs of lost love or regret. Brother is kind of about Male relationships , any really , father son, Brother, etc… and the roles and masks we feel we should use.
And all of a sudden ‘Maria Browne’ is literally all over the radio – how was that, surprising? Lovely? Overwhelming?
It was lovely , we got 17 National plays , the guys at the BBC were saying ‘Hmmm if you get 6-7 plays we’ll consider you for a playlist now’. So we got 17 and still no playlist. I personally think we lie between 6music and radio 2 so its hard for them to take us on 6music as we are more traditional and nobody gets on Radio 2 in the day unless its Olly Murs or Robbie Williams …. so its not easy being different from the current groove.
The record is coming out on vinyl? How did that come about?
Richard Clarke at monks rd records in London , a nice cool little vinyl outfit just said , please can I release it on my vinyl label no strings no contract, so we thought about it for a bit and after discussing it with Meredith our Manager though why not !
And what are your future plans – are there any live shows on the horizon? Have you thought about how those would sound/look – you have quite a cinematic sound, how would you replicate that in a live setting?
We did quite a few shows last year and the year before and decided to scale it down to the 3 of us and do an acoustic version in small venues etc ….and we were able to play 6-7 songs that way and concentrate on the vocals and it was good. We dont have any immediate plans apart from we are now working the song “The Planets” which has just been played twice on BBC London and Gideon Coe played it last week and it got a great review on 6musics ‘Fresh on the net’.
And new material – is that an ongoing thing, or do you have to specifically sit down and have a think about that?
We recorded about 30 songs for the album , so there are loads left over and mainly finished so the second album is ready really , we were going to put it out this year but the vinyl offer came in and we thought it would be a nice thing to have. The second batch of songs are darker and not so radio friendly but they will be out sooner or later.
Check out the bands new song The Planets (which we love)