Hype is a crazy thing. It sets an expectation that few bands are ever able to achieve. Southern California’s Henry Clay People take the hype and the endless comparisons and respond in the most logical fashion. They have fun. A quick trip through YouTube, shows a band whose live shows have gotten looser and more passionate with time. With an impressive list of invitations to the best of this summers’ festivals, prepare for the hype to reach supernova intensity. Listening to their music leaves you with the feeling most people must have had when they heard Born To Run for the first time. Vocalist/Guitarist Joey Siara took a some time to let us take the pulse of one of America’s fastest growing bands’.
TDOA: The band has been compared to an amazing list of bands (Pavement, Replacements, Clash, etc.). Have you gotten an opportunity to meet any of these bands that you clearly admire?
JS: Hmmm… I’ve never met anyone from those bands. I did get a chance to meet Jim Eno from Spoon this year at SXSW and I have a been a big time Spoon fan for quite a while. He was a very nice guy. Sincere and down to earth. I have heard horror stories about “meeting your idols” but so far so good.
TDOA: Some bands eschew comparisons, because they feel it pigeon-holes them. How do you feel about being compared to other bands? When you sit down to write new songs, do you consciously steer away from song elements to try and avoid the comparisons?
JS: I’m fine with being compared to other bands. It’s unavoidable. You are what you eat right? I have no qualms about writing songs that are influenced by the bands I listen to. The problem comes when bands pull too much from only one or two of their influences. As long as we listen to a lot of music, then the tunes should reflect that.
TDOA: Is the music business approaching a point where major labels have ceased to become the driving force in getting music to the masses?
JS: I wish I knew more about the business side of things. I’ve grown up with idea that major=bad/ indie=good but I don’t think things are that cut and dry. Both majors and indies can provide artistic freedom. Both majors and indies can screw over bands. The music world is changing. Fleet Foxes are on SNL. Who would have thought that possible 25 years ago? I can name loads of my favorite bands that will probably never see any major label release, yet I know about them, lots of people know about them so somebody is doing something right.
TDOA: Do you still strive to be signed by a major label and how do you think the demands of a major label might impact the band?
JS: I would probably prefer an indie label. More my style. I don’t see us a major label band at this point.
TDOA: Tell me about the writing process. Are The Henry Clay People a “jam” band in the studio or do you walk in with pretty structured songs?
JS: Usually, I write some chords and have some structure and then take that to the band. We play it through, maybe tweak it bit. Then if it’s “good enough” it becomes a song and I probably end up writing lyrics.
TDOA: While you’re recording, do you put any thought into how the songs will be performed live?
JS: For the most part, I like the recordings to be kind of a document of how the band is live. We’re not too big on “producing.” Anyone with a ProTools rig can make their songs sound big and produced these days so I think that it serves us well to just try to get across a “live” feel on record. We track 70-80% of the stuff live in a room together.
TDOA: What do you enjoy more; playing live or playing in the studio?
JS: Whichever we are NOT doing at the moment. We’ve been on tour for a few months this year so I am dying to get into a studio and start recording. However, it is pretty much guaranteed that while in the studio, I’ll get frustrated with something and want nothing more than to be up on stage. In general I think playing live is our thing.
TDOA: There are so many great bands coming out of Southern California right now. What’s interesting to me is the diverse sound of the bands. You get the almost British sound of bands like Darker My Love or She Wants Revenge, while THCP fit into a completely different genre. Traditionally, a “scene” produces like-minded sound (Seattle’s grunge, the Athens GA- REM sound, etc.)Any sense of why the SoCal sound is so diverse right now?
JS: I think that it has to do with LA being a city of transplants for the most part. My brother and I were born and raised in suburban SoCal and not until I actually moved out to LA did I truly realize the pull that the city has. When people move here they bring whatever influences from whatever places they are coming from. Jonathan our bassist is from Texas and Mike our drummer is from Georgia. I like to think that they add some regional flavor to the band.
TDOA: You’re playing a few great festivals this summer (including Lolla and ACL). Any bands that you’re excited to see?
JS: Lou Reed at Lolla. I am a big fan and he is truly an icon. There are tons of bands that I’m excited to see but he tops it all.
TDOA: Do you prefer the grandeur of playing to a large festival crowd or the intimacy of the (relatively) smaller venues you’re playing now?
JS: I grew up going to shows in small clubs and I’m certain that’s where I’ll always feel the most comfortable. There is something special about the claustrophobia of small venues, being trapped in a sweaty room together with other people for the love of music.
For more information visit: http://www.myspace.com/thehenryclaypeople.