Q+A: Clipd Beaks

September 25, 2007

The other day we talked to guitarist/synthesizer dude Greg Pritchard about being in Clipd Beaks, a band that we didn't realize sounded like Portishead until he told us they did. To us, Clipd Beaks sound like punching yourself in the ribcage but in a way where it feels good and everything is really clear after you do it. We're into it. Clipd Beaks' solid Hoarse Lords comes out on November 6th. Check out what Greg had to say about the band's dynamics, living in LA, and touring after the jump.

Related: Clipd Beaks, "Melter"

What’s your job now?

I’m working for a company called The Design People, doing website design for real estate agents.

Do all you guys still have day jobs?

Oh yeah. Right now two of us live in LA—which is me and the singer—and the other two live in Oakland. The two guys that live in Oakland are doing landscaping and then I do this and our singer Nick works at an American Apparel in the back stock.

Why did you move to LA?

Well, I grew up in Minnesota. I was the first person of our band to move out to California. When I first came out, I hated it and thought it was awful. I went to San Francisco and thought it seemed a little bit more like something I could get used to, coming from the Minnesotan perspective. After everyone else had moved out to the Bay Area we started doing the band and started playing shows in LA. We played at the Smell a bunch of times and the Echo and other all ages places. I was really impressed with the music scene down here and the people I was meeting in terms of their whole attitude towards music. I think that if you look at the bands that have been coming out of here and blowing up, it’s all really positive. It’s really “posi-core.” Which is pretty much the opposite of San Francisco. I think this should all be fun, a lot of people are going to complain like “You’re playing the Smell and it’s all a bunch of 16 year old kids,” but that was once me! I went to all ages shows and I think it’s really important that there’s a space for that to happen because I think that there's something about the energy that comes from that. The LA scene defied my expectations, every time we came down we had a really great response, had really great shows and played with great bands. It feels way more free to me. It’s the first city I’ve wanted to wear on my chest.

Is it hard to get everyone together to practice since Oakland and LA aren’t especially close?

Well, [the living situation] just kind of came about that way because of people’s personal situations. We didn’t see each other at all for like two or three months after the tour but we practiced a couple weeks ago in an old church in Oakland that one of our friends lives in. I hadn’t even seen any of my instruments since the last tour, because our drummer had them the whole time in the van. I don’t think Nick sang at all. We were kind of worried that we had forgotten all the songs. Then we started playing the songs we just nailed all of them. We were all really surprised about that. We concluded that it was the same feeling as with the Rolling Stones. They don’t need to practice, they are just like, “Alright cool, let’s go on tour for a year, we already know the songs, it’s cool.”

So all these jobs let you guys tour and take all that time off for recording?

Well, when we were recording…I guess recording would’ve been more efficient if we weren’t working. We spent like eight months or something to put together the record, and we didn’t take any time off for that. We did take a ton of time off earlier this year to tour though. It was kind of my idea to organize this huge, ridiculously long tour that we did. So we did that and then some of us were talking about what we wanted to do after that and I didn’t want to go back to San Francisco, I wanted to get started with something new. My idea was that I wanted to move down to LA and Nick was pretty into that too. So we did that and the two other dudes ended up staying in Minnesota for awhile after the tour and then both came back out to Oakland. We’ve been laying low because we’re obviously going to be going out again for quite awhile.

A really long time right?

Yeah. I guess the good thing about doing two and a half months is that after that anything else seems pretty short. But the difference is that last time with that really big route, we were pretty ambitious, but when it actually came to booking it—especially on the East Coast—it was hard to fill everything in. We ended up having a lot of days off, we played a lot of shows but we also had time to hang out which was great. This time we have almost no days off, we’ll be really busy and hopefully it’ll go by pretty fast.

What was the reception like when you played New York?

We actually have been out there two different times. The first time was probably the worst experience of our lives and it taught us an important lesson: you have to take things that people say about New York with a grain of salt. A couple of people booked some shows for us and they were like, “Oh man, you guys gotta come out! These shows are going to be huge!” We drove 2000 miles straight there from Minneapolis to play for two people. When we came out on the last tour, we had help from some friends. It’s been hard because there is always a million things going on on any given night. People are like, “Oh yeah you guys always have a hard time because you’re playing the same night as Deerhunter,” or something like that.

Can you talk to me a little bit about the process of making Hoarse Lords?

We didn’t really approach it with the process of “Let’s make a record.” It just kind of happened because we had a certain number of songs. We don’t really go and record 15 or 20 songs and then go, “Which ones do we like the best?” It’s all totally written on the spot as the four of us together. Nobody comes in with an idea. I don’t really play music except when I’m with everybody else. The process of writing a Clipd Beaks song is whatever happens on the spot when we’re all hanging out and playing music. That’s a Clipd Beaks song. So it takes us a really long time to write a song. This was the thing that really took us in a different direction when we started this band compared to all of the bands we have been in before, where one person would write a song and we would all learn the song. We threw out that idea and decided we would basically be more of a jam band. So we just get together and we have a case of beer and we just view it like, "This is what we do when we hang out as friends. We’re going to get a case of beer and play some music." We might be able to be a little more strategic next time.

When I was listening to the album it sounded like you were recording jam sessions and editing from those, maybe cutting and pasting different aspects.

That’s true for one of the songs. Actually most of it’s all really structured out stuff that we spent a lot of time working on. We recorded this record with a friend of ours who was gracious enough to give us free reign to go into his studio take up a lot of his time and not charge us a lot of money. Nonetheless, we had to be more organized in terms of how we spent our time. So most of the time was spent on the mixing, but we went in over one weekend and recorded everything live and then from there me and Nick spent many months after that where we would go in individually. I would go in and take one song at a time and do a bunch of other overdubs of guitar and samples and keyboards. We always have this thing where we keep layering and layering and layering stuff on and when we get to the point where we cant add anymore, we start mixing it.

Do you have trouble recreating some of the stuff live?

We have always viewed ourselves as a live band and what we put out on records as two different sides of the same coin. Ultimately when you hear the song live, what you’re really hearing is how the song sounded when we came up with it. When you hear the song on the record, it’s that plus everything else we could possibly think of it to add to it. By the time it gets to the point where we’re playing stuff live…usually we’re not even playing the songs from that record anymore. We’re playing something new. So this time on the tour we’ll be playing a mix of songs from the album and even some new stuff that we have. It’s very loose in terms of the live show.

What kind of stuff influenced you guys?

In high school three of us were in hardcore bands...even the Jesus Lizard was a big influence on us as far back as that. You can probably hear a lot of that in the new record. We started getting into Krautrock and a lot of electronic music, then we did this band that was totally instrumental, we said that it was a prog rock band…we were listening to a lot of Rush and Yes, which are still huge influences for us. I quit playing guitar and was doing electronic stuff and getting into sampling. We were doing all that and writing these long songs that were really psychedelic and mellow and then we got bored with that wanted to be a party band. We just take everything and make it trashy. We take all this really good, real thought out stuff—I think that on our new record, parts of it sound like Portishead. It’s really random but we hit start from something like that or something like Soundgarden or Red Hot Chili Peppers. What we wanted our reference points for this record to be was Jane’s Addiction. I think they would probably think that we listen to things that are way more fucked up than what we actually do. The stuff we listen to is probably really boring. We just kind of take it and make it more fucked up and that’s what comes out.

Posted: September 25, 2007
Q+A: Clipd Beaks