Flooding in (thank you Bristol) just after me to the Marble Factory, offering carrots and crisps before reveling on the wonder of the dressing room’s rocking chair, Clean Cut Kid certainly made an entrance before they opened for Shura on November 29th. I sat down with them to have a chat about the past, the future and favourite farmyard animals. Amongst other things.
Perhaps unknown to most, fresh from the streets of Liverpool Clean Cut Kid are already 25 dates into their tour after six months of preparing and a lifetime of being ready for this.
Just having finished their tour with Circa Waves, before moving straight on supporting the Courteneers up until Christmas, Evelyn gushes over the band and the ever adoring fans: “the crowd was so much younger than we’ve played to before. We hadn’t experienced the crazy obsessive fan where they’re just so excited to be there. We’ve seen excited fans, but the youthful excitement of a 12-13 year old girl just going mad at the front was interesting, I really enjoyed it. They’re all really nice guys in Circa Waves and the venues were great and pretty much all sold out, it was really cool.”
Although their heart still lies in Liverpool, I asked the band about their favourite gigs so far. Mark has his reservations on London “There’s always a weird vibe to the London shows, it’s the only one that really matters for label and industry stuff. The bands in general only feel pressured about the London ones.”
Evelyn’s choice of Bristol’s very own O2 resulted in a mental self fist bump, for sure. She then echoed the rest of the band’s thoughts on playing at home: “I get more nervous in Liverpool. You almost know the whole crowd, they’re either family or friends. We’re just getting to the point where at our last gig in Liverpool there were people there that we didn’t know, who bought tickets as fans, so you feel the pressure to impress them.”
On our city, the band was extremely complementary: “We absolutely love it. It’s like the coolest part of London, spread across a little city centre. Liverpool has a similar vibe to Bristol, it’s got a lot of artists and musicians – it’s a student city isn’t it. “
On Clean Cut Kid’s growing success, Evelyn confirms: “It’s cool – we’ve started having people actually replying on Twitter and stuff. It’s funny because we don’t know who they are and they’re actually bothered about our lives, we just think we’re quite boring!” And yet that’s where the attraction lies. After our chat whilst watching their set, there’s an undeniable aura of positivity, which is just contagious. The chemistry between Mark and Evelyn is tangible, Saul’s energy knows no bounds and there’s a fierce buzz and power in Ross’ drums.
On the band’s mantra, Mark says that it’s all been an honest interpretation of events: “We haven’t been nudged anywhere yet. We’ve been left alone creatively really. I’m not into the effect of trying to look a specific way. This is our job, I don’t get why you wouldn’t be happy. One of the biggest things behind the success of the Beatles wasn’t just the music, which is obviously incredible, but it’s also the accessibility. It was just four lads with no front, and they were always funny and controversial in interviews. The fans just though ‘I know these people’, which I think is something that actually a lot of Liverpool bands have about them. “
This point led to a discussion on the way that generally speaking, people do tend to put on a front to appear a certain way in order to gain recognition from their peers – resulting in a monotonous crowd of unhappy looking people. Particularly relevant at our University – we’re lucky to live in a city which is so culturally vibrant and full of artists, something that even the Liverpudlian quartet acknowledged. Perhaps we should take a leaf out of Clean Cut Kid’s book and just express happiness – it doesn’t need to be cool, it’s natural.
I then asked the band how the recent explosion of the project had affected their personal lives, even though it always has been closely intertwined with professional projects, as Mark mentioned. Evelyn goes on, stressing the importance of authentic Netflix and Chill: “Its just really hard to plan anything. If you say yes too far in advance something is bound to come up. When you have time off all you want to do is just chill and watch something on Netflix, you’ll just burn out if you fit too much in. “
We went on to discuss what Clean Cut Kid actually is, starting with the name: “The project started quite acoustic, with different guitar textures and then we took it to a different place genre wise. My brother said that we should find a song title from Bob Dylan’s Empire Burlesque, as it’s the first album where he goes from acoustic to electric. We just looked across the titles and it jumped out at us. There’s no other connection to Bob Dylan at all, I love him but he doesn’t influence the sound of the band.”
In terms of references, there were mentions of the “classics” as put by Eveleyn: Peter Gabriel and Fleetwood Mac first of all, but also the likes of Saint Vincent, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend.
Mark takes responsibility for all of the songwriting, drawing on personal events. This only makes the band’s music more attractive, manifesting an honesty and appeal that you just can’t fabricate: “I’m always trying to grip hold of something and nudge my personality into it as much as I can. I don’t think I can do the whole McCartney thing yet of “baby you can drive my car” and writing songs about nothing yet. Regardless of what people say I always think, ‘is it actually any good?’ It’s hard to write about something that hasn’t actually happened to you, for it to be personal.”
Saul on the other hand has no problem with this at all: “I wrote a tune once about a full English breakfast that I had. There was two sausages, two pieces of bacon, one egg, couldn’t tell you how many beans, two pieces of toast, a hash brown. I woke up that morning…” Evelyn cuts him off before I can hear about the chorus, and reminds me: “he’s the funny one”. Apparently, he has a habit of starting to tell these stories to throw journalists off, and just seeing how long he can get away with it for. Quite a long time with me, apparently.
Last but not least, I had to find out about their favourite farmyard animals. Three pigs and a cow it would seem – and that was it. No frills, no front, big smiles and fantastic tunes. Clean Cut Kid were a wonder, most definitely the Vitamin C that we could all do with a bit more of.
Interview initially written for Epigram