Jonathan Clancy, the face and front man of 'His Clancyness' grew up between Canada and Italy listening to David Bowie whilst developing his own musical style. Since then, Jonathan has been a member of multiple successful bands including: A Classic Education and Settlefish but most recently His Clancyness.
Jonathan discusses his new record, road memories and what it means to be a band.
CM: 'Vicious' is released on October 8th, could you start by telling us a bit about this record?
Jonathan: I kind of consider it our first album, we've done things before but they've always been compilations of singles and this is kind of the first release to me that is actually stuff imagined for an album. We recorded it in Detroit, we spent almost about a month there, and the city played a big part into the album and some of the themes. I guess it was our first time there and, I don't know how familiar you are with the story of Detroit, that basically right now it's like a completely rundown, destroyed city, but at the same time there's like a bunch of new life going on because it's very cheap to live there. It's got these massive open green spaces where houses used to be and they burnt down and now it's like basically farmtown in the middle of the city so it was quite inspiring for us being there. So yeah, we recorded the album there in a really nice studio called High Bias.
CM: It was produced by Chris Koltay, what was it like working with him?
Jonathan: He's amazing. I met him on the road maybe like a year earlier and I met him because he does sound for bands like Swans or Liars and, I don't know, we just hit it off. He's kind of like the perfect guy and he kind of understood what we were trying to do - we wanted to record the album as live as possible, at least the core of each song, and then do a ton of overdubs and he was into it. Plus, he's one of those guys who I think believes that if you come to his studio, you have to kind of live the city too and that's something different from other places I've recorded before. He just gave us bikes and we could bike all day while we were on downtime from recording and I think that made a big difference.
CM: When you were growing up you moved between Canada and Italy, is that correct?
Jonathan: Yeah, I've lived in like maybe ten, twelve different cities. I've lived most of my life in Canada, then Italy and a bit of England actually too and a bit of the States.
CM: So did your environments and where you were culturally affect your musical career?
Jonathan: Totally! I mean, for example, first of all I would say that living in Italy at the moment, whenever something happens and things turn out to be good I always feel like it's kind of like a victory because, being here, it feels like you're secluded from the main rock 'n' roll cities and paths so I'm really proud that we've managed to get things done by staying here the last couple of years, I don't think it's such an obvious thing. There's like a ton of good bands out here in Italy but they don't seem to really go outside of the country that much. At the same time, I think living in all these cities and seeing different cultures is definitely an inspiration and extra baggage for the songs and stuff like that. I feel like, for example, I haven't lived in Canada for quite a long time and that nostalgia for Canada and a place like that often turns up in some of the song matters and subjects.
CM: Has being situated in Italy hindered your career?
Jonathan: I think so but at the same time I've always made a tremendous effort to overcome that. Early on, before we were signed to Fat Cat, we definitely tried to play as much as possible in London even if it meant working double-time shifts and getting a flight up and maybe not getting any money in London. So yes and no, I think now we're at the point where it doesn't really matter anymore and I'm happy that we've worked to make it that way.
CM: You're in other bands as well, would you like to briefly talk about them?
Jonathan: Yeah, I play in another band called A Classic Education and we've put out a few things on an American label called Lefse. So we've toured with that band and His Clancyness has been going on actually for quite a while - I would so maybe three years - but now is kind of the firming of the whole thing.
CM: Do you feel like each band helped one another in some respect?
Jonathan: Totally, yeah.
CM: You've mentioned you feel like you're just coming out despite being together for three years, why has there been a sudden progression for the album?
Jonathan: I don't know, I mean, before this album basically it was just me. I recorded everything by myself and then, I don't know, at a certain point I stopped doing, like, I was doing a lot of 7 inches and things like that. I started doing 7 inches because I kind of liked the idea of putting out just one song and not having to worry about other songs going with it, and then since I've always been a big album lover, I guess that love came back and I managed to have a group of about fifteen songs that I really felt strongly went together and had a theme going. The album's called 'Vicious' because the lyrics in the songs are harsher than in the past things I've been doing so I kind of saw them going together so that's when I had the idea of going to record and thought Detroit was going to be a good place.
CM: What's the transition been like from recording by yourself and translating that music into a live setting as a band?
Jonathan: It's been amazing, I mean, I love band music. My name's Jonathan Clancy and I could've called the project 'Jonathan Clancy' but I chose 'His Clancyness', even if it has my name in it, because it gives me a bit of a shield and I think a band does that. I love playing with friends. I like the idea of being on the road with friends and not by myself and musically it's changed the whole amount because I think the music is a lot tougher and thicker because of the band. Especially, what's changed a lot is the rhythm section which definitely I think is a thing that comes out from the record.
CM: Do you think performing as a band has enhanced the live experience?
Jonathan: Yeah, totally. And the good thing is it's not just a band where they're playing my songs, it's like we're all four best friends and known each other a number of years.
CM: So you're a true band in that respect?
Jonathan: Yeah, totally. I believe, like, I always say to the guys; when we're on the road, we're a band and that's it.
CM: You mentioned your love for albums and classic 7 inch. Your latest EP is out on cassette - how did that decision come about in the digital world?
Jonathan: It's funny, His Clancyness has a cassette history because before that, I put out two other cassettes on two small labels; one is an Italian label, another one's a cassette label from New York called Mirror Universe, so it's funny that the first thing Fat Cat asked me was, 'So we just signed you, before the album comes out we want to put some music out to the people that follow Fat Cat so they'll get to know you', and they were like, 'Let's do a tape' and I'm like, 'Oh, there you go!' (laughs). I guess tape is kind of, I don't know, I've always been a fan of tape, I kind of feel like for my generation, when I think of recording analogue in the studios - so, on big reels - visually, then after I see it, well, on a tape just because it's reels, it's a tape, I love the sound of it, I love the sound of a tape in the car, it just has a thickness to it. I personally hate CDs. I just don't like CDs at all. So between a CD and tape, I'd always go for a tape.
CM: Are you a fan of digital downloading?
Jonathan: Yeah, I can see music that way too. I prefer vinyl and tape if possible but I'm not against anything else. I mean, it's an easy way also to start a career and get around so I'm not against downloading or anything.
CM: We've got Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook now - Do you think these are important for bands in order to gain recognition?
Jonathan: I think it's a catch 22 situation. I engage in all of those and some I prefer more than others, like I definitely am a fan of photography and stuff like that so I much more prefer images to having to write something, at the same time I'm a fan of like mystery music and I really hate when people and bands or musicians maybe write something about their reviews or go answer anything on forum discussions. I believe that mystery should be the main thing in music and it used to be when I was a little kid growing up and listening to bands, I mean, there was all this mystery about it. Now there really isn't that much so I'd kind of like that to come back in a certain way. But then it's like a catch 22 because for small bands it's hard because if you don't engage in social networks then it's kind of hard. There's a band on Fat Cat, it's actually a girl called US Girls and I really admire her because she really tries hard to not engage in social networks and I think it's amazing.
CM: There's a section on your website called 'Road Memories', are there any specific memories or stories that you can perhaps tell us about?
Jonathan: Well, actually last weekend we played a festival down south in Italy and I met one of my heroes which is Lætitia Sadier from Stereolab, so yeah (laughs) that's my story. I'm a big music fan so whenever I meet people like that, I kind of go nuts.
CM: Have you had any other inspirations and influences on your music?
Jonathan: Well, the idea of this record, especially the artwork, I can say was trying to go back to the 70s glam-pop kind of era, definitely like Bowie - I love Bowie but I wouldn't say it's so much a musical influence but I kind of liked trying to go back to that period just for the mystery in the music and how weirdly they presented the music in an ambiguous kind of way.
CM: You're starting a tour in Italy next month?
Jonathan: Yeah, we always play here because it's close to home. I think out main Europe tour is in November. We'll be coming to UK too.
CM: In terms of location and touring, is there any specific place that is your biggest preference?
Jonathan: Well, I haven't been to Scandinavia yet so that's definitely a place I want to go to. I've been basically everywhere but never been there. I want to play Glasgow, I've played there in the past with other bands but I've never had a really good show so I'm quite looking forward to going back there to see if this time it happens.
CM: What message are you trying to spread via His Clancyness?
Jonathan: That's a tough question. I don't know, I'll have to think about that. What am I trying to express? I don't know if it can be summed up in a phrase. I guess one of the things maybe with this record, the title of the album's called 'Vicious' because I kind of liked the idea that music can make you feel awkward sometimes. I'm quite an ordinary person but maybe when I write music or when I'm in the record I can wear a mask and not be that ordinary person, so I like the idea of also through the cover of casting an awkward spell. I think if people can feel awkward initially when listening to the music, then after, embracing it, that would be something I would be happy about.
CM: Do you find writing to be therapeutic?
CM: What would you like to see in your future?
Jonathan: Well, personally, just playing as much shows as possible. I know it sounds maybe banal but I really love the road experience. We always call ourselves in the band 'road warriors', we're not guys that will get bored after three weeks, we really like touring for a long time.
CM: Thanks Jonathan for speaking with us!
Find out more about His Clancyness. You can check out our interview with Jonathan Clancy from back in September or take a look at our Introducing: Artist Spotlight Feature or Watch 'His Clancyness - Zenith Diamond' video here (US only).
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Something Just Like This [Lyric]
Goodbye Christopher Robin