Clearlake - Interviewed

13 March 2003

Clearlake Interview
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Contact Music caught up with Clearlake front man, Jason Pegg, and guitarist Sam Hewitt

Contact Music caught up with Clearlake front man, Jason Pegg, and guitarist Sam Hewitt at a bar in London's trendy Hoxton.

Despite a frantic morning, which has seen them play a live set for Radio 6, and their van, break down in the city's red zone they are in good spirits. Pegg very frail with a wisp of blonde beard, alternates between wry and wide eyed, and Hewitt his round face beaming sunshine is enthusiasm and wit.

We chat amiably about, the success they've had since debut release, 'Lido' and the pressure placed on them by some when recording the majestic follow up, 'Cedars'. Storm clouds gather, when they talk about drummer, James Butcher, who very recently quit the band, the pain still fresh, but pleasant vistas return when they speak of their ambition, to make a record, which proves, truly timeless and enduring. With 'Cedars', they may already have achieved that.

Contact Music: How are you enjoying London?

Jason Pegg: We haven't been here for a while; it's a bit stinky and really quick. We did this Radio 6 thing before we had really woken up, and it was live, which is the first time we've done anything like that.

Clearlake Interview  @
Clearlake Interview  @
Clearlake Interview  @
CM: How did it go?

JP: It went amazingly well I think.

CM: Lots of pretty incredible things have happened to the band since you released 'Lido'. Which has been your favourite?

JP: Later (with Jools Holland) was pretty good

Sam Hewitt: Spain was great too and we had a fantastic time with all the festival stuff.

JP: I found being in the studio at the end of this record quite enjoyable.

CM: You toured with Elliot Smith, how did you find him?

JP: He was really good, seeing him got me into his music. I kind of chatted to him a couple of times; he seemed very shy and nice.

CM: You received massive critical adulation for the 'Lido' LP, did you expect that, or did it come as something of a shock?

SH: Yeah I mean when we released it we obviously thought it was good but I for one never expected anything like what happened.

JP: I expected it only in that we were actually starting to do what we wanted to do, making music that would appeal to us. I was thinking 'I'd like this'; 'I'd buy this', so when it happened I kind of thought 'fair enough'. A lot of times though it was more than I ever expected and that very quickly sometimes turns into less than you expect because you get spoilt.

CM: How do you think 'Cedars' develops the 'Lido' blueprint?

SH: It's more guitary

JP: Yes, it was recorded in a much more raw way and it's more of a journey really.

SH: The themes are bigger, bigger subjects.

JP: Maybe they are, yeah, maybe they are, and as a band because we can play better, the songs have more space in them because you don't need to cram stuff in to hold it together.

SH: We've been listening to bands like Low who've just mastered that use of space, and old old stuff, which is crankier.

CM: Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins) produced the record. What did he bring to the table?

SH: It's always an interesting question. He brought his cheekiness; it was very relaxed we just felt so at home. And a confidence, which is important. I mean we did so much of this record ourselves and you reach a point where you go 'we've got no indication of whether we are getting it right or getting it wrong', and surely, we must be getting it wrong according to everyone else. Then we met some other people and people generally who were going, 'you've got to re-record this you've got to do this', some real idiots.

JP: One in particular who I thought was quite nervous, quite egotistical.

CM: Who was that?

JP: I'm not going to say... Anyway, Simon just came in and did the opposite, which was, 'oh you're brilliant, you're fine'. Which was ideal because we wanted to make our mistakes and just do it ourselves, we didn't want somebody coming in and going you've done bad here? He just went, 'brilliant, brilliant', in, out and we had finished the record.

CM: You recorded in Brighton (the band is from Hove) and France, how did that affect the sound?

SH: Different spaces, the drum sounds we could get at the studio in France were unique.

JP: And it was perfect for that dream of recording really ambiently in a special place. We were lucky, because France just turned out to be incredible; those are my favourite drum sounds that we've ever recorded. It was like a big stone bathroom in a house in the countryside, in the Champagne region.

CM: What would you say to those people who liken you to The Smiths?

JP: Partly true. I would rather say that we are the modern day Clearlake, but I really like The Smiths, do you like The Smiths (to Sam)?

SH: Sure, I do.

CM: Were they influences lyrically?

JP: Definitely, definitely, I don't want to say specifically because I don't want to pretend to be like Morrissey or anything, but I love his lyrics, they are my favourite lyrics they're funny and dark.

CM: 'Cedars' is quite a dark album isn't it?

JP: At times, (pauses) that's kind of the way it came out really. I think the next one is going to be happy, more positive.

CM: Is that because of experiences you are having?

JP: I think in the last two years quite a lot of stuff happened, I don't want to say what but we've all had big changes.

SH: You get to experience the depths of emotions.

JP: We've had a bit of a hard time. I don't think we have been having as hard a time in the last six months as we were having a year and a half ago. I'm including all of us in that, Butch (James Butcher, drums) as well.

SH: He hasn't progressed though; he has dug a hole into the ground and is smouldering.

JP: Butch (he cries in mock alarm) are you down there?

SH: He has left the band basically.

JP: Yes, he had too many commitments. It's only just happened.

SH: It wasn't official until the last week or so.

CM: Why did he leave?

SH: Initially he had tendonitis in his arm, but he was sick of it really. He wants security and we aren't in that position right now.

CM: How would you like people to remember 'Cedars' in twenty years time?

SH: Fondly.

JP: Its weird isn't it to imagine making a record, which really caught people; maybe it would take five, ten, or fifteen years. That personally is my goal, to make one of those records, not necessarily taking stuff that is just around you at the time but taking stuff that you've loved forever, because coolness, comes and goes and people get really poisoned by it and miss out on a lot of beautiful stuff.


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