Interview: Clean Cut Kid

Clean Cut Kid

Words & Photos: Elena Katrina

cckshoot-1 elenakatrinaIt’s been a year to the day since we last sat down with the lovely guys n gal that are Clean Cut Kid, when they played the closing party for Liverpool Music Week. This year they’re back in town same day same festival, only now they’re headlining their own show, and it sold out weeks ago.

Things have changed a lot in the last 12 months, even down to the fact that I now only get to sit with one of the band as their time is needed to do interviews else where. I get offered the “organ grinder or the two monkeys”, and Ev isn’t even in the building. I know I’ll get two very different interviews but this time around I go with “Mr Organ Grinder”, the singer-songwriter behind the indie-pop marvel that is Clean Cut Kid. His name, in case you don’t yet know it, is Mike. A name he thinks is boring – even though he has it tattooed onto his hand. Perhaps in case he comes up with a new stage name or just in case he’s found passed out in an ally? Who really knows why. He’s covered in all kinds of tattoos. It’s just another part of this incredibly talented man’s creative expression.

An expression he hopes will last a long time with his band Clean Cut Kid. We’re sat on the stairs in the hallway of Liverpool’s Arts Club, the venue for the night’s show and it’s probably the first time I’ve ever really got to have a proper chat with Mike. One about music and how things are going – rather than checking they’re eating on tour, and pulling on his beard to make sure it’s real (I assure you it is).

It’s often hard to known what Mike is thinking or feeling, partly because of that big ol ball of fluff bouncing from his chin. But today when he talks, he’s really animated, he’s clearly passionate about his band and all that they have done, but he’s also keen to make sure that the fans are getting the best for their money and that it doesn’t all go too fast. Really, in 2016, a lot has happened.

“More than you’d think physically possible. With all the supports and festivals I think, I don’t know since the last time we saw you, but I think we’re gonna have done more than 100 by the time we get to the end of the year. And basically recorded a full album again. Because we’ve recorded the album twice basically.”

Ohh twice, do tell us more. “It’s just we moved from one sound to another and so they want the album… the album will be a mix. I mean a lot of people just don’t know, they think it’s one but it’s actually a different producer and a completely different school of mixing. Everything’s different about it but obviously the songwriting and performance is the same so most people don’t recognise but we’ve kind of made the album… There’s no song that we’ve recorded first time that we don’t have done again this year.”

So if a fan has picked up a copy of the singles on vinyl then they’ll be different on the album? “There will be some different versions of the singles but mainly the tracks that have never been released. But then there’s also going to be some limited edition EPs and we’re going to do some cassettes so hopefully all of the stuff comes out in some way shape or form. So how we’ve done it I don’t know.”

It’s true to say that this band has worked it’s collective behind off over the past twelve months, it is any wonder they are still standing. Are they vampires? “I must be. I mean we’ve got Liverpool now, which is the 2nd to last date, then Oxford tomorrow then a bus straight from Oxford, 10 days in the studio and on the last day of the 10th day I get back on the bus and drive straight to the first venue for Courteeners and then we do the full Courteeners tour.”

cckshoot-2-copyI don’t know about you readers but I’m feeling exhausted just thinking about it and then.. “on the last day of the Courteeners tour we go back to the studio to finish working on the album. We’ll finish on the 22nd of December.” For a Christmas break? “Yeah.” Shouldn’t that be a “fuck yeah?” – “Yeah yeah that’s it. And you know like you think oh it’s a great job and it’s loads of fun and it doesn’t feel like work and that is true. But where in there do you, you know, wash your clothes, get a haircut, it’s not a thing, there’s no life like. It’s really strange. I do big check ins with my family when I get home where as Evelyn is more speaking to her parents three times a day and I’m not like that. I am really close to my parents but it’s easier if they don’t have to worry about the day to day life and craziness of my life and vice versa and then we just come together and have a big refresher. They’re coming tonight so that will be good.”

So there’s obviously a lot of support from friends and family as you’d expect, but what’s the vibe from them on how the band are doing? “It’s strange because like music is a weird thing. I started playing when I was eight and I always put in the same amount of effort in the whole time but until you get a deal and start being all over the internet or Spotify and iTunes and all these boxes that you have to tick for the  X Factor generation, I guess. That’s when  people start going “Oh! He’s actually doing music professionally” and I’m like, no I was a session guitarist for years before and you guys just thought I was doing a few gigs like. So it’s weird, not my parents, they’ve been there since day one, been totally supportive, but it’s a mad thing to take in. And it’s really strange, the crowds are getting …. I mean, on this tour it’s been unbelievable. I mean you might have seen it at a few of the festivals but this whole tour the crowds are getting so young. And we did like 18+ venues for the whole thing and I mean no ID’s could possibly have been checked because I haven’t seen one 18 year old on the whole tour. Like it’s just rooms full of kids, all of them.”

Mike sounds genuinely baffled by all of this so what does he put it all down to? “I don’t know… It must be Radio 1 I guess. I don’t know. I just wouldn’t think.. You’d think that we’d be a band that would have a really strong early 20s following, but it’s 14-18 it seems. It’s really strange. I don’t know.”

He pauses to ponder on it.”It seems like all the fans have been like… they’re super into the band and this is the first headline tour. It’s really strange, I feel like guilty but so many people have come to like four dates of the tour and just been like following the band round on tour and you’re like “wow this is your fourth gig on the tour” and it’s like really weird and you feel guilty because you’re like “really? you want to see the show again?” I just feel like… wow that I’m that important that you’d come and watch it again … maybe go and watch a different gig there’s loads of great bands out there. Not that I’m [complaining]…  It’s really flattering but I feel guilty that they’re spending all that time and money and travelling around it’s a bit like…. It’s pressure but I guess we have to get used to it.”

The whole time Mike talks about his fans and the support they give the band his eyes are twinkling. He seems enormously proud of everyone who is involved in , the band, the team, the fans, he’s proud yet he’s a very humble man.

clean cut kid elena katrinaIt’s definitely a compliment that the band have gained such a strong following over the past year or so, I include myself in that fanbase too. I am always reminding people that I am a music fan first and foremost.

So it’s going well! “It seems to be going well, yeah!”

So what’s coming next year for the band, after a short and sweet rest of course? “We’ve kind of had an album band’s year without having an album. Everyone’s saying “wow it’s gone so crazy for you this year and you don’t even have an album!” So It’s really hard to know what to expect when it is our album year. But everyone’s like “ahhh it’s the album year when the band go big” and it’s like wow.” At this point Mike is speaking even faster than usual and becoming even more animated, so I asked him if it scares him.

“Yeah it scares me cos we’re like…. I don’t want the band to burn out. Like tonight for example, sold out 3 weeks ago and that’s in the middle of a big tour and on a Halloween weekend so we’re like shit whenever we come back to Liverpool we’ve got kind of  Academy 1 is our only option, it’s like where else do you go. I just don’t want it to go… maybe I’m just scared of it burning out you know.

People say that you need to do the legwork and you need the core fan base. So no matter how much people get into you and go crazy about you and are in love with you, you’ve got your core fans who know you and want to know all about the songs and I really want the time to build that. Because I’m a songwriter first and foremost. I’d like to build a career out of writing songs, not be a flash in the pan. I really don’t want that and the fans are desperate to know us and know what all of the songs are all about and all of that stuff and those are the fans that will stay and I want that. Once you get to playing to 1000 blacked out faces in an Academy 1 it’s like the connections start disappearing and then it goes to stadiums and it’s just gone. But I’m really scared about that happening too fast. I’m really not into it all for the glory, it’s the only thing I actually want, is for people to want to know about the songs are about and actually be interested in what we’re singing about, so I don’t want that to disappear. ”

And it’s at that point that we are rudely interrupted by my alarm, alerting me to the fact that my car parking is about to run out and that it’s time to wind this one up. I really don’t want to. There’s something about talking to Mike that makes me want to know more. I get the feeling I could talk music for hours with him and I become a bigger fan of the band and my need to know more and more is growing still. I cant wait for the next opportunity to chat, before I just become one of the thousands of blacked out fan faces in the crowd. I’m with him on that though, I hope it doesn’t happen too fast but I know this will be a band who always has time for their fans.

 

 

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

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