Pop music is best served warm and fresh. Like cheese. Or pants. And, as you may be aware, we here at The Deli love all three of those things. Except Paolo. He doesn't like pants (it makes the Christmas parties kind of awkward). Fortunately for us (and you), we live in New York City and like to listen to the music that New York City attracts like cold cuts to bread.
The bands that send us their work represent the gamut of genres from metal to folk, and we try to review all of them. Fortunately we have broad tastes as well, because this issue's cover band, Clare & the Reasons, is pretty atypical for us, but thatís because they're pretty atypical for independent music in general. It's hard to come across an unsigned band these days that clearly displays as much musical talent as ambition in its very first full-length record.
Clare & the Reasons' album "The Movie" touches on a variety of reference points in music that have lain dormant in contemporary indie-pop for far too long. The arrangements flow between decades of musical past and cross international borders. Plucking Van Dyke Parks' (who is featured on the album) whimsical string arrangements from his album "Song Cycle," Joanna Newsom's album "Ys" and Brian Wilson's lost and found masterpiece "SMiLE". The lush A Capella arrangements of the Swingle Singers and French vocal pop is a key element here as well, and at no time references the contemporary Beach Boys revival or even the swirl of Grizzly Bear. Lead singer Clare uses her sweet versatile voice, reminiscent of Nina Persson of The Cardigans, to swoop and dive through Bjork sized intervals. Imagine Andrew Bird collaborating with Harry Nilsson to write a soundtrack to a French Noir movie and you've got a nice approximation.
I got a chance to hold an interview with Clare via the internets and boy did she do a hefty job of answering:
Where are Clare and the Reasons from?
Clare and the Reasons are from all over... I come from Martha's Vineyard, I know what you're thinking... "People live there"? Yes, there are regular people from there too, my mom works at a public school there and when you live there instead of saying, "I'm going out of town", you say, "I'm going off island," so that's different. Olivier is from Paris, which is good because he can teach us all about slowing down and drinking wine, eating meals, and Football (the real one). Alan Sherwood is from Houston, so he can teach us about ummm BBQ and how to laugh, even when we shouldn't. Bob is from New Jersey and he teaches us that people from New Jersey come to NY. Greg is from Canada and he reconfirms that all Canadians are incredibly nice people, like when
you meet someone at a party and they're just so lovely but in a way that is extra special and you can't figure out what that lightness about them is, ask them where they're from and they will most likely say, "Canada." Beth is from North Carolina, which teaches us that you can be really involved in the New Music movement in NY and still be from North Carolina. Chris is from the Chicago area and he teaches us that, welll, um, i'm not sure, but he is such a great guy and I think if they want to clone a cool guy, they should clone him. Now we all live in Brooklyn.
How did the band come about?
I guess the way every band comes about... Just time and meeting people. Olivier and I have been playing together since Berklee, the rest fell in over time...What I feel pride in finally is that we sound like a band, with unique ideas and a sound that is not anyone else's. Our process to get from a new song (or baby song as I say) to our own little "wall of sound" is an exciting one and the trust level in this band is high, meaning, I trust that Alan Sherwood will come up with a musical, important bass line after he has heard what Olivier is going for with the strings and my melodic inflections, it's our own pile of sound.
"The Movie" is an appropriate title for such an orchestral album, how did you decide on the title for the album?
I was kind of kidding, and then it stuck, all the artwork and title and all is a bit tongue and cheek, some people get it, some people don't. Yes, of course I feel it is visual music, but I hope the title isn't the reason people might think that as well.
You worked with Van Dyke Parks and Sufjan Stevens on this album, where did their collaborations come in?
I thought Sufjan's voice would be pretty on that song, Olivier plays with Sufjan, so we asked him to sing it, he said yes, et voila. Van Dyke is an old dear friend of ours, and a real supporter, so I wanted to have his magic on "Love Can Be A Crime", because I knew he would Van Dyke it, as only he can. Olivier did the vocal arrangement on that song and the two worked well together.
Van Dyke Park's "Alice in Wonderland" arrangement style has a distinct influence on this album, do the arrangements all come from one source or is it a collaborative effort?
Van Dyke did not do any arranging on this album, although many people think he did. Olivier Manchon did every arrangement, both strings and vocal, of course I did some collaborating on some of them with him, but over all, it is Olivier's romantic French background that adds that sweet lush tinge. The great thing about the arrangements is that we do them live, and had been, leading up to the recording, so we knew they worked and we had the luxury of tweaking them after shows. I know Van Dyke really loves Olivier's arranging, as he has said, so that's a great validation of course too.
Clare sings two songs on "Arrested Development", how did that come about?
I'm friends with the composer of the music, David, and one day he called me to come sing some songs for the show, I didn't really know much about the show yet because it was early on, and I don't have TV, and I live under a rock. I think the show is genius though and I have seen every episode at least once by now. So I feel lucky to
have been involved at all.
Clare, how has being the daughter of an established musician like Geoff Muldaur affected your musical career?
Well, a parent, non-musical, or musical, always affects one's musical career I suppose. I feel lucky because I think my dad is particularly talented, a great singer and he has done so much over his long career. I'm probably influenced or excited most by his
Warner Brothers years when they said to him he could do what he wanted, and boy he did... Big, interesting arrangements and pretty forward thinking concepts. The part that's been tricky is that it has, at times, pigeon holed me into the folk world, which is not
where I fit in, clearly.