New release: Clatter’s Garden of Whatever (Chicken House Records)
Self-described as “a rhythm section run amok,” Mid-Missouri’s Clatter is not your run-of-the-mill band. This is minimal gear with a maximum sound. Married couple Amy Humphrey and Joe Hayes split their time between making music and running a huge wildlife preserve. Amy sings and plays bass, while Joe plays drums. You’d be surprised at the sound. Who needs guitars? Amy can do some remarkable stuff on that bass and Joe is praiseworthy on the skins.
Clatter’s third album, Garden of Whatever, shows the duo’s sound evolving from Blinded By Vision (2003) and Monarch (2006) into a richer and more complex sound. While fans know of Clatter’s love for Rush (check out their cover of “Limelight” from Monarch), they definitely have a sound of their own.
The driving album kicks off with one of the high points, “Tree Of Secrets.” This song captures the sonic essence of all that is Clatter with its punching bass and hammering drums. As the albums progresses, the listener will hear a pattern of excellent musicianship and a couple thinking outside the box. “Strawberry Park” follows with the same intensity and a lot of soul. The duo even finds a way to slow down the heart rate on “Glowing.” That’s saying something when Clatter typically sound as if they’re being propelled out of a cannon.
And while there is no guitar featured anywhere in Clatter’s music, you might think you hear one now and then. That’s a bass guitar and Humphrey can make some amazing sounds with that thing. Maybe that’s why No Treble chose her as their #1 bassist of 2012.
“Powerful” vaults out of the speakers with a slightly different vibe, and for a moment you may ask yourself why this is not on the radio. Sadly, the average radio listener has neither the intelligence nor the patience to wrap their heads around this material. That also goes for “Trance,” which has an intro that could be mistaken for chillwave and could almost fit on a Washed Out record (that is, until Amy’s voice kicks in).
Overall, Garden of Whatever is an excellent outing by a band that is surprisingly still somewhat unknown. As word gets out and Clatter get back on the road, maybe that will be rectified.
Balancing a music career and caring for a wildlife preserve obviously keep these two busy. That’s why it was terrific of them to take a few minutes to answer some questions.
Examiner: Who inspired you? I know Rush is huge, but who else?
Clatter: Rush is a definite overall influence, but for this particular album we were really inspired by your local Atlanta boys Mastodon, especially their latest album, "The Hunter." The merging of melody, harmony and heaviness on that album was such a perfect combination that it inspired us to explore similar avenues.
Examiner: When not making music, what else do you guys do?
When we're recording or releasing an album or planning a tour, all of our time is spent performing the many tasks that accompany that project, such as artwork, web design, promotion, booking, etc. As an independent band, it is up to the two of us to do everything that a record label would normally take care of for a band on their roster.
When we're not spending our time on music-related endeavors, we are caring for our 125-acre wildlife preserve and an overambitious number of garden beds. We're both avid fiber crafters and Joe won a ribbon at the Missouri State Fair last year for the multimedia quilted wall hanging "Garden of Whatever," which became the image for the Garden of Whatever compact disc. We've sold a variety of handmade items at our local art gallery, been involved in local theater productions, and for many years Amy was a freelance graphic and web designer.
Examiner: Any upcoming shows or tours?
After the new album came out we started gearing up to tour, because playing live is what we love best and it's where the songs really come alive. We had already played a few club dates and a school workshop and had just arrived in Chicago for a show when we received the news that Amy's father had passed away. It was necessary to cancel the rest of the shows on the trip and put our touring plans on hold for the time being, but we are hoping to reschedule those dates and continue touring later this spring. In the meantime, we have a music video in the works, so that will be a fun project to work on!
Examiner: I noticed a little more layering on some songs (especially "Trance"). Is that all bass magic, or is there some synth?
While Garden of Whatever is chock full of Bass Magic, the extra "synth" parts on “Trance,” “Powerful” and “Strawberry Park” were played by Joe on his electronic percussion pad. “Trance” and “Powerful” were tracked live with both the drum set and electronic percussion recorded as one performance, while the electronic part on “Strawberry Park” was layered over the top of the drum tracks. Ironically, of these three songs, “Strawberry Park” is the only one we've played live so far, and getting the hang of playing the acoustic and electronic percussion parts simultaneously was a fun challenge for Joe.
When writing our songs, we try to limit ourselves to what we can reproduce live. This means we try to stay away from a lot of layering in the studio. For instance, in the song “Downstream,” there are sections where there are several bass lines happening at the same time. In the studio we recorded these one at a time, but they were written so that it would be possible to loop one or more of the parts live while playing another part over the top.
A bit about the recording: We recorded and mixed our first two albums at fantastic studios in Nashville, but this time around we wanted to try to capture that raw, spontaneous vibe we get when recording demos here at our farm in our chicken house studio. With the technology now available, we could record some great-sounding tracks with a minimum of equipment. We weren't on anyone else's clock and didn't have to haul all our gear elsewhere. Another great benefit was that we could record songs as we wrote them, even at the last minute, so they still felt fresh and new rather than rehearsed and pre-produced to death.
When it came to mixing the songs, though, we really wanted to leave it up to an expert. We were able to get in contact with Sylvia Massy, someone we've wanted to work with for years, and she and partner Rich Veltrop did a phenomenal job interpreting the songs. Serendipitously, their studio is located in Weed, California, which was perfect for an album called Garden of Whatever!
Examiner: I see you’re making a video. I’d love to include that with the review.
It looks like we won't be making the video until March. We'll be gone to California from the end of February through the beginning of March, and the local video folks are booked through February. Dang! So, sadly we don't have a current video, but the "House of Trouble" Alternate video seems to be popular.
Examiner: So, Sylvia Massey and Rich Veltrop produced the album?
Sylvia and Rich did the mixing on the album, and since they added a lot of nice touches we decided to make them co-producers. In the end, I think we listed them as "mixing and additional production by…."
Now it’s your turn, indie music lovers. Give Clatter some love and exposure. And buy some music. It’s not something you’ll hear on the radio probably ever, but if you want some interesting rock music to expand your musical horizons, this is it. For more info on Clatter, go to their website at Clatter.com.