Interview: Clean Cut Kid

We had the pleasure of catching up with Clean Cut Kid last month at Bestival 2016, after playing the popular Invaders of the Future stage where incidentally, the most memorable and promising artists of the weekend all seemed to congregate. Nearing the end of their festival stretch, the Liverpudlian four-piece (made up of Mike, Ross, Evelyn and Saul) kept up the good spirits, and despite having amassed a following and gathered quite some attention recently, their Northern humour and humble aura remains untouched.

Describing their musical style would be a challenge to shoebox (especially when the band struggle to label their sound themselves) but “fuzzy guitar pop” with a dash of rock was agreed on as a suitable enough description. It’s always exciting to speak to artists on the cusp of something big, and without a doubt Clean Cut Kid hold all the necessary ingredients for success. Already living the dream after being able to quit their day jobs to live out their aspirations as an in-demand band, Spindle asked CCK about their collective inspirations, the Liverpudlian music scene and about the time Mike fell of the stage and broke both of his elbows…

cleancut-5

How did you first meet each other and what made you come together to form Clean Cut Kid?

Mike: Me and Evelyn got set up first and she was like an artist in her own right and I was doing my own thing and then we started working together. Six years earlier I met Saul, he was doing a session thing in the studio and I said to Evelyn, ‘wow there’s this fucking crazy bastard that I met and he’d be perfect for the band if he’s still alive’ and then we went on a night out and we saw him busking in the middle of Liverpool. And then we went jamming the next day, and we rescued Ross from one of those animal homes.

Ross: Yeah it was getting too cramped to be honest.

Mike: He was like the last one in the cage at the end.

Mike: No, we all started teaching and Ross was teaching drums, and we all started geeking out on the train about music and he was into all the same stuff as us so we thought, this guy might be good.

What have been your biggest music inspirations that have built you as artists?

Evelyn: We get inspired by quite a lot of vocal bands that have a lot of vocal harmonies, like Fleetwood Mac.

Ross: Fleet Foxes.

Mike: It’s weird because the bands that inspire the songwriting are different to the bands that inspire the way we sound really. So like, sound-wise we’re into Bowie and Prince. All the people that have just died.

Evelyn: Vampire Weekend. Arcade Fire.

Mike: It’s a weird mix because we like quite classical writers like Neil Young and Bob Dylan and then we kind of try to fuck that up as much as we can in the studio.

Is there anyone you can compare yourself to at the minute?

Mike: Right now, new breaking bands? I guess we’d say we’re in the same wave as Spring King, but we’re a bit more poppy than they are. The way that we make music – we kind of sound a bit like those new bands like The Vamps and Spring King but the songwriting is from a totally different place. I think we write pop songs and they write indie songs.

How has been Liverpool based helped or hindered your progression as a band? Has it been supportive?

Mike: Yeah. If we lived in London, they’d be noway we could put as much time into the band as we have because we’d be dying trying to survive. I don’t think it’s hindered us at all – we kind of work all over the country and we’re hardly ever at home. There’s no thought of us moving. The rehearsal is virtually on the same street that me and Ev live in, so it’s like 24hours, we can go into our own rehearsal room and make as much noise as we want and Liverpool is just full of artists and musicians so you’re not surrounded by a load of people who are just shocked by the fact you’ve got a fucking beard or that you play guitar.

I feel like more and more, the pressure there once was for bands to move to London in order to be successful is just not a pressure for modern-day artists anymore? 

Ross: Yeah we felt like that when we first got signed. We realised it was pointless because we’re away all the time and the rent is much cheaper.

Mike: When that folk-pop scene exploded, it went mad in London. All the bands came out of this one area in London like a communion, and everyone was tied together. And when you came from outside of London, it looked like this mad exploding haven of music and it was just generic bollocks because you could play an gig with 10 other acts, and all the acts would sound the same. I think the reaction from that was that music would begin to spread out across the country after that and would all sound different. Like in Liverpool there is a mad psych thing going on at the moment.

I read that Mike fell off the stage and broke both of his elbows during the soundcheck for your support slot for Brandon Flowers. What happened there?

Mike: Both of them yeah. I tried to leap over the barrier at the front of the stage but the barrier was black and the floor was black and all the house lights were down, so I had no idea where the top of the barrier was or where the floor ended. So when I fell over the barrier it was like 8 foot down because it was Shepherds Bush Empire and it has a really high stage and I just fell into the darkness. I had both of my hands out and it just went crunch.

Did you still play the gig?!

Mike: Yeah we played the gig like. So I just sat with my arms in buckets of ice to freeze them so I couldn’t feel anything.

Evelyn: He kept saying, ‘they’re really, really sore’, and then one of our managers gave him some really strong painkillers. He had a double sling for like three weeks.

Mike: We went on tour five days later for a 12-day tour with Shura, and a week later they were like still fully broken.

cleancut-3

Has being part of a band like Clean Cut Kid always been a goal for you all?

Ross: It’s always been playing music for a living, that’s all we’ve ever done, all of us.

Evelyn: Yeah. Just to have it as our only job, that’s always been our aim.

Ross: I think it was nice to fully become a band because before at the beginning we were doing like function music at the weekends and sometimes we wouldn’t be able to rehearse for like four weeks because we’d be busy with weddings. So to wake up and only focus on Clean Cut Kid was an amazing feeling. It was like a dream come true.

Mike: Everybody in music, everyone wants to be doing this, to be in a signed band doing their own music for a job. But you can’t base your live around it because if that falls through… there’s so many sad people in Liverpool who had a deal and it fell through and I didn’t want to be that guy so we were all doing other kinds of work and playing for other artists and funtions and studio stuff and not even thinking about this while it was ticking over and it kicked off.

What have been your biggest moments so far?

Ross: South by Southwest, and Glastonbury too.

Evelyn: Both times we’ve been to the US have been really exciting, because we did CMJ Festival in New York last year and that was really cool. And SXSW was amazing. The Live Lounge as well – crazy. It just felt like it was really early on for us to be doing it so we felt really honoured to be asked. Just the adrenalin that everyone was feeling that day was just amazing. I was soo nervous.

Mike: You don’t realise that build at your home in Liverpool because you’re always away but when you come back it’s just gotten bigger and bigger. The last gig we did at home, we were upgraded to a much bigger venue and it sold out like 3 weeks before and it was just like the ultimate gig night you would have pictured in your head. It was rammed to the ceiling.

Ross: A sweat box.

Mike: Home gigs are a highlight for me so far.

Clean Cut Kid will be beginning their UK headline tour this October. For more information and tickets visit: cleancutkid.co.uk/live/