Clay discuss embracing the narcissism of art

Tanyel Gumushan /
Jun 20, 2017 / Music

The thing with clay, is that you can mould it into any shape. When it’s in your hands, you own it and can do with it what you please. You may craft something that you value, or something that you feel that you need or desire. You may copy something from before and add your own flair, or make something that is entirely your own from your own mind.

Clay, as a band, hold their own. They’ve birthed their own breed of alt-pop.

“…We’ve learned to harvest our own inspiration.” Starts Jack Harvey, who writes songs with his brother and frontman, Joe. Joined by Rob Gration and Danny Armitage, he says “I think the very nature of making any kind of art is somewhat narcissistic.”

But Clay are a band who recognise their growth and they thrive from the “conscious” progression and evolution of the seductive grooves and glittered bass. “…It’s okay to be driven by an appetite for appreciation as it’s something that’s perhaps frowned upon if said out loud, yet something that’s always driven us.”

Based in Leeds, the four boys have shaped their own Clay-isms. The main vocal is set ablaze atop of nifty rhythm patterns and delicate synth. They indulge in the contradictions, and modern day love songs are more candid than romantic. “The real art of music is that there’s some instantaneous familiarity,” says Jack, unashamedly letting pop flow through the veins of the songs. It’s like rebellious pop that has ran away from home, but still can’t shake it’s roots. Explaining, “I think we do always try and challenge the perception of what a ‘band’ is,” latest single ‘Saint’ is the perfect example of how the boys have “…learned to not be dictated by what’s ‘cool’ and to kind of take music on face value.”

With an opening line that declares ‘you only call me when it’s half past wine’, the track is swallowed in richness. As the first release with no guitars on it, it “was a pretty nerve-wracking move for a ‘guitar band’.” However, relishing in the RnB smoothness, it’s both sultry and settled. As sure of itself as a well fitted tailored jacket.

‘Saint’ is undeniably Clay. Jack tells how he once read that “making a mess is helpful for creative people who are suffering with a block, perhaps.” The band’s moments of odd are bought down to earth with glimpses of reformed normality. “I think the mess somehow organises the chaos of one’s creative mind.” These touches of humanity keep things thrilling and secure connection.

The track has got that cool swagger and that velvet finish, and the video complements this. Set in a church – when the most saint-like thing that the band has done is make a commitment to buy sausage rolls for those in need, and the least saint-like things are “far too crude to post online” – it looks like Clay. Their black and white attire is become intrinsically linked to the band. The classic stained glass, silver studs and strands of hair falling in front of the eyes add a suave finish.

“The best musical subcultures have all had a very clear visual representation in terms of their fashion,” says Jack referencing The Beatles and their matching suits. “I just think nowadays, in the instant world we live in where everything exists online, it’s particularly relevant.”

Clay do not solely exist online. Where “nowadays in particular, you have these virtual bands who have 32 billion Spotify plays but don’t play shows,” for Clay to do so is something that they appreciate. Admitting that “we’ve always had a very clear idea of the heights we want to achieve so there hasn’t necessarily been a huge moment of epitome,” they can appreciate how far they’ve come from the reactions of crowds. Thriving from that tangibility just makes them even more driven.

Illuminating from the ‘clay’ sign that sets the stage, and feeling the melodies rising from the involvement of the audience, Clay only gets stronger the more it’s worked.

Words by Tanyel Gumushan

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