Having literally sprung onto the music scene last year, it’s hard to imagine our lives without the quirky Merseyside four-piece. When they hit Radio One with their first single ‘Vitamin C’, there’s no doubt they have been on a successful stride ever since – however, there’s way more to their success story than we think.
You got signed on your second gig, which for many up-and-coming bands is a miracle – how did it feel for you when it happened?
It was crazy. I recorded ‘Vitamin C’ and ‘Runaway’ and it was basically just me and Ev, we borrowed some studio time, we had no money – the band didn’t even exist. We recorded ‘Vitamin C’ and ‘Runaway’ in two half-days; then we sat on it for 18 months and rehearsed it and we were kind of like, “Okay, we think this sounds good”. Obviously we were all professional musicians who thought this project was going to work but we had no guarantee.
The first gig we did was a secret gig where we tried to do it under a secret name, but it didn’t quite work and there were 30 different industry people from different labels there and we were like “s**t”. Ten days later, we had a band night with nine other bands booked in and they said to us: “Oh guys, the capacity for that band night is 240 and we need 120 of the guest list places for that venue” and we were like “How? Nobody knows who we are!” then they said: “Yeah you need to open a private industry guest list.”
Then we were trying to keep people out, because the ticket prices were £5 and we put it up to £20 because we were just like “Well, people aren’t going to come anyway so if we have to take half of the whole venue with the guest list let’s do that”. So we did that and tickets sold out in seven minutes. We were like “Oh s**t, what’s going on? This is crazy!”. We had to push the gig back by half an hour just to get people through the door.
So we were stood backstage ready to play and were told that the presidents of five major record labels were there and we were like “What the hell is going on?!”
At the end, we had this booking agent called Summer Marshall from CAA who’s Sam Smith’s booking agent, and so they booked this thing at the Ivy Lounge and sent these big cars – so the moment we finished the gig we got dragged through the crowds, past all these presidents and thrown into these big cars and just got driven straight to the Ivy Lounge. So we were sat in this mad glass elevator in the Ivy Lounge thinking: “What the hell is going on?”
From that day, I was in London for a whole month just in meetings negotiating our deal. It did actually happen exactly like that, it was just ridiculous. I’ve never heard of a band doing it that way. But yeah, good start like!
How did Clean Cut Kid actually form as a band?
I started dating Evelyn when she was singing with a guy whose music I was writing and they were both in London. He just mentioned that I wrote the music for it and we somehow got set up on our first date. It was at an end of Olympics show in Hyde Park so I went down and it was kind of like a blind date and yeah, we just started making music.
I had this vision like: “I’m going to make this record and we’re going to be the first band that makes complete and utter huge pop songs but we’re going to make them in the most fuzzy, crazy, f***ed up way you can make them.”
So yeah, it was just us two at the start. I’d met Saul six years earlier, and he was just a great guy in the practice room underneath the studio where I was recording and I just thought he was really rock ‘n’ roll. He just wakes up everyday and plays guitar all day. He’s a really nice guy but the real deal, like he was the rock dream. We saw him one night busking in the middle of town and we said we wanted to jam and so we just started jamming!
Similar thing with Ross, he was teaching workshops with young people and we started geeking out on the train and he just was into all the geeky music references as us so we picked him up there. We never tried, we never did any of that stuff like: “We need a drummer, we need a bassist.”
Congrats on your most recent release ‘Make Believe’! For those who might not have listened to it yet, what’s the message behind it?
With Clean Cut Kid we try and do a thing where the more serious we take the subject matter – the more upbeat and uplifting we try and make it. With ‘Make Believe’ it’s about the last five minutes of a relationship where you turn to the other person and say “just for the last five minutes will you pretend that everything’s totally fine and we’re not going to break up?”
It’s a weird one. ‘We Used to Be In Love’, is the same because it’s really specific – we tried to do this thing where you imagine you’re just walking down the street and you bump into someone and they ignore you and you’re like: “I can’t believe you’re not talking to me like I’m a stranger when we used to be in love with each other.”
It’s hard to explain to people, but the album is a concept album, so the album is like the whole art of a break-up. So you tell the story from it leading up to a break-up, it happening, you walking away from it and then closure – so it’s like the timeline of a break-up where the songs slot into the right time.
Word on the street is you played 29 festivals this summer. What was that like?
32 actually! It was a blur to be honest, it’s been really hard to gather ourselves up because we’ve just been single, single, single and loads of radio and loads of promos then when you’re touring you usually get a little gap, but we’ve just done three months of solid dates. I don’t think there was any weekend for 13 weeks where we didn’t play a festival. But it was mostly three separate festivals per weekend, so it was just an absolutely incredible, amazing time.
Which festival was your favourite? If you can remember?!
Glastonbury was amazing because we got given this legendary stage slot on a Thursday night. It was the slot that broke Courtney Barnett and Bon Iver, and it was a 2,500 packed tent with another 5,000 on top which filled right the way back past the shops – you couldn’t even hear the gig there was that many people watching. It was incredible.
Latitude was a big one because last year it was our first festival, then this year we headlined the Lake Stage with Huw Stephens so it really felt big. I remember thinking “I can’t believe in a year we’ve gone from playing in the smallest tent in Latitude to headlining on the second biggest stage here.” It was just ridiculous.
How did you spend your time after the festival season finished?
We’ve kept going! We finished our last festival and it must have been like the day after we were going between two different versions of ‘Make Believe’ recorded and mixed by two completely different people so we were patching that up and finishing the B-sides of ‘Make Believe’.
I don’t think anyone knows this yet, so I don’t know whether I should tell you but yeah I don’t care – it’s like a double A-side, it’s not really quite a B-side, but with ‘Make Believe’ it’s another tune called ‘Strangers’ that was meant to be a single, and because they didn’t want to put it out before the album and I did, they were like “Well we could just shoot it out as a B-side for ‘Make Believe’” – but we think it’s going be a huge single so we have that coming in the next month as well.
And then we’ve been making the acoustic version of ‘Make Believe’ as well over the last couple of days, and doing radio promo like crazy then we’ve got a tech week of rehearsals for the 12 days of tour, then a week of rehearsal for the stadium tour and then 12 dates with The Courteeners. Then when we finish with The Courteeners we have one day off to go down to London then we have three weeks to sort out the album which will take us to the 18th December. It’s just crazy.
Any word of when Clean Cut Kid’s album will be ready?
So the track list is almost recorded – we’ve a couple more tunes to actually lay down so it’s probably 90% recorded. I consider us to be an album band – we’ve done amazingly well, I think we’re the fastest growing new band of 2016 that’s come from nowhere and we’ve done well but I don’t think people will get us until the album’s out and we’re just trying to make sure it’s right. It’s going to be finished by the end of the year but it definitely won’t be out until next year. So 2017 will be our album year, we’re just going to completely unleash all this material on everybody.
To be totally honest, we could have brought the album out at the start of this year – but you only do your debut once. I am a bit of a perfectionist, it’s a bit of a nightmare!