Clean Cut Kid: interview – we get bored when we’re not working

Posted on 11 March 2016
By Ollie Rankine
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We caught up with Clean Cut Kid ahead of their intimate hometown gig at The Magnet and quizzed them about being the hottest band on this year’s festival circuit and how their coping with their increased fame.

They told us about how it felt playing their first Radio One Live Lounge, their plans for the future, how they beat boredom on the road and days off and much much more.

PR: “So, lets talk about how you first met. I think we mentioned before that you met at LIPA?”

Mike: “Well, we kind of met at LIPA. We all went to LIPA, but we’re all in totally separate years, spread over 5 years, I think.”

Ev: “So we didn’t really know each other at LIPA. Which is weird now to think we’re in a band together.”

Ross: “I think we knew of each other…”

Mike: “Me and Ev got set up on a date when a guy that I was writing with hired her to sing with him on his project in London. And I just said ‘ah she’s fit’ or whatever, and he just said, ‘ok I’ll sort it out’. And then a week later our first date was at an end of Olympics show festival thing, in Hyde Park with Blur and Bombay Bicycle Club. So, I went down to London and it all kicked off from there. And then, we were never really together and not playing music, because Ev was her own artist at the time and I was just getting this stuff off the ground. So yeah, we just started jamming it together, me and Ev, and then Saul’s a funny one because… Well he’s a funny one…”

Ev: “End of sentence!”

Mike: “I’d met Saul six years before in some practice room that he was living in under where I was recording, and he was just using the sink in the studio, and I got to know him and started chatting to him. Then I said to Ev, there’s this crazy guy who’s probably dead, but if he’s still alive he’d be perfect for the band! Then a few days later we were out going for food or something and Saul were busking in town at one o’clock in the morning! I was like ‘oh shit, there’s the guy I was telling you about’, just out in the middle of the street busking! Like, Wow!”

Ev: “We’d tried to find him on Facebook and he didn’t have Facebook, didn’t have a phone, he was like a proper hippy at the time… Well, he still is really! He was hard to track down!”

Mike: “Like, no idea what his name was! Then, all three of us were doing this regular teaching thing. Teaching bunches of kids and stuff, like nothing to do with the band, and then Ross joined that thing and we got talking to him loads on the train and kind of found out he was as geeky as us about little bands that no-one should have heard of. Then, I just went down and started stalking him at gigs and watching him play with different people and just turned up at his gigs!”

Ev: “It is as creepy as it sounds.”

Mike: “Yeah literally, like peering round corners watching him play.”

Ross: “You’d see like this floating beard…”

“Well, considering the length of your beard, you have quite an ironic name. You know, ‘Clean Cut Kid’, and then you have a six-foot beard… How long did it take you to grow it?!”

Mike: “To this level? About eight or nine months.”

Ev: “Like, a ridiculously short amount of time!”

Mike: “Yeah, it goes. Every 3 months, I cut 3 months off it if you get me? So, I’ve been growing it for probably a year and a half now.”

Ross: “You were clean-shaven on your wedding…”

Mike: “Yeah I was clean-shaven and then I shaved it like a month after the honeymoon, and that was the last time I fully shaved. But it doesn’t really get much bigger then this. I keep it at this length. It’s been longer, but yeah, its just unstoppable.”

“So how did you come up with the name ‘Clean Cut Kid’?”

Ev: “It was your brother wasn’t it?”

Mike: “Yeah. When me and Ev started playing these tunes together, it was more acoustic and it still had that folk element. The writing is kind of folk songs. We discovered this, well I started playing round with this mad fuzzy sound, the Vitimin C sort of thing. I was speaking to my brother for a name and he was like ‘because you guys have just gone electric, you should find a song title from Dylan Goes Electric, so we just looked at the period where Dylan went electric and ‘Clean Cut Kid’, the name just jumped out at us.”

“Was it the lyrics?”

Mike: “It was just the name. I was like ‘wow, that’s the perfect name for it’ and then everyone has made some mad links about Dylan since but there’s no other link except for that one conversation. I mean, not that, I’m a crazy fan of Bob Dylan’s writing or whatever, but it’s not like you would draw a direct line between Bob Dylan and Clean Cut Kid.”

Sounds good. It’s been a crazy few months for you guys. You’ve had the single come out, gigging loads, BBC Radio One Live Lounge… that was recently. How was that?

Ev: “Well, I mean I was terrified because I had bigged it up so much and I’d listened to it my whole life and growing up and it was a massive deal for me. It was amazing, but it was terrifying. But I think as soon as we got the first one out the way, we did the original first and then a cover, it was okay. Everyone there was amazing, like Clara Amfro is as nice in real life as she sounds on the radio and she just chilled everyone out. But yeah, it was cool, really good.”

Ross: “You get this mad countdown going on the headphones, with Radio one’s mash up with like 20… 19…”

Ev: “With random people shouting ‘RADIO ONE’.”

Ross: “My heart rate was going through the roof! Oh god! As well, you can’t see the audience but you know they are there.”

“Well it sounded amazing.”

Ev: “We had a bit of a mad one because we, for various reasons, had to switch the song out at the last minute. So, we actually only had a day to get the cover together. Whereas we’d had a nice relaxed week working the other cover out. So that probably wasn’t the best thing to add on top of the pressure.”

Mike: “It’s one of them things where like, you know, it’s just so big that it kind of overrides the nerves. Like leading up to it, you’re just terrified. But when I spoke to ‘Grimmy’ in the morning, doing that phone call thing, I was thinking and had it on my mind what it was going to be like lining up in the studio, and then I was like, totally falling apart! And also, I had a blocked ear and had to go to a private surgery in London and have my ear done that morning. So it was ridiculous, I was deaf in one ear and like ‘if they can’t sort this now, I’ve got to do the live lounge with one ear’. It was just so terrifying. But then, once you’re stood there, I think it’s so big that it just kind of folds in on itself. Like with the LIPA thing, the only time I can compare to it is when you meet Paul McCartney in the LIPA Songwriting thing. You expect to be completely riddled with nerves, but by the time you get to it, its just such a big deal that you cant take it in. It’s just like all of a sudden you become chilled. I was so chilled. Playing to the tunes, I was so chilled, playing the songs like ‘this is boss’!”

“And your ears are ok now?”

Mike: “Yeah my ears are totally fine.”

“So, when you’re on the road, you’ve obviously been gigging loads, what do you do to beat the boredom?”

Mike: “Music, quite a lot of music!”

Ev: “Podcasts, we love a crime podcast don’t we?”

Mike: “Now and again we’ve kind of done a group thing, so like ‘Serial’ for example. We were doing the record and publishing deal when we first discovered it. Some guy from The Hibernation actually told us about it, and then that became a thing! We’d gather around the wireless like a bunch of pre war kids and listen to ‘Serial’. There are a few group things that happen.”

Ev: “We go for food a lot; we love to eat.”

“Most people do. Who are your influences then, what kind of stuff do you listen to?”

Mike: “Its different around the group. I’m into Arcade Fire, Beach House and Fleet Foxes…”

Saul: “David Bowie, Prince…”

Mike: “The sound kind of comes from Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. Kind of less Simon and Garfunkel but more Paul Simon. Oh and Vampire weekend.”

Ev: “And then like more obscure American bands. There’s this label called Burger Records which has all these mad bands on it. Just really strange, I don’t know how to describe them.”

Mike: “I’m obsessed with the Seattle thing, not necessarily the Grunge side of it, but Seattle Indie. So ‘Wacka Hatchy’, old school 90s Seattle stuff, ‘Red House Painters’ etc… I used to be in a band with this guy who now has his own project called Telekenisis. It’s like a more American version of ‘Clean Cut Kid’, maybe it’s a little bit heavier. It’s a similar sort of thing, it’s big and fuzzy but at the heart of it, it’s got Ringo Star style drum beats and nothing that’s never to dark.”

“So he’s one of your influences then?”

Mike: “Definitely!”

Ross: “Yeah Ringo’s cool!”

“So you all live in Liverpool. What’s your favorite place to go party?”

Ross: “We went out the other night for the first time in ages.”

Ev: “It was so funny! We just don’t go out that much at all!”

Mike: “We like Saltdogs.”

Ross: “Yeah Saltdogs!”

Mike: “We usually end up going straight there.”

Ev: “Blind tiger is amazing. You can get those little dim sums… Again, eating all the time!”

Mike: “Do you know Filter and Fox on Duke Street? It’s like where Duke Street expresso used to be, and it’s definitely, without a doubt, my favorite place. It’s like always, no matter how many people get rammed in to the little box, its always chilled. The playlist in there is absolutely amazing. Amazing atmosphere. Even on a Saturday night when it’s rammed to the ceiling, its still so chilled in there.”

Ross: “It’s boss!”

“What’s your favorite place to gig in Liverpool?”

Mike: “We’ve only played in two places as Clean Cut Kid.”

Ev: “Shipping Forecast and Leaf.”

Mike: “I mean I’ve played a few times with different projects in Leaf.”

Ev: “I always love Leaf.”

Mike: “A lot of people hate it. I think if you’re not into the big, ringy room thing, then it can be a nightmare of a gig. The gig we have tonight is our live thing. We call it Fuzzy. The whole idea of that is to kind of keep it sweaty and keep it basement. We wanted to always run like an old school gig night. Maybe, there will be a few big ones, but I think most of them will be tiny and sell out quick.”

Ev: “We always try to start out acoustic but we can’t do that!”

“What type of stuff do you do to get warmed up for the gig?”

Mike: “Saul does five big jumps. Just because he went on stage once, Saul jumps around a lot on stage, and he went on stage once totally un-warmed up and what happened, didn’t you like pop a ball or something?”

Saul: “No, no! I do the jumps and I get a rush of adrenaline and by the time the gig starts my adrenaline has faded and I go on dead relaxed. Then the adrenaline hits me when I get on stage.”

Mike: “Yeah you don’t want that hit in the middle of the gig! You don’t want that rush really!”

Ev: “We don’t really end up seeing each other in the ten to fifteen minutes before the gig. Everyone’s like running about doing their last minute things. Going to the loo, grabbing their ear plugs or just warming up.”

Mike: “Me and Ev like to warm up.”

Ev: “Yeah we do our warm ups and stuff.”

Mike: “But that’s just separate, we just walk around screaming at the top of our voices.”

Ross: “I just walk around stressed for about 10 minutes.”

Mike: “I mean, the number one rule is stay away from Ross in the 15 minutes leading up to the gig. Unless you want to go on stage thinking that the drum kit’s about to fall through the floor and the whole band are going to die in the accident.”

“What’s next? What’s coming up for you guys?”

Mike: “We’re going into record the next big thing. We’ve got a bit more touring, then we’re going into record with Craig Silve who we just did ‘pick me up with’, so we’re dead excited about that. Then we go to South X South West which is going to be crazy and amazing. We come back from that and we do a bit more touring, we’ve got a couple of headline dates which will be awesome. That’s in London, Liverpool and Manchester. They’re bigger gigs. And then, there’s a little tiny break, then straight into a full patch of a month of recording with Craig. Hopefully by the end of that stage, end of May, the album will be totally boxed off.”

“So in summer. Any festivals coming up?”

Ev: “We just got a load through today that we hadn’t even heard of before. It’s just literally in the last couple of weeks, it just packed out. Literally every weekend.”

Mike: “You’ll find that even if you start the month on the first of the month, and your looking, there will be 5 or 6 days when you can think, wow, I can have some time to breath! You’ll then find that that day is filled up as well! We’re currently shifting some recording dates, there’s a big patch of April open, but it definitely won’t stay open. There will be teams of people working to fill that time! Which is boss because we don’t know what to do with days off!”