Interview: Clean Cut Kid

Clean Cut Kid (Mike Halls, Evelyn Halls, Saul Godman and Ross Higginson) caught up with Impact before their sold-out show at the Bodega, to talk about everything from their new record to the proliferation of music streaming services.

I: Have you ever played in Nottingham before?

Ross: Here and [at] Rescue Rooms with Shura, so that was cool.

Evelyn: Yeah we played here with Fickle Friends back in March time, we like it.

“If I write [lyrics] about something that I don’t feel anything about, people can just tell.”

I: Tell me about how you all met and started making music…

Ross: You guys met on a date, didn’t you?

Mike: Yeah, [Evelyn and I] got set up on a date. I was writing the music for a guy and Ev was singing with him. We just started working together. About 6 years before, I’d met Saul. I’d mentioned him to Ev and then one night we saw him busking in Liverpool city centre. I was like “that’s the guy!” Then we were all teaching in this workshop and Ross started teaching with us. We just geeked out and realised that we all liked the same kind of music.

I: What type of bands inspired you when you were starting out and who are you listening to now? 

Mike: Peter Gabriel, I guess later Paul Simon stuff, classic eighties studio records. But it’s kind of spread a little bit since we have become an actual band, hasn’t it?

Evelyn: At the moment we are listening to that new Bon Iver record quite a lot.

I: From a songwriting perspective, is it a collaborative effort?

Mike: Just me.

I: Do you mostly write about fiction or personal experiences?

Mike: Virtually all personal.

Evelyn: Or something has happened to someone else that you have watched.

Mike: I hardly ever just pluck lyrics from nowhere. I think you can tell when I do. If I write them about something that I don’t feel anything about, people can just tell.

I: How do you go about the songwriting process?

Mike: I kind of have lots of small musical ideas until it seems to write itself. After putting the main ideas together, I don’t really have to put that much leg work into it. The lines kind of pop into my head as I go about the day.

I: Do you have a release date for your debut album yet?

Evelyn: We’re aiming for early next year.

I: Have you decided on title for the record?

Mike: Not at this point. It’s quite a narrow concept – a break up album that’s chronological from the start of the break up until the end – so the title of the album is going to depend on how much [the record label] let me do.

“We have 100% creative control.”

The songs are the full arc of a break up right down to ‘Make Believe’, the last five minutes before you break up. If the record label let me lay it out like that then it will have a different title and different artwork and everything. I think they might have to because I am telling everyone the same thing!

I: That’s really interesting. In terms of creative control then, how much of it is in your hands?

Mike: We have 100% creative control. But we have made the decision to listen to the label commercially because it would be crazy not to. Polydor are a brilliant label as well.

I would not be able to carry on in this project if we were just ignoring what the record label were throwing at us. So we do listen to them, but creatively everything comes down to us, from the artwork to the photos.

I: I would like to hear your views on music streaming services. Do you think artists such as Clean Cut Kid are losing out? Where do you guys stand on the issue?

Evelyn: The thing about streaming services is that using them as a tool for promo is the most valuable thing right now. There are some streaming services that take you from being ignored by radio stations and press to being potentially play-listed just based on Spotify numbers and stuff. But I think there shouldn’t be any free streaming services.

Mike: I don’t quite know how it works, but I know that the revenue from Spotify doesn’t quite reach you while you are in the situation that we’re in. People thought that music streaming was moving to a place where it make every bit of music accessible. Where the cream of music and writing rose to the top. But it’s just so overly saturated now that it just feels like nobody cares about music at all in some ways.

“We have seen some people’s attitude to music become quite scary.”

Evelyn: I think music streaming has devalued music. The fact is that millions and millions of people across the world have the free services – it just shows that they would rather have the free service and interruptions and maybe not be able to get a couple of songs, over paying like a tenner a month or something.

I: Yeah, I’m paying five. I used to buy a lot of CDs, but I now have a laptop without a disc drive and I don’t have my stereo with me – so I don’t even know how I would play CDs now. I think five pounds a month is quite ridiculous compared to what I used to spend on music.

Evelyn: It has only been something we have thought about in the last couple of months really. We have seen some people’s attitude to music become quite scary.

Mike: Spotify numbers are strangely deceptive. People have runaway Spotify hits and still never manage to get one play on radio. That’s a weird thing we have found with music streaming.

I: What’s next for Clean Cut Kid? You are supporting the Courteeners. How does it work? Do the Courteeners approach you or do you seek them out?

Mike: I think the Courteeners reached out.

Evelyn: You’ll find with 80% of bands that their support bands have been picked by each other. Which is nice when we’ve been picked to do stuff. We always pick our own support bands as well.

I: Another tour when the album’s out?

Mike: Yeah, definitely. We’ll have single at the start of next year. Then we’ll move on to the album, and another single when the album’s out.

This is our first full headline tour and before we’ve only really done little single dates, but every date on this tour has been sold out so far. So we are thinking as next year is album year, hopefully we can step it up a lot. We will definitely be back here – we love this place.

Amaya Carruthers

Image courtesy of Chuffmedia.

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