Thursday 30 November 2017

An Interview With Andy Martin From CLAMFIGHT

Clamfight are returning from a 5 year absence with a new album and a heavy new sound. Newly signed to Italian Powerhouse Label – Argonauta Records. Their new album III will be released on January 18th 2018. T

III sees Clamfight drastically changing their sound to a more Progressive blend of Sludge/Stoner Metal, Taking influence from bands such as Mastodon, Neurosis, SLEEP and YOB that sees Clamfight with a a more cohesive and braver sound compared to their last album.

I caught up with Andy Martin (Drums/Vocals) to discuss the evolution of their new sound, signing to Argonauta Records and their journey as a band.

This is what Andy had to say.....

Hi Clamfight. How are things with you today.

Pretty spectacular, thanks for asking. Sean and I spent the day on the water, caught some fish and saw a whale. Pretty impossible to beat that, and honestly it’s going to be tough to not make this whole interview about that damn whale.

Can you give a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.

The short version is that we grew up together. Joel, Louis, and I first jammed together when we were 14 (or just shy of 25 years ago). We picked Sean up a little later in high school, played a million firehall shows with our hardcore band in the early 2000s and when that broke up formed Clamfight. Currently we’re about to release our third record, and first for Argonauta records. It’s called ‘III’ we aim to spend the foreseeable future balancing pushing it as hard as we can while keeping our jobs and home lives intact.

How would you describe your overall sound.

Big. Though we have very consciously trying to experiment with dynamics and melody recently, subtly is not our strong point. It’s loud and aggressive and despite all the classic rock and literary influenced nerdery, I also think it’s really obvious that we’ve been butchering songs from “And Justice for All” during band practice our entire lives.

We are here to talk about your debut album – III. I've only had a brief listen recently but it sounds fantastic so for. What can people expect from the album.

Well our homeboy and label mate Brent from Hollow Leg called it “questy” the first time he heard it and I really like that. We went all out on this one, it’s only five songs but it clocks in at 45 minutes, and we really let all our most epic (read pretentious) tendencies fly. We initially had a lot of material but we spent a lot of time deciding what songs would make the cut. We really wanted a record that would be giant and sprawling but cohesive at the same time. It’s half us putting our Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin love on full display but because I can’t sing so it also ends up being as close to a death metal record as you’ll ever get from Clamfight.

When will the album be released.

January 19th, 2018.

You've signed to Argonauta Records for this album. How did you manage to hook up with them. Gero's a great guy who is doing a brilliant job.

When we finally finished the record we let some good friends hear it and the name that kept coming up was Argonauta. I feel like we’re in a bit of weird spot musically; we really aren’t a full on-sludge band, but we’re not doing the Kyuss rip-off thing either so I think there’s some labels that we aren’t heavy enough for, and some label that we’re probably too aggressive for.

I was aware of Argonauta, and knew that Hollow Leg loved working with them so I asked Brent to put us in touch and that was pretty much that. Gero got it instantly and he’s been really great to work with. Our schedules are nuts and he’s Italy, and for a time the email chain was Sean in Jersey, Gero in Italy, and me in Scotland, and he was just so patient about that. You can tell the guy has a real passion for what he’s doing so it’s an honor to be part of the Argonauta family.

What influenced you all when recording the album.

It basically all came down to our comfort in working with Steve Poponi at the Gradwellhouse in New Jersey and our faith in his abilities. Steve’s a ballbuster but holy hell is he good at his job and he’s versatile. He did the last Fight Amp record, which rules, but is a very different kind of heavy from ‘III’ and it really shows his range as an engineer and producer. Steve’s also done live sound for us a lot, including for songs which ended up on ‘III’, so he’s very aware of how we sound live and what we were aiming for.

What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group participation or down to one individual.

Sean and I do the majority of the writing, though Joel and Louis write their own parts. They both came up with some killer stuff on this record. I handle all the lyrics.

What influences you when writing music.

For this record I think there was a lot of influence from all the Pink Floyd and Dire Straits that we listen to in the truck. We really don’t listen to a lot of metal when we’re out playing shows, and basically never after we play a show, then it’s all David Gilmour or Mark Knopfler.

We also wanted to make a very different record than “I Versus the Glacier’. We’re really proud of that record, and a lot of the songs on it are personally really meaningful for me, but that record is full-on. We wanted to do something a little different with this record and try to take people on more of a trip.

Lyrically this record is influenced by Orkney and my archaeology hobo life. I have the best job in the world, but as of now I’ve been on the road for a year straight. On one hand I’m doing exactly what I want to do with my life, on the other, I’m missing my partner and family. That heavy dynamic of loving what I do but knowing that it’s keeping me away from the people I love is what this record is largely about.

I just framed it against Orkney because writing about Vikings doing Viking shit while simultaneously missing home is more interested than me writing about skyping my lady.

Why the long wait for your new album. As you released your last album almost 5 years ago. Any specific reasons why.

The long wait this time was mostly due to our jobs. If you added up the amount of time we spent in the studio it’s probably only 7 or 8 days, but those 7 or 8 days were spread between early 2015 and 2017. We’d get close to wrapping it up and then I’d leave the country for 2 months, or Steve would have a tour pop up, and then all of a sudden it’s two years later. If I can be home more in the future maybe it won’t be 5 years until the next one.

You're coming upto your 16th year as a band. Did you ever think that the Clamfight musical journey would last this long.

Ha, that’s a great question. I remember when we were a lot younger we swore we were going to hang it up when we all turned 28. That was 10 years ago. We all have a lot more responsibilities these days but we all love making music and hanging out with each other so I don’t see us hanging it up anytime soon. Personally I have ideas for other records that I think we’ve still got in us, and if it takes us longer to get them out because of our lives, that’s fine. They’ll happen eventually.

What have been your high points and low points with the band.

We’ve gotten to open for some our heroes, like Eyehategod and Scott Kelly and Bruce Lamont, and those shows were really great experiences. The other more continuous high point is the connections with other like-minded weirdos that we’ve managed to make. Having made really close friendships with bands and promoters up and down the east coast is really rewarding, and honestly it gets even cooler when you start seeing your rock and roll buddies without amps in the room. There’s a long list of incredible people we just wouldn’t know without Clamfight, and those folks are the unquestionable best thing about being in a band.

As for the low points, that’s a slightly more difficult question. We’re brothers, and sometimes we fight like brothers, but honestly now that we’re older even a nasty post show fight can get chalked up to booze and buried with a hug and an “I love you” the next day. The real low points are the life events, the unexpected tragedies that can come out of nowhere and crush you as you get older.

But at the same time, when you get that 3am phone call and someone you love is just gone, having the other guys in the band to lean on is its own kind of beautiful. We’ve all had our fair share of loss, but when I look back at the kindness and patience we’ve had for each other its sort its own high point. So ultimately, there isn’t a low point really, just occasional mild shit-fits backed up with a lot of love.

Would you change anything about your time with Clamfight.

Just our dumb name.

Are you all involved with different musical projects or is this your main band.

Clamfight is everyone’s main thing. There’s been sporadic jamming with different people over the years, and I think that sort of thing is important for growing as musician, but personally our schedules get in the way of being reliable bandmates for anyone else. Sean and I do have a growing collection of riffs that don’t really make sense for Clamfight and we have every intention of them seeing the light of day at some point.

What is your musical setup when performing or recording live. Is it an advanced setup or a basis setup.

Sean’s got a little bit of weirdness going on with his pedals but otherwise we are real basic meat and potatos guys, set-up wise. My drums sound like garbage at most shows because I’m just going to break them anyway.

How hard is it for Clamfight stand-out from the crowd. Or do you not worry about things like that.

In terms of song writing Sean and I tend to swear off new music when we’re in writing mode. That’s probably why you’ll never see us wearing bell bottoms and writings songs about cars or sex witches or something. Maybe it’s because we’re boring guys but I feel like I’ve been listening to the same 5 records since the year 2000 and I feel like that helps us avoid a little of the ‘doing what everyone else is doing’ stuff.

In terms of live, we just try to play as hard as we can. Sound sucks? Had a long day? Tired? Sick? Argued over where we ate dinner? Fuck it, just play as hard as we can. That and being polite and punctual. When we first starting out as band and sucked pretty hard, saying ‘thank you’ and showing up when we said we would got us a lot of shows.

Do you perform many local gigs or do you have to travel further afield.

I’d consider us a regional act if that makes any sense. We’re all pretty tied down workwise so we tend to get by on weekenders, but we’ve covered 1,100 miles in a weekend before, and once did 2,800 miles in a long weekend, so we still try to cover as much ground as we can. Since “Glacier” came out we covered the whole of the east coast of the US from Maine to Florida, and we’ll hopefully do all that again in support of ‘III’. We’re also eyeing something a bit further afield for the fall hopefully (like the West Coast).

With 2017 drawing to a close. What have been your favourite albums you've listened to this year.

I caught Mutoid Man a few weeks ago and consequently ‘War Moans’ has been a daily listen ever since. Iron Monkey’s new one shreds, and I loved that Bloodclot record. That was my summer jam.

Hellrad’s ‘Counting Sins’ just crushes. Mother of God does that record rule and they’re great live and great dudes. I jammed the hell out of Kings Destroys’ ‘None More’ EP as well.

My record of the year though is probably Shroud Eater’s ‘Strike the Sun.’ They’re family, and guest on ‘III’ so I’m obviously biased, but it’s a pretty fine thing when people you love make a record that that’s damn good.

Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.

Thanks for giving a shit, really. For a band that can’t really properly tour, the support we’ve gotten from all over the US as well as Europe and Australia has been hard to wrap our heads around. Anytime someone drops more on international shipping for a copy of the record or a T-Shirt I kind of want to hop on a plane and go hug the ever loving shit out of them. So all I can really say is thanks, and that you guys are the absolute best.

Words by Steve Howe and Andy Martin

Thanks to Andy for doing this interview. III will be available to buy on CD/DD via Argonauta Records from January 18th 2018.