Clean Cut Kid pretty much exploded onto the scene and straight into the ears of, well, most people. It’s been a complete whirlwind of a journey for them so far, but we managed to score a bit of time with them to have a little chat about it all.
Hi guys! You’ve just had a massively busy festival season, playing around 30 odd, what have been your highlights?
Glastonbury was insane. First time playing it and we were pretty sure no one would turn up…Then we walked out to a 2000 cap tent completely full with another 2000 people watching from outside the tent. They were so up for it, singing every word back and I think we’d all agree it was the most surreal moment of the whole summer. Also, Latitude was special- when we played it last year it had been our first ever festival and something like our 5th gig. We’d played an early slot on a small stage hidden away in the forest and then this year we headlined the Lake Stage. We remember standing watching bands on the Lake Stage last year and saying to each other “I hope one day we’ll play this stage, maybe in like 3 years”….and then a year later we’re headlining it! It was an amazing feeling.
Any particular low points?
Turning up to a few of them unprepared for the apocalyptic levels of mud has been pretty grim. When you’re not camping or expecting to be needing to get around the site other than backstage you just don’t think to bring wellies etc…We’ve wrecked a lot of hotel bathrooms hosing down after those gigs and we’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of shoes.
You’re not giving yourself much of a break post festival season with the 10 date headline tour later this year, what do you enjoy the most about performing live?
It’s our favourite thing about all of this. We enjoy the crowd reaction the most. The best feeling is playing your music to a receptive and engaged crowd. You also get to deliver the songs exactly how you intended. You’re calling the shots. If you wanna add an extra chorus, or crack out a solo or switch things up a bit you can. When you’re signed to a label and you’re making singles, your songs aren’t just in your hands and sometimes you feel like they are being shaped by other people, it can be a tough process and has been a big learning curve for us. When you’re playing live, though, you’re in control and no one’s telling you to halve this bridge, or take out this chorus or don’t do this backing vocal…you can just go for it and deal with the consequences later haha.
With all of these live performances, have you had much time to focus on new material?
Mike is a machine and is constantly writing material. He’ll write and demo up a track in 1 or 2 days, and he’ll do it without any instrument, in a van when you think he’s sleeping but really he’s laying down the next single in his head. Next thing you know he’s made a demo on his laptop and we’re recording vocals in the hotel room that night.
The new EP is great! How have you found the reaction to it?
It’s not out yet but hopefully, we’ll get the reaction we hope for! It shows a different side to the band, if you like our B-sides you’ll like this EP.
What kind of creative process went into its creation?
The lead single and title track We Used To Be In Love was written before we even signed our deal, Paper Heart was the same, months before we had any interest. Mike wrote Hospital Lights years and years ago before any of us had even met. And the Jamie XX cover was something we were asked to try out when he had some free time in the summer last year. So creatively, with regard to the writing, they all came from completely different places, different times, for different reasons. They were all recorded within the last year, however, so in that way they’ve come together in one creative mindset.
Tell us a bit about your journey, how did Clean Cut Kid get to where they are? It feels like you hit success pretty quickly, but we’re guessing it’s not quite been that simple…
It’s strange, we did kinda come out of nowhere, in terms of we signed our record deal after our second gig and were straight away into releasing the first single..so we’ve only actually been on the scene for a little bit over a year, but you’re right there was a lot of prep before that..
It started with Mike, he had songs and ideas for a band called Clean Cut Kid then when he met me 4 years ago we started making music together. After about a year of playing in each others projects but never really dedicating our time to ‘one thing’ we decided we should probably choose one and give it a proper go and all our attention. So Clean Cut Kid began! Then we enlisted Saul and played as a three for 6 months, in which time we went in and recorded Vitamin C and Runaway. Mike played everything on those recordings, and he just went for it in those sessions, not thinking about how we’d re-create it as a three live, just whatever the track needed and whatever his vision was, he got it out in those sessions. Which was great, because it was in those sessions we feel we really found the Clean Cut Kid sound. Shortly after that we got Ross in on drums so we could properly recreate those recordings live! That was November 2014 and in March 2015 we did our first gig. We had nothing released, no online presence or anything but a couple of industry people had somehow heard Vitamin C and a demo of We Used To Be In Love we’d made in our practice room on an iPad, and so there was a couple of big wigs at that first gig…2 weeks later we played at The Water Rats, word had gone round the labels and the gig sold out in 10 minutes. Every record label boss was there plus press, publishers and booking agents. It was insane. We played that gig, were rushed out into cars after to a meeting and woke up the next morning to a stream of record deal offers coming through. We spent a week going in and out of label offices meeting all the heads and signed with Polydor at the end of that week followed by the publishing deal with Universal a month later.
In the months leading up to when we signed, we buried ourselves away in our practice room and practised EVERY day. If we weren’t rehearsing we were working on new material, or meeting up to talk about promo shots, or video ideas, or whatever. It was very intense and all-consuming, and hard because we were having to work in various functions bands, or session work or teaching just to get by as well. I remember when Ross joined he was in a show that took up all of his day, so sometimes we’d meet at 9am for an hour and then again at 9pm for another hour before the building noise curfew kicked in. They were crazy days, but I think they built strong foundations for us as a band and are why we can now play like we do live. It took A LOT of work, but was worth it.
You recently made break ups playlist on Spotify, obviously in honour of ‘We Used To Be In Love’ is heartbreak the main influence of your music, or have their been happier influences also?
This record is a break up record. It’s made up of new material looking back, but also old material that Mike had years before we were a band, so written in the moment, in the thick of it. We chose to make this the theme of this record because it’s something everyone goes through. Music, art, books made in moments that have kicked people in the ass and brought them down to the bottom are some of the best things ever made. There’s something very powerful about being creative in those moments you’re that broken. We’re happy as now though, and sometimes we even say it’s harder to write now that there’s no heartache going around the band haha…Mike’s written a lot of songs for or about me since we met, Vitamin C and Pick Me Up for example…so I think the theme has somewhat shifted to something more cheerful and optimistic…
2016 has been a big year for you guys! So what’s in store for 2017?
Release our debut album, start recording the second, tour the US, hit the European festival scene and maybe have a day off!