Interview by: Mike Farley
Click here for Mike's review of Another Happy Ending, the new album from The Clarks.
The Pittsburgh-based Clarks have been together for about 15 years and have just released their second CD on the Razor & Tie label. With basically the same lineup for all those years, these guys have become a staple in the Midwest and on the East coast and are looking to really break out nationally now. Their new record is awesome and I got the chance to ask bass player and songwriter Greg Joseph, among other things, how he feels about it.
Mike Farley: So things are going well for you guys?
Greg Joseph: Things are going really well. Nothing ever moves as quickly as you'd like it to...but it's going. And just when you think things are going along at the same pace, something cool comes along, which is the part everyone still gets a kick out of.
MF: Your new record is one of my favorites of the year. How do you feel about it?
GJ: I think it is definitely our best up to this point.
MF: What's your favorite track on it?
GJ: They keep changing, which is a really good thing. I would have to say "Maybe" is my favorite this week (first track on the album).
MF: This is your second release on Razor & Tie. What are some differences being on a label of this size as opposed to releasing it on your own?
GJ: I think the fact that they are well-connected and well-funded. Distribution through BMG is priceless. And the people at BMG seem really excited about this project, more so than I would ever imagine from a company that size. We visited some of the offices and they seemed genuinely interested, like this is something they believe will do well. It also relieves us of a lot of the business work so we can concentrate on the musical work. And we never would have been able to hire a publicist independently, and they really understand how to market us.
MF: I think it was cool that I heard you guys on WKDD in Akron recently.
GJ: Yeah, they're working on a number of different stations, and some of them are real pop-oriented, and that's not a bad thing.
MF: Who would you compare yourselves to to people who haven't heard you?
GJ: This time around it's tough to say. Who would you say?
MF: I'd have to read my own review of the album, but there are so many things I hear in it. I think I said "middle of the road" like Tom Petty, but with more of an alternative flavor.
GJ: Right now it's hard to put a current spin on it, but mostly we have become comfortable doing our own thing that it's hard to put that label on it, and we don't care to sound like anybody. I think Petty is a legitimate comparison but there's some things on this record that are so much more pop than that, almost like Smash Mouth.
MF: You guys have been touring forever -- how does a band like the Clarks stay together so long?
GJ: I think ever since we started this, we knew we had something special. The four of us together are more than the four individual parts. And ever since then there's been a musical "carrot" dangled in front of us. We would make one song, then another, then make a record, then another, then we got airplay and it kept growing. And I think we're going to continue to grow and nobody (in the band) will want to get left behind.
MF: Do you guys all take part in the songwriting?
GJ: We all write songs, and this time around it was probably the most collaborative effort, and that's why the songs are a little more unusual, since one person didn't dominate what the feel was, based on what they were listening to at the time. So this is the first CD that we've all written at least one song for.
MF: What's been the highlight of your career so far personally?
GJ: I would have to say the one thing that stands out was the first time we did Surgefest, the local music festival at Star Lake Amphitheater. There were close to 20,000 people there, and we headlined, and when we played nobody left, and the place was just packed. It was just amazing seeing that many people from the stage side of it.
MF: What's in your CD player right now?
GJ: Patty Griffin, which is really good...good songwriting. I still have Coldplay, I can't get that out of my CD player for the life of me.... David Meade and the Average White Band.
MF: Do you have any funny stories from the road?
GJ: Not recently. Things have been fairly businesslike; it's just been traveling. There's nothing really over the top.
MF: So what would a typical day in the life of a touring musician be?
GJ: I think for us right now, we've had the chance to get out on a tour bus, and that's a really cool thing. It takes being together to a whole new level, where you're all confined to the same space for sometimes eight hours at a time. I think it's the best way to tour because it's more comfortable, but it takes a lot more patience on everybody's part because at the end of the day you don't all scatter and go somewhere. You're all still together.
MF: Favorite food while on the road?
GJ: There's a lot of them (laughs). I think the thing that we rally around at some point, and it's generally everyone in the band, we go get sushi.
MF: Have you seen our site at all?
GJ: Yeah, that's where I saw the review. A friend of mine that works for the Pittsburgh Pirates turned me on to that. I didn't ask him how he found the site, but I think it was through another friend of his. So it sounds like the word's spreading for you guys.
MF: Good, because my next question is if you or any of the guys are sports fans, and if so what teams do you like?
GJ: I'm a Pirates, Steelers and Penguins fan first and foremost. That's really the three that I root for every year.
MF: So what are the groupies like on the road for you guys?
GJ: Same as they are for anyone, but with a tour bus there's a different level. It makes you more of a BAND, a step above where you were when you came in with a van and a trailer. And people are always trying to get on the bus, if for no other reason than they've never been on a tour bus. They just want to look around and hang out. But as far as the groupies, let's put it this way: Before a show I could stay out at the bar for 45 minutes and no one talks to me. And the minute I come off stage everyone wants to talk to me because I'm in the band. It's a good thing and a bad thing all in the same.
MF: Let's say you have time to kill in the studio, and you have to watch endless reruns of a TV show. What show would you pick?
GJ: I could pick four right off the top of my head -- "Family Guy," "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under" and "Everybody Loves Raymond." We actually watched seven episodes of "The Sopranos" in a row when we were traveling for, like, 14 hours in a van. You get out of the van and you feel like killing somebody. "Six Feet Under" is a powerful show too but in a creepy way.
MF: Do you have anything you want to plug?
GJ: Yeah, we have a show at the Odeon in Cleveland on September 7, and also a big show in Pittsburgh at the Post-Gazette Pavilion on September 14. Also, we have the closing credit song for the "Anna Nicole Show" -- "Better Off Without You" is the name of it. It didn't really dawn on me until I read the words how ironic and funny that is for an ending song...and check out the Web site at www.clarksonline.com.
MF: And you guys are playing with the Gin Blossoms?
GJ: Yeah, at BB King's place in New York.
For more info, be sure to visit www.clarksonline.com.