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New York Cool - Music

Eric Atienza Talks to
The Henry Clay People

Opposite Photo:
Jonathan, Joey and Jordan

Photo Credit:
Amy Davidson



Jonathan, Joey and Jordan


Los Angeles five-piece The Henry Clay People - named after the Great Compromiser as a compromise between several other names - were in town opening for Against Me! and the Silversun Pickups at East River State Park. After playing a show on the waterfront facing the early evening Manhattan skyline they sat down with New York Cool to answer some questions.

Eric Atienza: How’d you guys meet each other?

Joey (guitars, vocals): [Andy and I] are brothers, so we met by default. I met Eric in Junior High. I heard that he played drums and we became friends in PE.

Eric (drums): We started a shitty band.

Joey: Several shitty bands. Jon joined the band next like three years ago. He actually joined on guitar first.

Jonathan (bass): Because you guys needed a third guitar.

Joey: Once we realized we didn’t need that anymore and lost our bass player Jon moved to bass. Then we got bored of touring as a four-piece and we added Jordan.

Jordan (keyboards): Not as a good musician or anything, just as a goofball. A band jester.

Eric Atienza: You’ve been touring for quite a while. Have you played New York before?

Joey: We’ve played Webster Hall a handful of times and Bowery Ballroom and the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I have a major crush on this city.

Andy: Every time this is the most exciting part of the tour, just coming into New York. It was weird this time that we were actually looking at the skyline [while playing] because that’s what always gets me excited.

Jon: We’re extremely excited when we come into the city and then totally exhausted when we leave.

Joey: I love it. It’s like a hungover, empty wallet feeling. Vegas like you’re angry at and you resent the city but New York you feel like it socked you in the gut, but you deserved it.

Jon: When you leave Vegas you can hear it saying, “I told you you were an idiot.”

Eric Atienza: As a band that’s played in a lot of places do you think geography still matters? Is it important to move to a Brooklyn or L.A.?

Joey: Yeah, I mean except for John the rest of us are sort of suburban So-Cal kids so we never moved to a place to exploit the music scene, but I do feel like it should be part of – I think I romanticize cities too much – but it should be part of who you are. We just covered Jackson Browne and Jackson Browne is a Southern California dude.

Jon: It’s a question that comes up in the van a lot like we listen to new stuff and ask “Oh where are they from?”

Joey: I romanticize Minneapolis a lot because the Replacements are from there. When I go there I’m just like “This is the greatest thing ever!” Do I really think it’s the greatest thing ever or is it just because the Replacements are from there?
You’re on TBD now but you’ve self-released albums in the past. Does being on a label still matter?

Joey: Yes. I feel like there’s a lot of little headaches in the details. Like how’s this going to be in a record store or how’s this going to be sent out to people? What are we supposed to do with this? All of those questions are answered by the label.

Andy: Now that we’re on a label there are other headaches. It was almost better when we were just a little more ignorant to everything else. We didn’t even worry about like getting in a record store. We didn’t think about it but now that we’re actually thinking about it I think that creates more headaches. It creates headaches but gets rid of headaches at the same time.

Eric and Andy

Joey: It’s like Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems but we don’t make money so it’s just Mo’ Problems.

Jon: There are so many things that get taken care of that you don’t have to do anymore.

Joey: At the end of the day we’re still very poor, very DIY band that sleeps on floors.

Andy: I still sleep on floors. I don’t have a place to go home yet.

Joey: Andy’s homeless actually. He sleeps at my house, he sleeps at my parents’ house. I guess he has a girlfriend now.

Andy: I sleep at her house, too.

Eric Atienza: Is there one band you’ve really loved playing with?

Joey: I really liked playing with Drive by Truckers. It was inspiring because, you know, they’re older than us and they’ve been at it for years. Just seeing a band who has made a name for themselves by being a down to earth rock and roll band who plays hard and is about showing up and playing loud… it’s inspiring because they’ve had a career based on nothing flashy just really some solid albums and touring their butts off. It was really cool to see that it is possible to do it the old fashioned way.

Eric Atienza: Is there any band you’d absolutely love to tour with?

Joey: Me and Andy are obsessed with the Wrens and we’re dying to watch a Wrens reunion and if that was possible we would do a Wrens tour for free.

Andy: I actually drank a bottle of wine by myself and wrote some fanmail to the Wrens. Just saying we met last year at SXSW, you probably don’t remember us but if you’re ever on tour just let us know because we’re your band.
What do you want people listening to you for the first time to take from your music?

Joey: For a live show I think the idea of people going to a show and smiling and having fun. There’s nothing terribly serious about us. There’s a feeling I got when I was 14 or 15 going to these crappy punk shows and I would be so into it and come back and just feel this electricity and I wouldn’t be able to sleep because it was so good. If there is any fraction of that coming out in our show that would be the best thing ever.

It’s like having sex for the first time. You lose your virginity to a band and as you get older it gets more routine. You gotta harness the flame. Harness the romance.

Andy: That happened to me at the Hold Steady show at the Troubadour in 2006. It was one of those few shows where I did not want it to end. Everybody in the entire place was having the most amazing time. The band was having the most amazing time.

Joey: Even that Pavement reunion show. I feel like because this has become our profession for a while and it got routine on some level. It’s the idea of finding a moment that breaks the routine and feeling like “this is cool, this is exciting” as dorky as that sounds.

Jon: Tonight was like that on the playing side because of the skyline.

The Henry Clay People’s new album, Somewhere on the Golden Coast, came out on June 8th on TBD Records. The band is touring throughout the summer with the Silversun Pickups and will play Austin City Limits in the fall. Check out their Web site ( and Myspace page ( for more information.


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