Atienza Talks to
The Henry Clay People
Jonathan, Joey and
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
homeless actually. He sleeps at my house, he sleeps
at my parents’ house. I guess he has a girlfriend
Andy: I sleep at
her house, too.
Eric Atienza: Is
there one band you’ve really loved playing
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
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 (http://henryclaypeople.com/store/)
and Myspace page (http://www.myspace.com/thehenryclaypeople)
for more information.