INTERVIEW: CLEAN CUT KID
There really is nothing quite like Liverpudlian four piece Clean Cut Kid, over the past three years, the making and release of debut album 'Felt' has seen them go from strength to strength, playing the likes of Glastonbury, Reading, Bestival and of course plenty of their own headline shows.
Prominent airplay on nationwide stations such as Radio X and Radio 1 have meant you cannot escape this rising rock band and their plethora of upbeat and singalong tunes, I caught up with drummer Ross Higginson as we discussed musical influences, the challenges of making their debut record and the highlights of a very busy 2017 for the band...
Hi Ross, So how did Clean Cut Kid begin?
Ross: Clean Cut Kid all started with Mike really, he’s the main songwriter, it’s his vision and his brain basically, about four or five years ago he had the band at a different level but it all fell apart for a number of reasons, He started it up again after meeting his now wife Eve, they just kind of started playing together, she’s a songwriter in her own right and that’s how they both met, on the gig circuit.
After writing together they then recruited Saul on bass, they’d met him in a studio previously a few years back, when they were looking for a bass player they ended up seeing him again busking one night. It feels like a cheesy story but it actually happened, after going for a Chinese they saw him busking on the street and asked him if he wanted to jam, they then went on as a three piece for about a year.
When I joined, we were all teaching an after school project called Rock Project at St. Helens and we’d get the train together, Me + Mike got chatting about music and it turned out we had lots of our favourite bands in common. Back then Ev was also playing drums so they asked me to come play the drums.
Me: It came together quite naturally then,
Ross: Yeah it did it’s quite cool when you tell that story, you feel like your telling some sort of cinematic cheesy tale but it generally did happen that way.
Are there any particular artists you would say have influenced you as a band?
Ross: It kind of comes from a lot of different things because Mike being a songwriter has had a lot of influence from the classics, people like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Paul McCartney and John Lennon obviously, He used to cycle around his estate on his bike wearing out the Beatles albums on a headset, he was always obsessed with them.
Then as a band we have all kinds of stuff, we love Bon Iver, Tame Impala, Arcade Fire. All these types of bands and sounds kind of influence us too, we love the pop sides of things like Michael Jackson and all the stuff in the chart. We listen to different things for different reasons, like you’ll listen to production on Michael Jackson and be like “whoah, that snare drum sound” or listen to Nick Jonas and be like “whoah, that’s a great synth”, we take inspiration from everything really.
Me: You definitely can see that from your music, you can’t really peg it down to one genre
Ross: Yeah i think we’ve always found it tough to fully describe what we are as a band, we’ve been labelled like fuzz pop and stuff but we are essentially a rock band, I guess like the older mould though. You’d have called Fleetwood Mac a rock band back in the day but now you’d probably label them a pop band due to the way things have changed, but I’d say we are a rock band. It’s loud and a heavy guitar driven band but obviously it’s pop songwriting at the core of it, so thats where the two fall into place I think.
Your debut album ‘Felt’ came out earlier this year, how was recording your first album? any particular challenges?
Ross: I think the biggest challenge for us was the fact it was made over the course of two years, I’m sure thats the case for a lot of people but for us the adjustment period of taking a long time to record it was new, we started recording it in August 2015 and we didn’t get finishing it till last December, that’s because we’d been doing it in stages, recording different tracks at different times and in a few different studios.
That was quite a challenge because I think particularly Mike, has focus when his headspace is in a certain frame of mind and he just wants to record it all at once, I think we all would have benefited from just going in and doing the whole album, however it was still really neat, dead fun and amazing doing it but still quite hard because your going from gigging all weekend to back home Sunday night and then straight in the studio Monday morning, it was quite a challenge separating those two mindsets but it was fun and paid off in the end.
You’ve had so much support from radio stations such as Radio X & Radio 1 especially quite early on, how pivotal is that when releasing your first album?
Ross: Oh very, I think especially in the U.K. it’s very pivotal, in America there is obviously thousands of different radio stations, but over here if you get support from a big radio station early on it can help everything, like the festivals and crowds for example, It was really nice of them to support us so early, I think it was straight from Vitamin C, the same for featuring on Radio X as well, it really helped definitely.
I first saw you guys open up Festival No.6 last year and your set instantly stuck in my mind, how do you think you’ve make your live shows so engaging?
Ross: Oh, wow that was a cool one, yeah It’s kind of like two different worlds, the live one and the album, because we don’t use backing track or any that kind of stuff so the live is like an amalgamation of all the parts we play humanly, without adding extra members or backing singers, they are two slightly different things, but you’d probably say the live is probably heavier and louder isn’t it?
Me: Yeah Definitely it is.
Ross: That’s us at our more natural I think, it’s kinds of just us trying to play as close as we can to the track, that’s kind of our natural way of playing together I think.
Me: Is that kind of how you started out, more of a live band in the beginning?
Ross: Yeah i mean, initially we recored in a practice room in Liverpool, ‘We Used To Be In Love’ and ‘Pick Me Up’ were all just kind of live performances of Me, Mike and Saul and then we’d put the keyboard parts over the top after but that’s the core of it, the way us four play together, in the studio you’d do different things like layer it up a bit more separate but the band at it’s most natural state is playing live together, that’s where the live thing kind of falls into place for people, I think they see it and the band then makes sense to them, which is good.
What’s your favourite song to perform live?
Ross: It’s really tough to say, at the moment it’s Felt, I’m really enjoying playing it, we love all of them for different reasons really, they all have things we love about them, it used to be for me ‘Make Believe’ but at the moment it has to be ‘Felt’ because it’s relatively new in the set and it’s fresh.
Me: How are you finding the reaction to the new stuff
Ross: It’s great, the fans seem to love it and it’s nice now the albums out to have people singing back the lyrics to you, for like every song which is really nice.
Me: I can’t imagine a better feeling, seeing everyone singing along.
Ross: It’s really surreal but it’s amazing when you see like their lips moving along to the new tracks, like before there was only a few singles out so the rest of the tracks weren’t really known, obviously the die hard fans had picked the lyrics up from the gigs but now people have listened to the album and when they come to see us, they can all sing it back.
You’ve had a very busy year so far, what’s been some of the highlights?
Ross: I can’t even think what month it is (laughs), I mean obviously going on tour with The Kooks was amazing, They really looked after us and then we did our tour interlinked with that as well which was great fun. As well just the album being out has been great, especially playing the festivals with it released is a great feeling.
You’ve returned to Bestival once again this year, this time playing The Box alongside the likes of Jamie T & Blossoms, It must be a great feeling to see yourselves rising through the ranks so clearly
Ross: It is dead nice, because the year really does fly by so you don’t have time to blink, so it’s a nice landmark moment to remind yourself, like you said, how far things have come on quite quickly because you can just keep on going and suddenly be like “wait, we played it last year and now look we’re on this stage” so it’s a nice little recognition.
You’ve got a big headline tour planned for the end of the year, you must be excited for a chance with fans, now six months down the line to see how the albums gone down with them?
Ross: I think when it was just released we were playing the album in it’s entirety but now it should be bedded in more so hopefully they’ll be a good chance to maybe throw some new ones in there as well, If we can of course. It will be nice as well to know that everyone should be familiar with the album in full, so that’s good.
Finally, what’s 2018 got in store for the band, from the sounds of it new material?
Ross: Yeah, Mike’s actually setting up his own recording studio in Liverpool, at the moment he’s demoing up stuff and writing. he’s also got a few songs written up at the moment that are sounding great. The day the album came out he already had a new single written for the next album so he’s well on the way to creating new stuff.
Me: so your expecting a shorter release gap this time around
Ross: Hopefully, yeah, we’re just want to keep the momentum going really, not wanting to slow it down, just keep on writing, keep on demoing and then hopefully they’ll be something for people to hear soon.
Me: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Ross: No problem, hope to see you at a show!
Clean Cut Kid are an outstanding live band, you should really make sure you check them out playing songs from their debut album 'Felt' on their headline tour this October, you can find a list of tour dates and ticket purchase links just below:
OCT 14 - THE WELLY CLUB - HULL BUY NOW
OCT 15 - WATERFRONT - NORWICH BUY NOW
OCT 16 - CLWB IFOR BACH - CARDIFF BUY NOW
OCT 17 - BULLINGDON - OXFORD BUY NOW
OCT 18 - SUB89 - READING BUY NOW
OCT 19 - THE SUGARMILL - STOKE-ON-TRENT BUY NOW
OCT 21 - THE LOFT - SOUTHAMPTON BUY NOW
OCT 22 - NEWHAMPTON ARTS CENTRE - WOLVERHAMPTON BUY NOW
OCT 23 - RESCUE ROOMS - NOTTINGHAM BUY NOW
OCT 25 - BRUDENDELL SOCIAL CLUB - LEEDS BUY NOW
OCT 26 - DRYDEN STREET SOCIAL - LEICESTER BUY NOW
OCT 27 - THE LEADMILL - SHEFFIELD BUY NOW
OCT 28 - 2Q FESTIVAL LINCOLN 2017 - LINCOLN BUY NOW