Hot Band Alert: Clay of The Artisanals on the start of the band and music making process
This summer was a summer of true musical exploration. I of course found myself being drawn to bands that I’ve been speaking to for years but I also found myself jamming new favorites that I hadn’t heard of until this year. One of those bands? The Artisanals, a Charleston export that won me over on one of those last really hot summer nights.
Coming together from different bands, Clay Houle and Johnny Delaware started this gem of a band almost three years ago and have been relentlessly touring since. Their chemistry is clear on stage and made for an electric performance despite it being a relatively sleepy night in Boston. It’s been a summer of live performances destroying expectations from previously only hearing recorded versions and The Artisanals were definitely part of that category.
Just an hour or so before the band took the stage, I sat down with Houle to talk the new music the band is working on with the new single “Violet Light” being part of that next move for the band, and much more. Find out chat here!
This album is only about a year old.
It is only a year old. And we actually recorded it a year before that. So we waited a long time to put it out. So we released that last September and we’ve been touring like crazy since that came out. I think we’ve played over 150 shows since our album came out and we did like a 100 before that. We’ve just been on the road constantly for the past two years and coming up on January, we’ll have been a band for three years. So it’s been a lot, it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve done a European tour. We’ve been lucky enough to open for some cool bands. So that’s been fun, and we’ve done some really cool tours which has been nice.
And actually, this past January, we started recording a new album and we actually just finished that. So we’re pretty excited. We just got it mastered so we’re kind of figuring out how we’re going to put it out basically. So hopefully we’ll have it out maybe at the end of February that’s what we’re thinking.
Then maybe speaking of that now, I know the single, “Violet Light”, has come out. You made that song with someone who has worked with Of Montreal, Kishi Bashi. It’s a bit of a departure from what it’s been.
How was that experience?
It was great. We recorded that song, “Violet Light”, it’s going to be on our new album. We recorded our first album in Iowa which was fantastic. We love those guys. We just kind of decided we maybe wanted to do something a little bit different. One of my old bands had recorded with this guy, Drew Vanderberg and he’s based out of Athens, GA. And the studio is called Chase Park Transduction. And they’ve done a lot for awesome stuff there. Like one of my favorite bands, Drive-By Truckers, don’t know if you’re familiar with them, they recorded all their albums there. We’re good friends with Drew so we asked him just like, “Drew we want you to produce it” and he said “Yeah, sure!” We cut a lot of it live. It’s a lot more acoustic. I don’t want to say it’s lo-fi but it definitely doesn’t even really sound like the same band to be honest with you. It sounds completely different.
I can see that, no doubt.
And that’s one of the more rocking songs on there. We have some pedal steel on there, and a lot more acoustic singer-songwriter sounding stuff. So it’s been exciting. I’m looking forward to putting out. We’ve been touring like crazy, literally balls to the walls for the last few years. We’re on this Northeastern run now, Friday is the last show of it. We’re going to go home for like four days then we have another month. Then we’re not going to tour again for a while. We, we’re going to do shows here and there, some opening stuff that we’re fortunate enough to get. Other than that, probably just going to lay low and wait some tables for a few months and just relax.
Then I know from reading about it, Johnny and you started the band together. I know he’s moved around a lot, played in other bands.
He’s moved around a lot. He lived in New Mexico. I’ve moved around a fair share too. But I was in this band based out of Athens with this guy, Tedo Stone, he’s a really good friend of mine still. And we went on tour with Johnny’s old band, Susto. This is so long ago, like literally three or four years ago. And we just kind of met from there, we hit it off. I was dating a girl at the time and she broke up with me and I needed a place to live. I called him and he was like well why don’t you just move to Charleston and we can start our own band together. And I said yeah that sounds like a plan. So I just packed up my ass, my shit and moved to Charleston. I lived there for two years, that’s where we started our band and two of our members still live in Charleston. Then I moved back to Atlanta maybe a year ago. But I’m from Atlanta, I love Atlanta. I know it’s a crazy place, I probably won’t live there forever but I do like it so it’s nice.
Maybe when you started the writing process, since I know you were in other bands before, something new you tried when writing for The Artisanals, maybe something you had to leave behind because of compromise?
Since Johnny is such a good songwriter, the majority of the time I’ll just come up with a riff or something to complement what he’s already got down. So that’s been nice. I don’t write any of the lyrics, Johnny does all that, so I just help out with the music. And we have a little demo studio in my parent’s basement that we’ll write songs in. We’ve had a lot of different band members over the years too. That just kind of come and go. It’s always been Johnny and I but our bass player, Eric, has been with us for two years so he’s basically the man. Our keyboardist has been playing with us over a year as well. So it’s been nice. We’ve had a couple different drummers but that tends to happen with drummers. Everytime you see a band, it’s like ‘Who’s the drummer now?’ I feel like that’s always the case but we’ve been lucky. We’ve met so many great people it’s been awesome. The journey has been really cool. It’s been really hard but I think that comes with the territory. If it was so easy to be in a band, I think everybody would do it.
Then to end it off, you’ve talked a bit about your plans but maybe what would you like to see the band be doing in a year? Like focuses or goals?
In a year from now, that’s a really good question. Maybe bringing more people to the shows, some people will maybe resonate with our second album more then they did with our first one. The touring is so hard, obviously we love to do it, but it’s very financially stressful on all of us. I live with my girlfriend, our bassist lives with his girlfriend.
It’s also just adulting.
Yeah, we chose to play in a band. Be 32 and 29 and all this and choose to do this. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t believe in it. If I didn’t think it could go somewhere, I wouldn’t be doing it. Maybe in a year, we’ll be bringing twice as many people as we bring now. I think that’s a good goal.