Joey Siara recently took some time to talk to MXDWN about The Henry Clay People, their new album Somewhere on the Golden Coast, touring with Silversun Pickups and more…
I want to start by asking you the question on everyone’s mind: Where on the Golden Coast?
You know, I have lived everywhere between San Diego and Santa Barbara and in the bay area as well, so I kind of think that the entire Golden Coast is the Somewhere.
On this album, what was the biggest hurdle for you?
We initially tried to do everything live, and when you do that you bury the stuff you mess up on if you don’t notice it right away. I’ll notice it five days later when I’m already married to it. There was a good amount of that, and trying to do it quick. I feel like there was stuff that was overlooked, and what do you do? Go back and start over? It’s expensive and we can’t afford it.
So you ended up sticking with that live content?
Yeah. The last album was recorded with all of us in a room together and no one had any headphones. When you play all in a room like that, the amps kind of bleed together. It sounds like just a big mushy sound with not much separating the instruments. At the end of the day I’m happy we did it like that. Some songs could have been better, but I’m happy with what we did.
Are you content with your final product?
[reluctantly] Yeah… hindsight is always 20/20. I’m sure if I could go back I would do some tweaking around of stuff. Maybe cut a song, add a song, but overall it is what it is; a document of a time and place and an idea we had at the time. That’s where our band was in 2009 when we recorded it.
Do you feel on your next album you’d like to do things more precise and clearly and individually?
Yeah. For the next one, half of me wants to get back to The Golden Coast classic rock influences. I grew up listening to a lot of punk, but I also like prettier melodies, so I want the next one to be split and edgier, where the loud is louder and the pretty is prettier. Once we are doing the edgier stuff I want there to be less planning, where we can just go in and have some sense of chaos. Throw it down and see what works. And then we could take time to make it prettier by orchestrate it and making it sound good.
Sounds like a contradiction.
I think the idea is that as the band goes forward we get more bipolar. I think on a scale of 1 to 10, intensity-wise, all of our songs are between 6 and 8. I want more 10s and I want more 2s.
Where do you guys record at?
Mostly in Eagle Rock at this place called The Ship, although some of it was done at my friends studio in Burbank.
Eric, the drummer, returned to the band this year. What was the reason for that?
He originally left the band because he had a good job and he couldn’t afford to leave. He worked for an architecture firm. He couldn’t go on tour. He said that although he loves the band, he has bills and is married and blah, blah, blah. We felt that the band never really recovered from losing Eric, but then we found out that Eric had actually lost his job; he was laid off. So I approached him and told him that he could come back if he wanted, and he agreed, which was hard because he had to let go of our other drummer. That was not easy to do, but having Eric back in the band feels very natural. I’ve been in bands with Eric since junior high and he is one of my best friends. I was in his wedding, and now he gets to go on tour and stuff.
Will he stick around?
I don’t know. I hope that he sticks around. I know that he is hoping that he will eventually get a job in the architecture world. He went to school for it for so many years, it would be a shame to not. In the meantime, I would love for him to hang out and play with us and write songs with us.
And why not? Plenty of musicians have degrees that they don’t end up using.
Yeah. I have a history degree that doesn’t do me much good. It’s been a weird couple of years with the economy. Some of my best friends, Eric being one of them, and my friend who went to law school, these guys are doing what they wanted to do for awhile and all of them got laid off in the last two years. It’s crazy. To me, those guys did what they were supposed to. You know, I got good grades in school, but I was always kind of a slacker. These are the guys that I know who went above and beyond. And they all got screwed over by the crappy economy. Nothing is for sure. Even if you do everything the right way, it doesn’t grantee anything. That’s why I feel like it’s the right time to be a crappy little touring rock and roll band.
Rock and roll is recession proof.
[laughing] Not quite.
Yeah, actually, so many record industries have folded recently. It’s ridiculous.
Concert attendance and record sales are not quite what they could be. There are a lot of bands right now that, I think, 5 or 6 years ago could have been signed and are going unsigned because labels don’t know exactly what to do. No one wants to take a risk right now. Everyone in bands and labels alike need to start thinking outside the box.
Now that you point that out, I think that explains a lot of emerging super groups. Like, people from big bands starting projects with other bands to make a group of rock and roll all stars to do whatever.
I agree. Something I read last night was that hip-hop has a better business model than rock and roll bands because it’s based on individuals who collaborate with one another. You always have songs that are like, so-and-so featuring so-and-so. That as a marketing strategy that works. They are probably doing better than all of these rock and roll bands. You also have all of these bands reuniting, like Rage Against the Machine, all getting back together and I’m sure they are hoping to cash in a little bit. I don’t want to sound so jaded; I’m sure they are having a good time, but at some point you have to think that, “We had a good band and it’d be nice to make some money.”
That’s a wonderful business model. I wonder if it is intentional or if it just worked out that way.
Breaking up the band only to get back together 15 years later.
It’s genius! So you just finished the tour. Now what?
Right now we’re hanging out and getting some sleep. Then we’ll right some new songs and hopefully record an EP of five songs or so. We’ve written 3 songs and we have the rest in our heads. I don’t want to rush anything. I want to take my time to make sure that we’re not biting off more than we can chew. We’ll see if the label will put it out early next year. If not we’ll keep working on something better.
Do you have an idea when this EP will come to fruition?
The plan is to record in December and have it out by SXSW time for like March. It’s not set in stone but that is what it sounds like.
Does it look like you guys are going to play SXSW again?
I don’t know. We haven’t decided yet. We played the last 3 years and it seems like every time you go you should know why you’re going and the first year we were going because we wanted to be a part of the crazy SXSW experience. The second year we were going because we were playing for booking agents. Last year we played 11 shows in four days just to see if we could survive. At the end we did it, we played 11 shows in 3 days, and after that we were just so exhausted. We all got sick immediately after that. It was kind of like, “well, what was the point of that?” just to see if we could do it?
It’s an accomplishment under your belt.
It’s an accomplishment. Maybe next year we’ll play 3 good shows and not try to overextend ourselves. I’m not 100% sure; I love Austin and SXSW. I would say there is like an 80% chance of us going.
After coming back from the tour, what city would you enjoy living in most, if not LA?
That would have to be New York or Portland. Austin is in there, too. For sure New York is the greatest city in the world. I haven’t been to too many places outside the U.S. but if it wasn’t so expensive I would live there. I’m sure I would blow through whatever savings I have in a matter of weeks if I lived there. Portland and Austin are very similar. They are very liberal, hip cities full of great food and great bars.
And it’s got a good music scene.
Yeah. All of the second hand record shops you can ever want in a smaller big city. They are full of like minded young people and I like that a lot. The way of life there is just slower than LA and definitely slower than New York. People seem to be enjoying themselves in a way that is exciting and contagious and that is why so many young people end up flocking to those cities.
When you were touring with Silversun Pickups, did Nikki Monninger ever come on to you or any of the guys?
Nikki is a very sweet person. She has a boyfriend, who I share a good friend with; this guy Eric in a band called Hector. I think everyone in Silversun Pickups have been in serious relationships for awhile. It is cool to see a band at that level of success able to hold relationships. It’s tough on the road.
Good for them. Not so great for you guys. Are you a fan of Silversun and Against Me!?
Yeah! Before the tour I didn’t know too much Against Me! The running joke in the band was that whenever we would hum a melody it was always an Against Me! song.
They are pretty catchy.
They are. The other day, someone gave me a White Crosses record. I put it on my computer and now I know all of the words to every song on that record. Silversun I am a fan of. One of the first things that happened when I first moved to LA, I friend was like, “You have to go see this band.” I think that was at the Hammer Museum. I didn’t know who they were at the time, but now you can’t go 5 days without hearing their name. I got to know them, too, because we have a lot of mutual friends in LA. They are some of the sweetest, most down to earth people. I love it when “rock stars” are humble and down to earth and you can talk to them about whatever.
How do you and the rest of the band enjoy the act of touring?
It’s amazing how close you get with your bandmates from just being on the road with them. I’ve hung out with the people in our band more than I’ve hung out with most people, ever. You get to know every weird quirk that they have. On one level you get tired of hanging out with the same people, but at the end of it, it’s almost like you go to war together and we have weird war experiences with one another. My actual brother is in the band, but the other guys in the band… at the beginning of touring, like, if there was a fight, I don’t know if I would have jumped in right away, but now I would totally jump in for anyone in the band. I probably would have jumped in back then, but now it just runs deeper.
Are you a lover or are you a fighter?
It depends on who you ask. I am probably a bit of both. I definitely have a bit of fight in me when it comes to my band; we argue a lot. In fact, I am definitely a fighter more than a lover. I don’t think there is anyone who considers me a lover.
Do you have a favorite local venue?
Spaceland. I actually heard recently that they are selling Spaceland to a new owner. I wonder if that will change the vibe of the club. I hope not. I really like that place and we’ve played so many of our favorite shows there. It’s in Silverlake and I know all of the management and all of the bartenders there, so I hope that all stays the same. It would be a shame if that changes.
Maybe they will read this interview and take that into consideration.
Yeah! I hope so.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Joey.
Yeah, no problem.