Interview: Clean Cut Kid

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I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Ross Higginson, the drummer from Clean Cut Kid, before their headline show at Sound Control in Manchester. We talked about their debut album ‘Felt’, touring with The Kooks and multi-venue urban music festivals…


Your debut album ‘Felt’ came out last week (5th May), how does it feel to finally have it out?

It’s an incredible relief, especially for the gigs because everyone knows the songs now and can sing the lyrics back to you, hopefully, if they’ve bought it. To be able to play the album in its entirety is great too. It’s mad because we spent two years making it, which is much longer than a lot of other artists, because we were making it while doing shows so we never had a session to get it all done at once. It got quite blurry doing a track and then touring for a few weeks and then doing another track, so it’s nice to finally have it all together after losing track of how time went by whilst making it.


As a band you’ve been together for a while with a lot of success, including performances in Radio 1’s live lounge and almost 1.5 million streams on ‘Vitamin C’. Why has it taken so long to get the album out?

We signed our deal in a different way to a lot of bands, we already had a lot of Mike’s songs – he’s got like 180 tunes that we were rehearsing for about 6 months. Then after our first two ‘tester’ shows, the shows were rammed and the industry were there and we got signed off the back of it, before we had chance to build a fanbase. So it just took us a while to catch up the support network to where the music was. Then we kept trying different things for the album with different producers, so it just ended up taking a while to work things through to get the right sound.


Because you’ve been together for so long, a lot of the tracks on the album have been released as singles. Did this add any pressure onto the new songs?

Yeah definitely, we talked about that as a band, there’s still some tracks that the fans haven’t heard especially on the Deluxe edition. But the main idea with the album was to tell the story of a breakup, so these new tracks needed to be on it and in order to get the whole story across, that was a good thing to take the pressure off.


Where did the name ‘Felt’ and ‘Fuzzy’ (the tour) come from?

Fuzzy was always how we described our sound in the old days because of Mike’s use of fuzz pedals on his guitar. It’s hard to define our sound, so for a while we called it ‘fuzz-pop’, but in hindsight we are a rock band so it must be more ‘fuzz-rock’ now. So we thought the Fuzzy tour would work well.


And obviously Fuzzy goes well with Felt, the album title!

Yeah [laughs], ‘Felt’ was one of the songs on the album co-written by Mike and Ev that really sums up that breaking-up-and-falling-in-love-again theme. We thought of other words too but we liked having a title track – and it seems to be a crowd favourite at the moment!


You’ve got one more date supporting The Kooks – at Alexandra Palace tomorrow (13th May), what’s it been like supporting a band of that calibre and what are the differences in atmosphere between their gigs and yours?

Yeah, it’s been great! But as a support band you don’t want to be too cocky, you just want to get on and get off and hope you’ve grabbed the audience’s attention. There’s always an element of trying to win the fans over but they’ve been really nice. They’ve been a lot younger than we were expecting actually as well. I was like 17 when The Kooks were huge with the ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ album, so I was expecting a crowd of 26 year olds, like I am now, but everyone was really young and that was really cool, they were so warm and The Kooks were really welcoming as well. It’s been fun!


You played on the Topman/NME university tour earlier this year, was it important to you to be able to play for people who otherwise probably wouldn’t get a chance to see a lot of live music because of a lack of venues or money and is it something you’d do more of?

Oh, definitely! We love playing to as many people as we can who will hopefully like our music. You get a kind of thrill as a band when you play to a room of non-fans and have them as fans by the end of the gig. That’s the ideal scenario, but we just love playing to as many people as we can.


There’s a lot of acoustic versions of your tracks available on Spotify, is that something that might be incorporated into your live gigs or is it important to keep that ‘fuzzy’ sound?

All the tracks start that way when Mike writes them, it’s a very simplistic method and all the songs sound like folk-pop at first. Then as a band we build up the textures to make it the rock-pop thing that it is, so bringing it back to acoustic is very easy because that’s how it was born. The closest we get to that in a live show is ‘Jean’ – it’s all stripped back to just Mike and his guitar and the three-part harmony. Who knows down the line, I’m sure it might happen eventually because we do some acoustic performances, like in Banquet, for publishing and for Sofar Sounds. For now, we probably won’t bring it down because I kind of want to keep my job! [laughs]


You played Live at Leeds recently, what are the multi-venue festivals like compared to the big, traditional ones?

We love Live at Leeds! We compare it to SXSW because everywhere you walk is music and it’s incredible. We found this incredible person called Margaret Glaspy wandering down the road one day and then we saw someone had turned their house into a cool little BBQ-gig place. There’s music everywhere in Leeds.


And finally, what new music is being played on the Clean Cut Kid tour bus at the moment?

We just found a band called Pinegrove from New Jersey and we love those! They’re playing in the UK soon so we’re going to try and get down to see it. Obviously we love Trash and Get Inuit as well, they’re our support bands for tonight. Desperate for the new HAIM album to come out as well!

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