Los Angeles feel-good punk revivalists The Henry Clay People, a band we heartily CoSigned for our SXSW day party back in March, are coming out with a new album, Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives. The follow-up to 2011’s This Is A Desert EP and the band’s first full-length since 2010’s Somewhere on the Golden Coast arrives June 26th via TBD Records. Vocalist and guitarist Joey Siara- who fronts the band with his brother, Andy – recently took some time to answer a few questions about the new LP over the phone. In the process, I learned that he lost his high-range hearing, plays Trivial Pursuit, and doesn’t really want to be 25 for the rest of his life (even though he’s actually 30. He’ll explain).
But before you read Joey’s responses and subsequently embrace your inner teenager, take a listen to the first single off Twenty-Five, which is also the title track. Rank with the ghosts of the late ’70s/early ’80s Southern California punk scene, “Twenty-Five for the Rest of Our Lives” drum-rolls home Siara’s skill at turning any turn of phrase into a pithy anthem for the working class. When he shouts, “We’re not gonna settle down, we won’t settle for anything” in the face of screaming distortion, you damn well won’t settle for anything else, either. Check it out below and then find a teaser for the album within the interview itself.
Do you want to talk a little bit about Twenty-Five For the Rest of Our Lives? Who produced it? Where did you record it? What were your inspirations and influences for this album, and were they different from your previous albums?
We actually went up to Sacramento and spent eight days up at a studio in Sacramento. And we actually slept in the studio on the floor. We wanted to get out of our comfort zone and get in a place where we could live and breathe the record for eight days. A lot of times, weve recorded at home, so our typical hours of operation were the workday: Start at 11, get done by 7. But I feel like were most productive between the hours of 11 at night and 3 in the morning, so at the studio, we could kind of camp out. We were able to work every night until 4 in the morning.
We had this thing where wed have marathon games of Trivial Pursuit that would last until 5 or 5:30 in the morning, and then we would wake up at noon, go play basketball in the park across the street, and get back into recording. If the sessions between 3 and 7 kind of sucked (which they usually did), wed have a nice, long dinner, get a couple drinks, and then come back and hit it hard starting at 10. Part of the reason we were able to do that is because it was produced by a buddy of ours named Dan Long. Hes essentially an extra member of the band, and we were okay with running him into the ground. We have a history of breaking peoples spirits.
Congratulations, thats quite a record. I read a review we wrote about Somewhere on the Golden Coast, and the writer liked the album but said that what stood out were the lyrics, and not the instrumentation. I noticed on Twenty-Five For the Rest of Our Lives that the arrangements were, in contrast, very differentiated. It sounds like your songwriting process was different in terms of the time of day you recorded, but was there anything else that was different?
I think that was a conscious decision. With Golden Coast, I kind of got bored in the way that Henry Clay People was making music. I had this moment where I talked to my brother and we were like, Whats the point in doing this band if were just going to make old man music? We wanted to embrace the inner teenager in us. The reason any of us picked up the guitar in the first place was because of the bands we listened to when we were 15 years old, riding skateboards in Orange County. It was like, You know, screw it. Lets make music that we would be excited about if we were young. Theres something to be said about going back to really embracing the music you grew up on. Along those lines, Golden Coast came out of the period in our lives when we were lazy, and doing what bands do as they get older and more boring.
So, I just turned 25 and I joked about having this quarter-life crisis and then I actually did: I quit my part-time jobs and moved to New York. Would you say that Twenty-Five is a quarter-life crisis album?
Im totally a quarter-life crisis person. But Im actually turning 30 this year, so my brotherwhos the other guitar player in the bandis actually 25. But I feel like 25 was the height of when I was having the most fun in the band. The records almost about quitting, like how long can we do this before weve had enough of it? I dont want to be 25 forever. I dont want to be playing in a band forever. I dont want to have that lifer mentality that you need in order to keep doing this shit. Theres a quarter-life crisis of looking back on the time and place where I was when the band was at its height for me. Looking back on that, thats great, but I dont know how much longer I can do this for.
The band was always for me a hobby. I got really lucky that at some point, the hobby became something that I was able to do: go on tour, be able to take off work, have a nice little adventure. But it was never a career aspiration. I feel really lucky that Ive gotten the chance to do this, but along with that opportunity, there are relationships that have suffered. I have hearing damage. Theres actual shit that has happened as a result of the band. As blessed as I feel to have that opportunity, it comes with other consequences. There you go, consequence of sound.
Touche. Your lyrics examine themes relevant to the demographic thats dealing with student loans, and has a bunch of part-time jobs, and is just trying to scrape by. Theyre always present on your discography, but in this age of Occupy Wall Street and the 99%, do you think its taken on a new relevance?
I feel like weve always had similar themes in most of our songs, but obviously the state of the economy and the world has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. Having had a bunch of my best friends actually get fired, lose their jobs in the last couple of years One of them went to law school, one of them became an architect, one of them was a Fulbright Scholar. These are all people that essentially did what they were supposed to do. They did really well in school, they had really good jobs, and they got shit on by the state of the economy by being born and coming into the workforce at the wrong time. Its interesting that a business school kid and a lawyer are connecting to my songs of being dirt-poor and scraping by.
I want to briefly revisit your time at SXSW for my last question. I know you put a lot of cache into your live shows and that plugged-in sound, so my question for you is, what is it like to play acoustically? Do you think it detracts from your execution at all as a band?
The few times weve done the acoustic, unplugged thing, Ive been self-conscious and squeamish about it. It makes you feel naked. You cant hide behind a wall of distorted guitars. People can hear every word, and every lyric, and in my head I get a little self-conscious about it. But doing the new stuff, all the Twenty-Five For the Rest of Our Lives stuff Maybe its just right now where we are, playing songs. But doing acoustic, Ive never been happier playing any of our tunes. Actually, I enjoy playing some of those quiet, stripped-down shows more than I had anticipated. At first, I was dreading them. And then, having done it, its okay if you take out the noise and pull out the loud drums. I mean, Id still never go on a Henry Clay Acoustic Tour.