Clock Opera recently supported Marina & The Diamonds on her nationwide tour, so when they rolled into Brighton The Recommender caught up with frontman, Guy Connelly, just before he went on stage at Audio. We found him in an open mood, happy to discuss Clock Opera’s evolution into a full band, the benefits of blog coverage, their recording plans and the dangers of playing Black & Deckers live on stage!
THE RECOMMENDER: Hello Guy, so let’s start at the beginning, where are you from?
GUY CONELLY: Near Bristol, a little dead end town called Nailsea. It hasn’t got a lot to speak for itself really. It’s next to Portishead but I’ve never thought of naming a band after Nailsea (like Portishead did). That wouldn’t really work. I live in London now.
TR: Like pretty much anybody who’s anything to do with this cool, new, rising electronic pop music.
GUY: I don’t know. I don’t think that’s true. That’s just people’s perception, there’s more people in London. I’ve never really paid much attention to where you come from. Someone might say Bristol has got a really good music scene and I haven’t got a clue.
TR: There’s different parts of the country that are respected for different things. Bristol’s supposed to be good for Dubstep.
GUY: It only takes a few people to say that there’s a ‘scene’ somewhere, doesn’t it?
TR: That’s a good point, NME are always trying to find a new ‘scene’ to grab onto.
GUY: Everybody loves a scene… except bands.
TR: When did you start Clock Opera?
GUY: We played our first gig less than a year ago. March, I think, and it’s come on really quickly. We had a single out in November and people started picking us up unexpectedly quickly. We’ve only played about fifteen gigs. We’re really lucky to get on this Marina tour. It’s our first tour so it’s pretty amazing that it’s sold out. I mean, obviously they’re not here to see us.
TR: We’re here to see Clock Opera tonight as much as we’re here to see Marina.
GUY: Thanks, but we’re not kidding ourselves. What I mean is, it’s wicked to come to somewhere you’ve never played together as a band and play to a room full of people. That’s what you want, it’s amazing and it’s our first tour.
TR: What made Marina the right person to go on tour with, for you?
GUY: She just asked us really. It’s not like we’re flooded with offers and it’s a great tour to go on. I did a remix for her which she liked.
TR: Is that out yet?
GUY: No, people have been asking but we’re just waiting to see what’s going to happen with it. Originally I did it as just a bit of fun that was going to go up on a blog and then her record label heard it and she heard it and thought ‘why not use it’ so I think it’s going to come out with her next single. I guess it had something to do with us getting this tour.
TR: There’s a connection between the two acts through Neon Gold (the blog and record label). That’s where we first heard about you.
GUY: Yeah, that’s how I got the remix, through Derek (one half of Neon Gold) and that’s kind of how it kicked off a bit. We had a Guardian New band of the day (article) and Illegal Tender wrote about us on the same day and all of a sudden people started swarming a bit.
TR: So, was that all from Neon Gold?
GUY: No, Derek picked us up from that blog (Illegal Tender) – I think they’re mates – and then he wrote about us which I think helped us a lot.
TR: He seems to be massively on-the-money with everything he’s picking up at the moment.
GUY: Yeah, he’s a bit of a golden boy. There’s two of them, Lizzy runs it with him. It seems to be a surefire route to success or at least a lot of hype anyway which is pretty helpful.
TR: Have you got plans to release any singles/EPs/Albums in the near future?
GUY: We’re recording at the moment, we’ve been doing some mixing. We mixed a couple of tracks at the end of last week. We’ve got loads and loads of stuff, it’s just a matter of getting around to recording it properly. We’ve got at least an album’s worth of stuff. We’re recording four (songs) at the moment, we’re just kind of deciding really, doing a tour and seeing what offers come in.
TR: Are you a full band now?
GUY: Yeah, since we started playing. I wrote a load of stuff before we got together but ever since then we’ve been a band. I still write it to a certain stage and then we all develop it and play it so we’re definitely a band. Just because I’m up here and they’re having a beer downstairs. They’re happy for me to spout a load of bollocks in their absence. People haven’t been writing enough about them.
TR: Everywhere else we’ve read about Clock Opera it ‘s been ‘Guy this’ and ‘Guy that’.
GUY: It’s a bit annoying because they (the band) put a lot in and they bring a huge amount and I want that to be represented. I think it also says a lot about lazy journalism, somebody writes something about just me and it multiplies but the truth is, we’re a band.
TR: The first couple of tracks we heard, White Noise and Alouette, don’t sound like they’re being performed by a band. They sound like there’s a lot of laptop jigging, looping and sampling. Did you write and record that before the band?
GUY: I write as I record so a lot of the samples are ones that I’ve made at the start and they never change. Then we add live instruments as we go along and arrange it. We add different bits and bobs but the samples are what I start with so they always stay the same really. We recorded those a while back but this new lot (of songs) have got more of a live sound because we’ve played about with that a lot more. For one song, the original demo is completely different because there’s a whole new percussion section, loads of live drums where previously it was all based on computer stuff. I really like that combination, I think that’s really important. I love electronic music and that’s partly what we do but it also needs a grounding in reality somehow. Likewise with the samples, they’re all digitally manipulated but I want them to have some kind of human feel to them. You can tell they were once a real instrument, they’re not just wires generating sound out of nothing, there was something playing at the beginning. I think that’s what I like about being a band, it brings that out more.
TR: How does it work? You’re in your house and you hit something and you think “I like that noise”. Do you record it in your house or do you take it to your studio?
GUY: Well, my house is my studio. I’ve used washing machines and drills. I really want to get a power drill solo in one song. It sounds amazing it’s just about matching the speed with the note you want to play.
TR: You’re actually going to do that live?
GUY: I want to, it’s the threat of danger that I quite like. It takes you away from just playing instruments on stage and maybe makes the front row step back 6 inches.
TR: You could have a whole tool orchestra, like playing a saw with a violin bow.
GUY: Yeah, I like that, I really like that. We’re pushed for time with setting up at the moment but when we get our own tour I think you’ll see some Black and Decker on show.
TR: You seem to have mastered that tricky blend of being experimental, whilst still having killer melodies and big choruses. Do you think it’s still possible to be original and achieve commercial success without having to compromise either? Is commercial success the main aim?
GUY: No, it’s not the main aim but yeah, you can definitely do it. It depends what you define success as. I define success as having enough people loving what you do that you can play a show and get to meet people who are into the same stuff. The measure of success is what is necessary to propagate whatever else you want to do. So of course you can do it, there’s loads of bands that have done it. The majority don’t but if I didn’t believe it could be done then I wouldn’t be trying.
TR: What’s next for Clock Opera after the Marina tour?
GUY: We’ve got a few remixes coming out. There’s the Marina one, I’ve done one for The Phenomenal Handclap Band which is coming out in March and I’m doing one for The Golden Filter at the moment which might be used. I don’t know, I’m never sure. I’m mainly doing that then we’re going to get back in the studio and get more songs done. Hopefully we’ll have three or four more done by the end of next month and then fill up the album. We’ve got a few more gigs booked but we’re not planning on playing too many gigs at the moment just so we have time to figure out more songs.
TR: We’d like you to come and play at one of our monthly parties.
GUY: We will play one of your nights, I promise.
TR: We’ll hold you to that. Finally, we always ask the bands we interview to become an honorary Recommender and suggest a band that we might not have heard of.
GUY: Well, there’s a band I really like in London called Magic & Fur. They’re really cool.
TR: Thanks, we’ll check them out, good luck with the show.
And what a show it was! A remarkable performance, packed with many very strong tracks. This is one talent that is bursting with creativity, ideas and ability. We cannot wait for the promise of an album in due course, but one promise we will be pursuing is the offer he made to play The Recommender’s gigs. Watch this space, but rest assured we will be proudly shouting it from the rooftops when we confirm the booking…
(MA & MB)