Interview: Clippah | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo by Sel McLean

Northumberland band Clippah have just dropped their new album, Explode, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign from their fan base. The album was recorded and produced by long-time collaborator Ally Lee, at Mill Studios and the result is a riff heavy, Americana-tinged, feast of rock ‘n’ roll, complete with gritty, impassioned vocals and some well crafted songs.

We caught up with the band to find out more…

How did Clippah get together and how would you describe your sound?
We formed in 2014, in our hometown of Morpeth, Northumberland. We were all music-loving school friends, and had played in bands previously. We started Clippah with the immediate intention of writing original music, and started piecing together elements of what we loved – 90s grunge riffs, bluesy vocals, and funk bass lines. Over the years, our sound has evolved and walks the gritty lines of grunge and groove.

Tell us more about your new album. What are some of the themes within it?
The majority of the songs on Explode were written over the last year. Some of them began with Jake, Ryan and I sending ideas back and forth during the first lockdown, while others were songs we’d been playing live that we wanted to tweak for the studio.

A big theme that jumps out to me, in the lyrics on the album, is the fear that comes with ageing. We’re all nearing the end of our twenties, and while that is by no means old, there are certainly questions you’re asking yourself at this time of your life. Have you accomplished what you thought you would have by this age? Do you need to re-evaluate? Does it matter? There’s certainly anxieties we’re all facing, that we didn’t when we started the band seven years ago. Over the past year, with less to distract us, that anxiety has been amplified.

There’s plenty of angst and anger on the album, but there’s more hope than there has been before. Songs like Lucky Ones and Gut Check are about wrestling with friendships, and trying to be there for others who are struggling. Poor Boys, on the other hand, is a homage to the small town ageing rockers of our home county, and the local legacy they have left in bands like ours.

How does it differ from previous releases?
In keeping with the theme, I think there’s more maturity, all round. For me, there’s so much more depth to the words I’m singing. I’m no longer just writing half-arsed love songs, “because that’s what rock ‘n roll singers do”. I’m writing words about the people, places, and subjects that I’m passionate about. It sounds daft, but it’s taken me a while to get really comfortable with doing that. 

We’ve certainly grown up as musicians, and we write songs differently now. For the first few years, everybody just prioritised writing his individual part as fast as possible…and then playing or singing it as loud as possible! Because we didn’t know any better! With these tracks, we’ve taken our time, and ensured everybody was happy with how everyone sounded. I think you can hear that, in the end result.

Explode was recorded and produced by long-time collaborator Ally Lee, at Mill Studios. What do you like about working with Ally and what does he bring to this record?
Ally has an amazing ear for our sound and how to get the most from our tracks in the studio, but the main thing he has done is taught us to respect each other’s roles in the band. He’s taught us the value of complimenting each other’s strengths in sections of songs, and playing together, rather than everyone just playing for themselves. That has been the biggest positive for this album. It took a while for his advice to sink in, so we owe it to him for not giving up on us early in the process! Ally has years of experience in production and live music, and is so much fun to be around, and learn from.

The record was funded through donations from a recent kickstarter campaign. Do you think this kind of community investment enhances the relationship between you and your fans? 
It’s weird to say, given that we haven’t played a gig since December 2019, but I have never felt closer to our audience than I have in this last year. The reaction to anything we’ve put out online – be that new music videos, or the live film we released at Christmas – has just been incredible. It’s been a really tough time for everyone, so I was very nervous about asking people to pre-order and donate to a Kickstarter. It just means the world to us, the faith that our supporters have in our music, and the fact they’ve helped us bring it all together. 

I’ve had so much time to think about performing again, over this last year, and one thing I’ve realised is that the experience of seeing Clippah live in the North East is not strictly limited to watching the five people onstage. We have this core group of colourful characters in our fan base, who contribute to the atmosphere of any gig we play. This album has been written and recorded with them at the forefront of our minds, and we cannot wait to perform it live for them.

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