On Max Clarke's debut LP, his twanged genus of honky-tonkin' rock and roll marries undisguised, open-heart awareness with cerebral singalongs and happy-go-luckyparlor-style piano runs.
Last year's EP was more or less your demo tape. With a brief introduction to Cut Worms with Alien Sunset, how much adjustment have you made to band's sound between the EP and LP?
I don’t think I’ve made too much change to the “sound.” I think I kind of just sound how I sound, I don’t have that much control over it. But I think I’ve tightened it up a bit musically.
Before the Jagjaguwar record deal, were pursuing a career in the graphic design field. How did your career in songwriting transpire? Were you hesitant (or are you still) about diving into the deep end and making music your main career focus with writing, recording, touring, et. cetera?
Yeah I still to design work on the side to pay the bills. I’ve been writing songs since I was a teenager. Making music my “main career focus” is a bit daunting… The main thing is just having enough time to do everything I want to and keep some semblance of real life.
You worked with the Jonathan Rado to record part of the record in his home studio in Los Angeles. In what ways does Rado help artists achieve their desired sound? What was your time with him like?
Rado is a really talented guy with a keen musical ear. I can’t speak to how he works with other people cause i haven’t been present to see it in person, but I think he does what any good producer does which is understand the vision and help to clarify it and articulate it.
Your EP and previous singles have a more grainy and lo-fi quality. The last time we spoke, you mentioned the LP was closer to the intended product you had tried for on your demos but didn't have the know-how to make it happen. Was there a desire to maintain that hazy aesthetic that was so appealing from the EP or did you want to take the production into a deeper and more full territory?
I guess to a certain extent I wanted there to still be like an “atmosphere” to the songs. I think my songs (and most songs, in my opinion) tend to come to life more when they’re allowed to have some breathing room in the production area…that means letting there be mistakes or imperfections... rather than having everything air-tight… it begins to feel a bit too sterilized for me.
You recently toured around Europe before SXSW. How was your first European tour and what were some things that stood out as "great moments" or the opposite? What was your SXSW experience like? Some artists are pretty opinionated about the festival. Do you have any burning sentiments toward the festival one way or the other?
Europe was great. I played solo shows and traveled around with my girlfriend and we had real nice time.Neither of us had been there before so it was a little overwhelming at times but overall real cool. Yeah I had to go to SXSW immediately after returning from Europe. So I was pretty tired already. Then playing 3-4 shows a day for a few days kinda burnt me out. But my experience there was one which most bands could only hope for… the sets were pretty well attended--even got paid for a few, so I can’t really complain.
You list David Lynch as a creative pillar. What part of his work is most fascinating and impactful to you? How is your admiration for his art reflected in your songwriting?
I agree with David Lynch’s sentiments regarding mystery and things that are left undescribed… People ask him to elaborate on what his films “mean” and he refuses to--which is smart--because it detracts from what they could mean. Which is generally my philosophy towards songs.
How critical are you of your own work? Do you air on the side of perfectionism or do you find ways to appreciate and expect subtle imperfections whether it's while you're writing or recording or performing?
I think you have to have a healthy balance of both... I have a certain type of perfectionism, but it’s more in the realm of feeling rather than “getting the perfect tone” or playing an instrument perfectly.
You'll be spending the rest of the Spring and Summer touring with King Tuff across the US and then hitting some festivals like Huichica, Pickathon, and Desert Daze. What are you most anticipating about the touring? What's the toughest part of touring? What's your van entertainment preference? Podcasts, old CDs, audiobooks, AM radio static, or pure silence?
I don’t know what to expect from all the touring coming up… most of it is beyond anything I’ve done in size and scope. I try to not have too many expectations or reservations…. One show at a time… As for van entertainment--yeah music, podcasts, radio, silence… there’s time for all that stuff. It’s a lot of time on the road. The toughest part of touring is going away from my girlfriend and my dog, I always miss them.