Interview with Clay Andrews from The Spiral Electric

I am so happy to make this interview with The Spiral Electric. Band from San Francisco  composed by 4 genius.  Interview with Clay vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion of the band.

Thank you so much Clay for accepting this interview. If I don’t make a mistake, you are 4 
Clay Andrews - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Percussion
Nicolas Percey - Lead Guitar
Michael Summers - Bass
Matias Drago - Drums

 Yes, that’s all correct.

When and how was created this band ? Tell us everything !

The band began when I went to see the Brian Jonestown Massacre play a show with Primal Scream at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I got fairly drunk pretty early in the evening, and wound up striking up a conversation with a stranger who happened to be standing next to me in the crowd. It was Nicolas. He had come to the show to see Primal Scream, he didn’t know who BJM was, and so I proceeded to drunkenly tell him all about them and how great they are. Over the course of the show I dropped at least one full gin & tonic  on Nic’s shoes, and apologized for it with more drinks, haha. As it turned out, Nic played a little bit of guitar, although he’d never been in a band or even recorded music before, but there was something I liked about the sound of Nic’s playing, and I’d spent many years playing with a string of musicians whose instincts I couldn’t relate to, so I basically just began showing up on his doorstep like every 4-5 days with my guitar. Nic invested in a cheap audio interface for his computer, and we began recording demos, usually us both on guitar with me overdubbing basslines.

Around this time, Anton Newcombe from the BJM began broadcasting his “Dead TV International” channel online, and I would basically log in every day from my office at work, comment in the chatroom when I had the time, and even talking with Anton via Skype (there are still videos on youtube, if you look). Sometimes I talked to him in the chat room about this project I was working on, worrying because I couldn’t seem to find suitable musicians to form a band to perform our songs. Anton told me that we should just demo what we could, and go out and play the songs as best we could—he said that if our music was any good, people would want to join and be a part of it. Within the same week, another band veteran I knew, a longtime friend named Scott Stackpole who is an incredible drummer and had been in bands for decades, said very much the same thing to me… so I forged ahead and began booking shows for Nic & I as a duo, using backing tracks to fill out the sound. And just as I had been advised, people joined-- beginning with Tyler Allen, our original bassist, who immediately enlisted a drummer… and the rest of the story is even more boring! 

Who compose ?

Nicolas &myself are the main songwriters. The debut (“Upon Your Shore”) is songs that I did the the majority of writing for, but as time’s gone on that’s become more balanced. Our next album has several songs by Nic that I only contributed a single chord to, or made a suggestion about structure. Since Michael Summers joined the band, he’s brought a couple of songs into the fold, too, one of which will be on the upcoming album. I write all of the lyrics (except for “Loose Ends”, which are mostly Nic’s words), and usually guide the structure and arrangements of the songs. When it comes to the records, I’m the one who comes in with pages of notes and sits there overdubbing layers of stuff— not just acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies and the percussion, but drones, vocoder, Coke bottles, bells, whispers… all the stuff you only notice when you’re listening to our albums on headphones, stoned haha. I’ve spent more than a few hours standing around in the dark on paths through marshlands the past few months, recording ducks and crickets and frogs for a song on our next album. It’s all music to me, man.

“Ask The Sky” is a wonderful album with a very good sound, tell us more about this album,  how long you composed it ? What is your favorite track from it ?

Some of those songs had been in our live sets for years, but they were all written quickly. “Ghost in the Machine” began with the melody and lyric of the first verse, which I’d written one afternoon, and a couple of days later I heard Nic playing the E major / E minor chords, I added the descending chords and the song was born—I arranged it based around the same changes over and over to illustrate the undercurrent in the music, but that’s for the listener to figure out I guess.

Nic’s song “Loose Ends”, I know that’s from a previous lineup of the band, the arrangement had some contributions from Ty Gerhardt (bass) and Sonny Pearce (drums), a lineup which should have recorded together, but never did..

“A Better Way” is a song of mine from maybe 2012, I wrote and demo’d it really quickly, the demo has the acoustic, rhythm, organ, finished vocals and harmonies, and all of the words.

“Nothing Left to Lose”, I wrote really quickly in I think 2014 or 2015—that was definitely an immediate response to what was going on in my life and in the US at that moment, with the republicans defunding important public programs for people who really needed help, so it came out very fast.

“Live For Love” came very fast, too—and our drummer Tyler Weeks shares a writing credit for that song, as his beat is so signature and not what I originally asked for, haha. The opening part has a “secret” title—that’s “The Desolation of the Soldier”, it’s a very Scottish / bagpipe melody that just kinda came through my fingers one day, it’s a requiem, and the rest of the song is a turning away from that toward a view that… well, it’s pretty obvious by the lyric. But yeah, I may revisit “The Desolation of the Soldier” someday and make a fuller song out of it.

And my favourite track? The opener, “Ask the Sky”. This is essentially the intro to “Ghost in the Machine’, but we split it off into its own track, and I had the most fun recording this one, a throwback to my early days of multitracking, just making abstract music. The rolling, growling thunder you hear at the start and the end, that’s a massive electrical storm that knocked out the power to the studio in Joshua Tree when I was there mixing the album. Tommy Dietrick (producer) and I had driven there together from LA, and as I was standing outside smoking some weed, I got concerned by the lightning crashes and heavy rains. When I went back inside I asked him, “hey, is there a backup power supply in case the storm knocks the AC out?” and he laughed and assured me that the power had never gone out—and not 5 minutes later, the lights went out, hahaha. So he fired up his backup power, and I said, “OK, this storm delayed the mix, let’s set up a mic and put it on the album… ‘Ask the Sky’, right?”. He laughed, and then we opened the doors to the vocal booth and the door to the outside, and recorded the storm. If you look at the CD booklet, the tinted photo of the sky is from the day before, on my drive down to LA to pick Tommy up.

Recording with Tommy Dietrick at Skylab Studio was awesome, he’s a great guy and made everything sound wonderful, he’s a lot of fun and very easy to work with.

You have a great partner with Spotify, so more listening and so more fans ?

Yes, beginning in November last year, Spotify suddenly began showing interest in us, putting our songs in their “Discover Weekly” playlists every week, and our listening audience went from 100-200 people to over 3,200. Everyone in the band was taken completely by surprise, we’re very happy about it, suddenly we’ve got significant followings in the UK, Germany, Sweden, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Finland, Mexico, Norway…. We’ve had fans around the globe since the very beginning but now suddenly there’s a lot more people listening to us. Pandora has also been good to us, there have been thousands of plays every week on there, too. We’re very glad to have the attention, seeing as we’re about to start releasing new music that is deeper, darker, heavier, and further than anything we’ve recorded previously.

Tell us your projects (concerts and maybe new single or album ?)

We’ve just finished recording a new album with Steve Kille (of Dead Meadow, and Xemu Records) at Dead Meadow’s studio, Wiggle Room. We started tracking in September and finished recording in February, just over half of the tracks are mixed and we’ll be mixing the rest in a couple of weeks. Unbeknownst to us, we wound up recording a double album! I guess it’s a silly thing to do in this day and age, but that’s how it turned out. In fact, I don’t think we’ve even announced that yet, but yeah—it’s going to be a double vinyl release. 14 tracks. It’s definitely a darker album than our previous releases, I had some things happen in my life that there just wasn’t any avoiding, including the sudden death of a close friend, and that absolutely informed the vibe and the lyrics.

The first single is going to be a song that’s pretty equally mine and Nic’s, called “A Descent into the Maelstrom”. Basically, it’s us trading off duties—the first half of the song is Nic’s chords and structure, with him on rhythm guitar and me playing leadl the second half is my chords, me on rhythm guitar and him playing lead. Nic is speaking the chorus of the song, his first vocal on a Spiral Electric record. Obviously we took the title from Edgar Allan Poe, and I adapted bits and pieces of his short story of the same name into the lyric.

In April we’ll be playing some shows again-- a headlining show in Oakland, and then a little mini-tour with Spindrift, three California dates over the “420 weekend” (celebrating the legalization of marijuana). 

The dates are:

Friday April 13 – Oakland, California – with The Love Dimension and The Alternating Currents, at Elbo Room Jack London

Thursday April 19  – Santa  Cruz, California – with Dead Meadow and Spindrift, at The Catalyst Club Atrium – Tickets :  HERE

Friday April 20 – Concord, California – with Spindrift, Overland, and Swerve, at the Red Hat – Tickets: HERE

Sunday April 22 – San Francisco, California – with Spindrift and Jeffrey Luck Lucas, at the Elbo Room San Francisco – Tickets : HERE

And you, tell us what you like to do when you don’t play and sing ? what are your other passions ?  

Unfortunately I don’t really have much time outside of the band these days, I’m also the manager and PR person and booking agent, plus shipping department, accountant, etc, haha… but I do enjoy film a lot—mainly horror, science fiction, and comedy. I’m a huge fan of directors like John Carpenter, Hitchcock, Dario Argento, Wes Craven, Terry Gilliam, Ridley Scott, Tod Browning, and Guillermo Del Toro. I really love a good ghost / haunted house movie, my favourite being “The Haunting” from 1963, directed by Robert Wise.

 Where come from your inspirations ?

From every direction, haha. On “Ask the Sky” there are songs inspired by politics in the US, by things that happen in my personal life, or things said in conversation that stick with me. On the album we’ve just recorded, a lot of the lyrics talk about grief, that is certainly from my life in the past few years and it’s very personal. Then again, there’s a track called “Marbles” that is essentially about getting high on a rooftop. I’m not a fan of consistency! A healthy contempt for consistency keeps the process interesting.

Any plans to tour Europe?

Yes. At this point the question is when all the artwork, the mastering, the pressing, etc is all finished and the double-vinyl LPs are ready to go. That determines the timing of tours and whatnot. We had some new members join the band last year and this lineup is really ready to tour this new album, so we're planning to trip around the US and then onto Europe. Our new bassist, Michael Summers, is from the Czech Republic, so he's pretty keen to have us play on his home turf and that's where we'd probably begin. He's an amazing bassist and songwriter and his contribution to our sound is immediately noticeable, as are the contributions of our new drummer Matias Drago, who is originally from Argentina and who is a monster on drums as well as a great help in promoting the band. Matias was a big part of getting us noticed by Spotify, he's tireless. Playing with this rhythm section is like riding a tiger, haha. We did some great California shows in 2017, but this year we're hitting the road, beginning in the bay area and Santa Cruz and then in the summer we'll be travelling north to Seattle and south to LA, then a national tour in the fall, the album release, and then we'll be heading to Europe for a few weeks. We have a lot of fans who have been waiting for years to see us, and we're finally ready to make that happen. 

Interview by Julie Aras