We caught up with Ian Jeffs, frontman and ‘bit of a guitarist’ from Cambridge based Twelve Clay Feet to discuss their new album More Naked Than Obscene, playing live, preferred musical formats and discuss a terrible gig…
Firstly, could you introduce the band to us?
We’re your typical four-piece boy band; there’s the sporty one, the suave one, the sensitive one and the heavy drinker. Jay Jeffs is the lead guitarist, Ollie Porsa is our tattooed bass player, Bob Radford who for some reason has loads of nicknames, such as Ratty, Beans and Mr Rockford, hits the skins and myself (Ian Jeffs) I sing and play a bit of guitar.
Where and how did the band meet?
Jay and I are twin brothers. He had the pleasure of twelve minutes of life without a doppelgänger before I appeared, legs first, and we were properly introduced. Jay had been playing in a band with Bob in Cambridge and I nabbed them both when that group disbanded. We recruited Ollie on Bob’s recommendation, finding him playing bass in an orchestra for a musical, again in Cambridge – he’s a lot more rock and roll these days
For those who haven’t heard you yet, how would you describe the band and your sound to our readers?
I’d say loud, quiet, then loud again. To be more specific – there is a solid backbone of rock running through most of what we do, insistent drums and bass provide the platform for licks, riffs, sweat and spit. But, there’s some more blissed-out moments on both our debut and second album.
Speaking of which, you released your debut album Totem Bells, in February 2012. Between then and now, currently waiting to launch More Naked Than Obscene how, if at all, have you changed as a band?
I think we’ve come on as songwriters. We’ve always had a good understanding between us as musicians and are always improving, but I think the second record is more direct, taking a ‘less is more’ approach to produce some succinct songs.
What were the differences in writing and recording your new album VS writing and recording your debut?
The first album was a collection of songs we’d written over a few years. In comparison the songs for More Naked Than Obscene were written fairly close together, which I feel gives the record a unity beyond what we had achieved with Totem Bells. Additionally, we recorded that first album ourselves in our rehearsal studio, with producer Fraser Smith mixing and mastering the separates. For the new record we were lucky enough to go through the whole process with Fraser. It was a great experience, having a trusted fifth voice to help guide us made a huge difference getting the best out of all of us, we had a great time recording with him.
So, was there more pressure this time round?
I know the received wisdom suggests the second album is tough, but in our case we had so much support from Fraser and our manager Kate, that in many ways it felt less pressured. I guess has we had such a good response to the first album that waiting to see what our fans and the press make of it is more nerve jangling.
Where did you record More Naked Than Obscene?
We were recording in Fraser’s converted Chapel Studio, in Cambridgeshire, using the different rooms to get the sounds we were after, it was a great place to record.
Were any tracks trickier to get down than others?
There’s not a particular track that I recall being anymore tricky than any other, although Fraser and the guys might disagree. Weirdly, we seemed to struggle most with the simple stuff. Trying to get hand claps down was difficult and hilarious in equal measure and I had a fair amount of trouble recording some shakers. That said it was late and we had started drinking at that point.
For our musician readers – what was your set up in the studio and does that change when playing live?
We recorded the drums first with Bob set up in the main part of the Chapel. The rest of us played along as a guide, with Ollie standing next to Bob and Jay and I in the control room. That was very much a live experience despite being through headphones. We then overdubbed all the other parts later.
Do you have a particular favourite track on the album?
Currently my favourite is ‘Last Rat in Hamelin’, which is the last track on the album. We’ve played it live a few times recently and its a hell of a lot of fun to play on stage. That said, my favourite track changes almost daily. We recently released the first single – ‘Hailstones’ on 7” vinyl, which is a teenage dream fulfilled. I have a lot of affection for that track.
As technology moves forward some bands are moving to download only but some, including your band, are moving back to vinyl releases (your recent single) and some still stick to CD releases – what is your band preference?
We released our first album on CD and online, and our recent single on vinyl, I think there are merits to all of them and probably room for all the different formats. Personally I love vinyl but I am a bit of a music geek, I guess it will be driven by what people want. I’ve spoken to people born in the nineties who only listen to cassette tapes and are as proud as any vinyl junkie of their collections.
The video for ‘Wrecking Ball’ is really good – Did you have a treatment in mind before approaching someone or did you work with someone to pull ideas together?
The treatment came from director Mark Pickering (Pickering brothers) He is a good friend of ours and having done several videos together we’ve developed a great working relationship with him. I’m not sure anyone else would have been able to persuade us to put on the pig masks. He knows our songs inside out and is always overflowing with ideas, we’ve been really lucky to work him.
What are the band’s plans on the back of the new release – are you touring?
The album is going to be launched at the Louisiana in Bristol on the release date (11/11/13), followed by a small tour around the UK throughout that week, including dates in Cambridge, London and Sheffield. We’ll be following that with a more comprehensive tour through December and January.
Speaking of touring, what’s been you’re favourite gig since being in a band?
One of the Highlights for me was at the Birmingham Academy 2 last year, when we were promoting Totem Bells. We were supporting The Ex Senators and playing to a large crowd that didn’t know much about us. Watching them get into our set and go from indifference to raucous cheering was a great feeling.
And the worst?
A Few years ago we were playing a gig in London, I won’t say where, but before the doors were open the omens were bad. Someone had been stabbed outside the venue before we sound checked, the promoter had booked underage support acts who weren’t allowed to play and the venue pulled the gig. Not wanting to leave without performing to someone I played an impromptu solo set in the smoking area. The best part was a friend had come along to film a kind of fly on the wall thing. He entitled the footage ‘A Terrible Gig’ perhaps it will surface some day.
If you could play alongside any band past or present who would it be, what venue would you play, and why would you pick them?
I saw Gil Scott Heron play at Somerset house shortly before he died, maybe that seems like a strange choice but, I would have loved to have opened that show. His sheer force of character mesmerised everyone there. I guess I would have just liked to hang out with him. Plus the support band was some wet Michael Buble rip off who had nothing to say other than to remind us where we could get his album between every awful song. If I wasn’t just trying to get my hands on an AAA badge I would have wanted to play at the 14 hour Technicolor dream back in the sixties at Alexandra Palace, with the great and good of the era.
We mentioned technology earlier in regard to distribution but how important is Social Media for the band?
It’s a fantastic way to communicate with fans, something i couldn’t have imagined when I first got into music. It offers the opportunity to spread our music to the whole world. It’s got to be a positive thing for new artists. From a fan perspective everyone gets to act like a label boss, listen to 20 secs and either press the big green button or check the next act out. In a way I miss the effort it used to take to search out new bands and the excitement when you felt like you’ve found something special, but as a band trying to get heard its invaluable.
Where can new fans find out more about you?
Our website at : http://www.twelveclayfeet.com
On Facebook : http://wwwfacebook.com/twelveclayfeetmusic
Our videos are on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/Twelveclayfeet
And please follow us on Twitter : https://twitter.com/TwelveClayFeet
Or come to a gig and hang around long enough to chat to us, it’s worked for me several times, although some back stage areas are harder to get into than others.