Clare Manchon lives in Brooklyn and fills her days with modern trappings just like the rest of us, but it doesn't take much of an investigation to uproot her desire to live in a 1950s black-and-white detective film come to life. As the main songwriter behind the band Clare and the Reasons, she admits that when not composing material for her own songs, she does enjoy a ditty or two from bands such as Grizzly Bear and friendly neighbor (he really does live nearby) Sufjan Stevens, but her voice quickens and the 'you really must listen to this' sentiments start flying when she rattles off the names of her main musical influences. Influences that I had to write down and Google after we had finished talking because I'm sure they were all dead, having lived out their lives in a cottage in France or something. Clare Manchon is a classy lady with a voice like old flannel; warm, soft, with just a tinge of prickle. She took time out of her afternoon one day to speak to me about her new album Arrow, and how she feels about kazoos.
So I was trying to figure out a way to make everything in this interview have something to do with Kanye West, but I changed my mind at the last minute.
(Laughs) Yeah, I don't know much about him, except that he just seems to be so incredibly high on his ego. He can't get over it. And I love our president even more for saying what he said about him. He's just like, 'he's such a jackass.' He couldn't be more right.
In doing research on your new album, the one thing I became somehow fixated on was the fact that you use kazoos. That led me to wonder how you as a songwriter choose which instrument is gonna go on which song. Like what particular grouping of notes makes you stop and think, 'You know, this needs a kazoo.'
Well I'm a kazoo lover, I have been my whole life. I think there's a time and a place for kazoo. The reason I used it so much on one particular song off the album is because it sounded so much like a buzzing bee. In general when it comes to orchestration, there's a whole process that pretty much every song goes through which is that I write it and it's very bare bones, and then the band and I start to talk about the sort of color and textural direction that it could go in. For us, we're blending Nazis. We spend so much time rehearsing both vocally and with our core instruments, and blending with each other and listening to each other. That to us is like the foundation of everything we do.
On your website it mentions something about how you write the majority of your songs in your kitchen. Is this for acoustic purposes, or because you're snacky?
You know, I'm often writing songs while I'm cooking. Maybe it's the aroma of everything going on, but I just really love my kitchen. It's my favorite room in our apartment. I'm just drawn to sitting at the kitchen table and having ideas in this room.
If you had to pick a roster of performers who you'd like to record or tour with, who would you pick?
Well, probably most of them are dead. It's very unoriginal of me, but I also really like the stuff that Grizzly Bear is putting out. They are creating a new sound that I'm sure tons of people will attempt to rip off. I also love love love everything that Loney, Dear has done. It's really just this one guy named Emil, and he's Swedish, so that means he's talented. (laughs.) The album you need to get is Loney, Noir. Seriously one of my most favorite records.
My all time favorite song off of Arrow is 'You've Got Time.' Can you give a little VH1 Behind the Music on how that song was born?
Thank you for noticing that! You know, that's probably my favorite song too, but I kinda thought it was gonna be this little dark horse -- but multiple people tell me they really like that song. I really like how it wound up. I wrote it on acoustic guitar and sort of went through this whole metamorphosis of actually messing a lot with patterns of time, but the other kind of time -- like the musical time. I was in an apartment in Paris by myself for a week doing press, and I had some time one day and was sort of basking in that, and I was thinking of time and disappointment, and that whole idea of when one does something they keep moving forward because they somehow think it's too late to undo it or go back. I think this song is just arguing that.
You've got quite a tour lined up in the upcoming months. I'm sure you get asked this a lot, but what's your favorite thing about touring?
I love touring. We were actually on tour seven months last year, and my favorite thing about it is that it's life simplified. Even though it's really hard to be on tour and really tiring and sort of gruesome, you wake up in the morning and know very specifically what you're meant to do that day. I feel like when I'm at home life gets really complicated and you get distracted and you get engrossed in non-musical things when you just want to be doing music. I just love the simplicity of your mission every day, which is to get to the venue and put on a good show.
To see if Clare and the Reasons will be playing in your area soon, and to listen to a few of their songs, check out their MySpace at: http://www.myspace.com/clareandthereasons
photo courtesy Frog Stand Records
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