Appropriately monikered Thanksgiving-week BTW Clipd Beaks are one of my favorite recent listens: A Drum’s Not Dead/Liars atmosphere shattered against a more smart ass post-no wave sensibility. The Minnesota-to-Oakland quartet sport a great Sightings-tight rhythm section — comprising childhood pals bassist Scott Ecklein and drummer Ray Benjamin — but what sets them especially apart is vocalist/instrumental tweaker Nic Barbeln, who peels out like Mark Arm, can Kraut falsetto like Angus, and at times mutters in DNA-style tongues and Animal Collective stutter chants. You can sample a few voices on the excellently tribal New Romantic rug and amp shaker “High On Charms,” which premieres after the conversation.
But right, as always, they’re here for more reasons than their sounds. On Clipd Beaks’s so-far underrated first proper full-length Hoarse Lords, the boys sport great noise-rock hooks and a jarring sense of space, but when not ripping into “Black Glass,” they also sport ripping jobs: Keyboard/guitarist Greg Pritchard is Project Manager at a web design firm, BFF’s Ecklein and Benjamin are employed by the same landscaping company, and Barbeln recently skipped out of his duties as Retail Stock Manager at American Apparel. Check out the duty/doodie puns and learn about what they really do in the AA stockroom post jump.
Greg Pritchard, Project Manager/keyboards and guitar
STEREOGUM: Who are your main clients?
GREG PRITCHARD: Real estate agents. The company is called the Design People. It’s actually one of the fastest growing companies in LA. There are something like 30 other project managers there.
STEREOGUM: What’s your background in computers?
GP: I started programming role playing games in Basic at age six and never looked back. I used to do database design and Cold Fusion programming, but that almost drove me insane.
STEREOGUM: How did you hook up with the Design People? And how did they get so involved in real estate? Is that the sole focus?
GP: I moved to LA in June and needed a job and I found it on Craig’s List … of course. Our CEO used to be the Vice President of Marketing for a big real estate company then decided to start his own company doing web site design. We also do sites for mortgage brokers, contractors, and some small businesses.
STEREOGUM: Do you work from home or go into an office? If an office, what’s the environment like? How big’s the staff?
GP: I work in an office. Its kind of a stereotypical office but pretty nice. There’s a wooden ceiling. I have a big cubicle. There’s about 80 people.
STEREOGUM: Do you have a design aesthetic/philosophy? Do you do design for the band?
GP: I don’t really do design at my job per se. It’s really more customer service oriented. The sites I work on are relatively basic so most of the layouts are from templates. I do have PhotoShop at work though, so that’s cool. I finally started teaching myself that earlier this year. I did a layout for a tape we are selling on tour called Shards. Usually Nic does more of the design, he actually went to school for that.
STEREOGUM: Can you tell me more about Shards?
GP: Shards is a compilation of about 14 songs that we recorded over the last five years including some of our earliest recordings, which were originally released on our first EP, Gang Caves, plus a bunch of other stuff that never really got released. A lot of it is what Nic calls “Majik Moments,” which are just crazy lo-fi jams we recorded at our practice space. Nic went through all the tapes to select a bunch of cool stuff that was unique and special and then we narrowed it down even a little bit further from there. We have probably hundreds of hours of tapes like that.
Scott Eckleinn & Ray Benjamin, landscaping rhythm section
STEREOGUM: Do you guys work together?
SCOTT ECKLEINN & RAY BENJAMIN: Yes.
STEREOGUM: Is it your own company?
SE & RB: No, it’s called Custom Landscapes. We work in a crew of about 10 people.
STEREOGUM: Do you either/both of you have a background in horticulture?
SE & RB: No … We both graduated from the School of Rock.
STEREOGUM: Are your clients residential, corporate … both?
SE & RB: Mostly really rich people all over the Bay Area. A lot of big houses up in the hills.
STEREOGUM: What are your duties?
SE & RB: Basically we clean up dog shit all day.
STEREOGUM: If someone wanted to start a small garden in an urban location (a la Brooklyn), what would be their best bet as far as hearty plants, etc.?
SE & RB: Is Brooklyn a Zone 4? Maybe some bulbs, hostas, or irises. I bet there is a lot of dog shit there.
STEREOGUM: A member of Excepter’s a Brooklyn gardener. You guys should go on a green thumb tour. Anyhow, as I asked him: Do you maintain your own gardens, too?
SE & RB: We live in an apartment and it ain’t got no garden. Ray has some really nice house plants, though, that survived the long haul from Minnesota.
STEREOGUM: There’s the porn cliché of rich old ladies getting it on with their gardeners. Have you witness any of this in broad daylight? Or is it really just the dog shit?
SE & RB: It was a dream for all of us, but most of the clichés for any business aren’t really true. Mostly it’s back breaking labor we’re pretty excited about taking a break from in order to go on tour. We want to become amateur wrestlers when we get back home.
Nic Barbeln, vocalist and recently unemployed American Apparel Retail Stock Manager
STEREOGUM: Moses from Deerhunter’s also gone through the American Apparel thing. When we spoke, he explained he got the job because someone spotted him at a club and thought he was well dressed/looked the part. How’d you get the job?
NIC BARBELN: Sucking dick.
STEREOGUM: In what city did that take place?
NB: San Francisco.
STEREOGUM: How long were you there?
NB: Two years.
STEREOGUM: When did you become a manager?
NB: A few months into it.
STEREOGUM: What did your duties involve?
NB: Smoking weed and stealing clothes.
STEREOGUM: How many leg warmers do you think you sold?
NB: I didn’t sell clothes I was in the back …. sucking dick.
STEREOGUM: Were you ever used in any of those ads?
NB: No. But I have masturbated to them.
STEREOGUM: When you weren’t sucking dick, smoking weed, masturbating, or stealing clothes what did you do exactly in that stock room?
NB: Every time they sell clothes those need to be restocked on the floor, so basically memorize where everything’s at and run around grabbing whatever they need. Also going through boxes that come in from the factory or other stores and place those in the appropriate spots in the back.
STEREOGUM: Did you ever get to visit the American Apparel sweatshop?
NB: Yes. It is big and clean and has a nice roof and there is porn everywhere.
STEREOGUM: What was the most played song on the AA sound system? And in the back room?
NB: Probably Justice or something like that. It’s whatever’s on “Viva Radio.” One of our friends did a show, so occasionally you’d hear some Glass Candy or Chromatics and that could be kind of cool. In the back room we listened to Nas and the BBC.
- Clipd Beaks – “High On Charms”Download
Hoarse Lords is out now on Lovepump United
[Left to Right: Greg Pritchard, Scott Ecklein, Ray Benjamin, Nic Barbeln]