The Clench
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The Clench

Sheffield, England, United Kingdom | SELF

Sheffield, England, United Kingdom | SELF
Band Americana Rock


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"The Clench - Walking in the Devil's Tracks"

Broken hearts, bourbon shots and old Colts with rust near the handles. That’s The Clench on a nutshell. They were in a nutshell but, heck, can’t keep the power of Americana Rock inside a crusty little shell for too long, dig?

The Clench‘s newest album, Walking in the Devil’s tracks has all the cool panache that Americana rock feeds from: reverb, palm mutes, lyrics about broken hearts and maybe riding a Red Shark down a sundried highway, any highway… Route 66, with its mystique and gilla monsters; the Baja Highway where the ocean meets the high cliffs and the abandoned Hollywood props litter Rosarito…

It’s the sounds of a roadtrip. One you take by yourself, where you ponder about the year ending (being topical, sorry) or simply to run away from something. You could also be riding shotgun with your fellow cuatreros, sipping a couple of cheap lagers and wonderin’ how much you can stretch your dubious cash (‘Whiskey tremolo’).

It’s rock and roll, but sometimes it takes its time to let you drench into the tremolo heavy atmosphere (‘Disco Mariachi’) before taking you down to the nearest speakeasy, where a wrong word can get you into a heap of trouble (‘Rusty blade’ – the soundtrack of a thousand bar fights in my head).

The ups and downs of love fuel these songs. Probably more the downs than anything else; there is no lovey dovey celebration of an engagement movin’ forward, just the sad realisation you are missing a kidney, have a bottle shaped wound in your head (‘Roadhouse’) and your bag of money (are you talkin’ pesos?) is now on a bus to Tijuana (‘Cross the borderline’ – a slow getaway song if you ask me).

Ok, maybe there are reasons to forget about the down and out of love blues. Maybe you can go back to That Healing Place where friends and family await for you. A conversation will lift yours spirits, a couple of brews will numb the pain and a night out (with a probable sleepover at the Drunk Tank) can also help cleanse those blues (‘Gotcho disease’ – Yeeeehaw!).

It’s probably the cliché on my current style of reviewing, but there’s always a song that stands above the others. Not because the other songs are weaker or bad, but because of the careful craft devoted to the track. Of course, this track for The Clench is ‘Act of vengeance’. Let’s forget about the silly analogies about modern day soul-searchin’ therapy and let’s go for a Weird Western. Final shootout, tension dripping and oozing through every single piece of wood in a town forgotten by law. Slowly smouldering while our Unnamed Antihero struts slowly before pulling an ol’ six barrel and shootin’ his way out of it. Nothing remains after the hail of bullets and last breathes of air have given into silence. Dead, warm air whistling through, tumbleweed hopscotchin’ the bodies of a myriad of no-name extras.

Walking in the Devil’s tracks is a fantastic slice of Americana Rock. Simply can’t go wrong with it. -

"Clench press your ears back to fitness"

IF music is meant to transport us to other places then The Clench could definitely be your musical passport to somewhere other than Fargate.

Sounding more Arizona plains than deepest Sheffield, the band tendered one of the more entertaining albums from the local crop in 2011 and revive their campaign this Saturday.

“It is certainly about escapism to some degree,” says singer Joe Meredith of the band’s distinctive wares.

“I find it amusing that epic tales of Spaghetti Western vengeance are being rolled out by a group of northern lads, but the Morricone / Calexico influence comes into play, as does my love of epic song-writing that actually tells a story; old school murder ballads, for example, the way Johnny Cash used to serve them up.

“Add to that a love of overblown Italian westerns and there is a rich seam to mine.”

Going off piste from the indie trail that so many follow in these parts is no bad thing, of course, but to aspire such a definitive style is certainly brave.

In their début album, Walking In The Devil’s Tracks, the lads nailed it, pulling off an alternative take to the Americana bug that has engulfed so many singer-songwriter types.

“There are many indie bands in Sheffield, that much is true,” says six-string bassist Hal Walker.

“It was never a reaction against them, though; they’ve got their thing and we have ours. We could never be an indie outfit due to the sheer volume of influences pervading through the band - if we did end up with a sound like that I would have been very surprised.

“There’s a strong interest in narrative in the band, be it movies, comics or books etc, so these ripping yarns are borne of that, one would assume.

“The penchant for the dramatic is Joe’s own.”

So, all in all, one less identikit band.

“Our rhythm section can’t really get down with the skinny jeans/pointy shoes look,” adds rhythm guitarist James McVeigh, “so it worked out rather well really.”

The Clench open their 2012 live account at Plug on a bill that also features This Party Kills, The Blame and Monoking.

Get their album from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and on CD at - The Star

"Rusty Blades"

Western-tinged rock licks? Holy shit, it’s The Clench. They spill all on what it means to be an urban cowboy.

Words: Reese Beryx

The legend of The Clench, according to rhythm guitarist James McVeigh runs a little like this: A long time ago, six ne’er do wells traded their souls for musical dexterity with the devil. The small print, however, implicated their sons’ souls, and their sons’ sons’ and so on, right down to the Sheffield outfit they are today. As far as origin stories go, it’s a doozy; it’s also one we’re happier to accept than ‘Oh, we just kind of bumbled together after a Libertines gig, figuring that we could play a few guitars as well.’ The six-piece ply their wild west-tinged wares in a thoroughly assured fashion. Marauding from venue to venue, leaving non-plussed confusion in their wake and a trail of people unsure of what they’ve just bore witness to; certainly, ex-Pink Grease frontman Rory Lewarne declared “I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard.”

Whilst men with guitars are commonplace, probably never more so than in Sheffield, The Clench walk a path rarely trodden by their peers; a heady blend of spaghetti western soundtracking and heavy rock, delicately bully-rammed into bed with each other and forced to mate, for the amusement of a cackling, Swearengen-esque brothel owner. We found them picking up the pieces after a particularly violent practise at their sound-proofed saloon, just off London Road. Singer Joe Meredith and the aforementioned James McVeigh are on hand to field our questions, with surly bassist Hal Walker, distracted, in the background.

What’s in a name? More pertinently, yours? Explain it a little.

James: In addition to the actual truth, I think this is what having a six-string bassist can do, at times coming close to that mystical ‘brown note’. I reckon ‘Clench’ is more of a suggestion to the crowd than a name at that point.

Hal: It’s actually a Batman reference, for the nerd-core.

At six members, there’re a lot of you. Isn’t it hard to mobilise? In fact, isn’t it hard to come to a consensus on things, generally, with so many musicians in one room?

James: At times, it can be. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken us three and a half years to fashion the album. Still, we’re a democracy and if certain contentious matters arise, we have a ‘majority rules’ policy. Tends to work, for the most part.

Joe: The ‘majority rule decision-making system’ is pretty damn civilized.

You’re obviously big fans of Westerns. Which ones have directly informed Clench songs?

Joe: ‘Rusty Blade’ was a direct nod to High Plains Drifter. Personally, I’ve always had Keoma in mind, because it’s perhaps the most symbolic and overblown piece of operatic Spaghetti Western excess, although I’m happy to be corrected on that assumption. Django Kill is pretty spectacular for similar reasons.

How was the recording of the album? Painless and swift or a grisly endurance test?

Joe: Pretty swift and cheerful, all in – minimal disagreements and pleasing results, especially given the rapid turnaround.

James: [Disagreeing] Swift, but not painless, that’s for sure. We got there in the end though, largely due to the prowess of Dave [Sanderson of 2Fly Studios] doing a masterful job.

Hal: It’s odd. There’s usually booze involved during gigs and practise so, to be playing our stuff at 11am and stone cold sober feels a little off-kilter.

Who’s the key troublemaker in the band? Who would be most likely to start a bar brawl/rub the law up the wrong way?

Joe & James: Hal.

Hal: Eh? I’m lovely.

Joe: I could see our estimable low-end theorist getting on the wrong side of some folk, but having said that our lead guitarist has been known to get a bit angry, especially with other folk in late night takeaways. Oh, and people talking at gigs…

Which band/artist would you like to have removed from the face of the earth?

Joe: I wouldn’t miss Robbie Williams.

James: Theyknow who they are and they’ve already done it, mercifully.

Who is in the perfect band line up with yourselves in there somewhere?

Joe: We already got six people. How big can a band be? I think for simplicity’s sake we could just get the two guys from Calexico involved as they seem to be able to play everything. Awesomely, at that.

James: Lightnin’ Hopkins would make a fine addition.

What do you look like? I can see cowboy boots nestled among Nike Airs. What gives?

Joe: In my own head, Franco Nero in a white shirt. How far that translates in real terms, I’m unsure.

James: How else would you expect horse thieves from Sheffield to look? Sometimes, those horses buck you off and, if the goddamned Pinkertons are on your tail, you ain’t running anywhere without some leisure shoes. It’s all about practicality.

Hal: I’m prone to gout so I need a comfy pair of kicks.

The lonesome cowboy sound can’t be an easy sell in South Yorks. How’s that working out for you?

Joe: Remarkably well. It seems a disparate group of people have taken to our peculiar blend of sounds and we’ve developed a loyal following. I think the fact that we mix the lonesome cowboy angle with some full-on rock ‘n’ roll means the overall Clench experience is actually quite an upbeat one, in spite of all the corpses that litter the songs themselves.

James: I think along with the likes of The Payroll Union, Wet Nuns et al, there’s something of a change in tide ‘round these parts. That can only be a good thing.

A lot of your songs are very narrative-driven. Are the lyrics autobiographical, social commentary or what?

Joe: Pure-fantasy. Although certain types could take heed, nay, warning even! I just enjoy the old-school narrative approach to song-writing. Songs are a highly evocative way to tell a story; you can convey a lot in a short space of time and with good atmospherics. I was always fascinated by the dark ballads of old, songs like ‘Long Black Veil’ [classic country standard] and then, more recently, Tom Russell and Nick Cave. These guys are often first and foremost story tellers.

The filmic aspect of your music is very apparent. If you could re-score a movie, which one would you do?

Joe: I’d like to say Keoma but that already has the most ludicrous soundtrack conceivable. I’m sure Django could carry some of our stylings handsomely. I’d love to have a go at singing that theme song at the very least. A future cover, perhaps?

James: It’s funny you should ask that, as we’re actually looking at rescoring a 15-minute short zombie-Western. If that’s not a perfect match for the band that brought some hell into your town, I don’t know what is. If we were to get let loose on a feature, I’d say Paint Your Wagon needs some serious attention.

Drop some Clench science for our readers to live their lives by.

James: Don’t shit where you eat. It’s worked for us, thus far.

Hal: Oh, and don’t talk in the cinema. Or I’ll actually kill you. With my hands. - Toast Magazine

"At home on the range"

THE cover of The Clench’s LP, Walking in the Devil’s Tracks, shows five men digging a grave at gunpoint beneath an eerie blood orange sky.

This is the world that The Clench inhabit – one of dusty highways, vengeance, gun-slingers and boot spurs. At least in song, that is. In reality, The Clench are six young men from Sheffield who rehearse in a room just off London Road.

But that doesn’t matter. Once the music starts Sheffield couldn’t be further away – the band’s Western-drenched material is intoxicatingly evocative. Cowboys cross borderlines, lovers leave lovers, men seek vengeance and guns are fired – and all to the tune of visceral, haunting lap steel guitar and mariachi rhythms. Songs such as Cross the Borderline fuse fifties spaghetti Western guitar with cowboy motifs.

‘Gold and silver in my pistol’, ‘I got no reason to be living / this drifter’s desperate to be found,’ sings Joe Meredith.

And, sitting in a London Road pub, with their Fifties quiffs, pints and ‘majestic wolf’ t-shirts, The Clench aren’t hard to spot. “We do talk about what we wear on stage – I always seem to be wearing a majestic wolf t-shirt,” says James McVeigh, laughing at the huge elaborate print of a wolf’s head on his t-shirt.

“I’d wear a cowboy shirt but it’d get too sweaty playing drums,” says Billy Sirens.

But The Clench don’t need character dress to perform. Their last show at The Greystones left the crowd rapturous. “It was great,” says Meredith. “We were one man down – Hal (bass) told us that day that he was too ill to play so we had no bass.

“We cranked everything up so it drowned it out and it worked. But we went out for a fag after and apparently the crowd were shouting for an encore but we didn’t hear them – we must have looked really arrogant.”

Looking back at the album, Hal Walker mocks. “Bear in mind that’s the sum total of our four years together – we know how to paint a false picture.” But modesty and down-to-earth humour aside, The Clench’s lyrics are clearly carefully constructed, as Meredith explains. “Some songs are narratives about things like epic heartbreak – such as A Fistful of Nothing. But most are inspired by films or video games. Sometimes I have a vivid visual picture in my head that inspired the lyrics whereas other times the lyrics create a visual picture.”

This references to Westerns and American history allow this vivid evocation to take place, as The Clench draw from a very familiar set of references. “It’s well-known mythology,” says Meredith.

But also, as Walker points out, American history is a compact source of inspiration. “American history’s finite, there’s a finish and a start to it and generally that start is when the pioneers started crossing the frontiers. Our history, on the other hand, goes on forever. With American history there’s at least a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”

The album was recorded at 2Fly Studios with producer Dave Sanderson. “He was really good,” says McVeigh, “He added atmosphere to the tracks and even added some Hammond organ to Act of Vengeance and made another of the tracks so much better that we completely changed the composition afterwards.”

The Clench’s next release will be an EP, although they aren’t decided on the name. “It took us about six hours to come up with the name of the last album,” says Walker. “We had about 40 names to choose from. So it’ll be another six hours to decide on the name of the EP.”

But in line with The Clench’s strong visual element they are, at the start of next year, performing a score to a zombie film, Dead in the West, which was directed by lead guitarist Rob Nevitt, who also established the Celluloid Screams horror festival at the Showroom Cinema.

Until then, the band is preparing for a live show at the Washington next month. “It’ll be great – James will have his majestic wolf t shirt on and I think we’ll even get one of us to ride his husky dog on to the stage.”

The Clench play at the Washington on October 20 with support from Roaming Son and Plug on December 10, supporting the Lancashire Hotpots. - Sheffield Telegraph

"Setting a new Clench mark..."

TO say The Clench are a little different to other local bands does them a gross disservice.

In a city awash with indie acts seeking your attention the sextet frequent a style you might expect to emerge from Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.

“It’s not been a reaction against being just another indie band as such,” says lead guitarist Rob Nevitt.

“The type of music we make just seems the most natural thing for us to be doing, and that’s the primary motivation. That said, bucking the trend of the wave of identikit indie bands has to be a good thing.”

Except their début album, Walking In The Devil’s Tracks, doesn’t so much buck the trend as fit it with spurs and plonk JR Ewing’s hat on its head.

Not that singer Joe Meredith goes out of his way to sound American, which might sit uncomfortably with some city folk.

“I get really bored very quickly with most music so for me had it not been something as faintly ridiculous as cowboy rock ‘n’ roll based in Sheffield I think I would have lost interest very quickly.

“I certainly don’t see myself giving a great deal of time to write more obvious stuff. If I don’t find something entertaining I’d struggle to put the time in.”

Talking to other Clench men, however, it seems achieving what they have isn’t so easy to explain.

Slide guitarist Oliver Allchin even goes so far as to admit: “We’re as bemused by this as you are.

“We’re a bunch of men from Sheffield who’ve never so much as been near a horse and our album has ended up like the soundtrack to some Spaghetti Western.

“I don’t think there was ever a conscious decision to go down a particular musical route. We’re six people with different musical tastes; it’s safe to say each of us listens to music the others wouldn’t put anywhere near their ears, whether that’s P-funk, ’60s surf music or WASP.

“The music we’ve ended up making represents a sort of Venn diagram of where our tastes and personalities overlap. It could be termed Americana overall but I think that reflects a common leaning towards the cinematic – our extracurricular activities include film studies, film making and film criticism – rather than a conscious desire to write country/cowboy songs.”

Either way, the likes of Gotcho Disease and Disco Mariachi are as far away from say Mardy Bum as it is possible to be without moving to Libya. And, as a live band, The Clench are more than just ‘worthy’, they entertain.

That’s something drummer Billy Sevens had in mind. “For me the motivation is to make good rocking music for people who come and see us to really enjoy, and for us as a band to also love what we are doing.”

Not that there was any particular design to The Clench forming. Like their sound, the band seemed to simply happen.

“We initially formed for a one-off performance at a mutual friend’s birthday party, playing such cowboy hits as Patrick Swayze’s She’s Like The Wind while dressed as Harpo Marx, Indiana Jones etc,” recalls Oliver.

“We weren’t very good, but we decided to carry on playing together and to get an actual drummer. Our current sound reflects those improvised beginnings – we didn’t sit down and plan out a carefully constructed set-up.

“James (McVeigh, rhythm) plays acoustic because he didn’t have an electric guitar at the time, Hal (Walker) plays six string bass because he used to be in a hip-hop / funk band, Ol plays lap steel because Hal’s girlfriend bought one off ebay and it seemed a shame not to use it. Over time we worked out a dynamic whereby it all works together well, and the mix of disparate sounds forms a cohesive whole.”

The result is escapist imagery of cacti rather than steelworks, heat-baked dusty tracks rather than Fargate.

“We’re writing songs about stuff we could never have experienced; taking inspiration from music and an era that’s a world away from anything we’ve ever encountered first-hand,” adds Rob.

“The basis of a lot of the imagery comes from second-hand sources; Spaghetti Westerns – and their soundtracks – are a significant touchstone for us, but they were also an outsider’s perspective of the old west.”

The Clench play Bungalows & Bears on August 28. Get the album from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and on CD at - The Star


'Pain Don't Hurt' - 4-track E.P. - April 2009

'Walking In The Devil's Tracks' - 10-track debut album - May 2011



Friends, let us regale you with the cautionary tale of six gunslingers who, at their most desperate and needy, thought it wise to make a deal with the big man downstairs.

In exchange for their eternal souls, these men were rewarded with riches, property, and perhaps most significantly, a musical dexterity the likes of which had not been seen since the heady days of Fiddlin' John Carson.

And so it came to pass that the men lived out their days naturally, each having accrued a fine collection of ex-wives, sated bellies and exquisite guitars. Unbeknownst to them however, the bargain with Big Red was far from fulfilled; having remained unconcerned with ‘the small print’, they were alarmed to find that not only did the deal involve their souls, but the souls of their sons, and their sons’ sons, and even their sons’ sons’ sons. Until the end of time.

So please, allow us to introduce the current incarnation of these unfortunate souls, for they can’t be long for this world. With that in mind, they applied the skills their forebears bestowed upon them, and the fruits of those labors can now be proudly unveiled.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Clench.