Monday, May 16, 2011

From Nick Drake to Spanish Guitar

READERS of The Misread City know of this blog's fondness for the California-inspired English band The Clientele, who mix elements of British folk-rock with the West Coast pop of Love and  The Mamas & The Papas. Since their wonderfully atmospheric and tuneful LP, Bonfires on the Heath, lead singer/guitarist Alasdair MacLean has been wondering about the next right step for his band, and he's now releasing the result of one of his side trips.

The new band is Amor de Dias -- led by Al and the Spanish artist Lupe Núñez-Fernández of the group Pipas, and their debut, Street of the Love of Days, comes out tomorrow. (Here is a video from it.) 
They've got a similarly pastoral feel, though cut in some cases with downtempo electronica and Spanish guitar. The tour -- with Damon and Naomi -- comes to the West Coast from May 31 (Seattle) to June 5 (San Diego), with a June 4 date at LA's Satellite. (What we used to call Spaceland.)

MacLean is one of the indie world's best songwriters and a very fine, Tom Verlaine-influenced guitarist; we look forward to whatever he comes up with. 

Will Amor spell the end of the Clientele, or will it give Al another direction for his dreamlike musings? Here's an interview exclusive with The Misread City.

What made you want to step outside the framework of The Clientele, a band that's recently released one of its best records and has gradually accumulated a decent audience in the States, with this new combo Amor de Dias?

Audience sizes and good reviews don't mean anything if you've run out
of inspiration. With the Clientele I felt that I had no new ideas.
That was the sign to take a break really. Amor de Dias was going on at
the same time and it was less pressure, more about fun; we didn't have
a record contract initially, so if the recording had gone badly we
could have quietly buried it and walked away. I think you can hear us
having fun on the record.

The Clientele seems to be coming out of Nick Drake and Marquee Moon, with maybe some French symbolism thrown in... What are the compass points for Amor de Dias?

Caetano Veloso and Gal Costa definitely; that side of bossa nova.
Spanish guitars. Some spooky folk music like Trees. New, more
percussive and complicated rhythms. Vocal harmonies. Painters of the
English countryside like Paul Nash and Samuel Palmer. Surrealist poet
Robert Desnos. An odd mixture I guess!

The album's title, The Street of the Love of Days has a funny and accidental origin. Can you remind us where the title comes from?

Yeah, me walking down a Madrid street called Calle de Amor de Dios. I
think I'm being really clever cos I can translate it: oh my, this
street is called "Street of the Love of Days". How poetic and
beautiful! Only I got "Dios" and "Dias" mixed up. it's actually called
"Street of the Love of God". All my Spanish friends shook their heads
at me, but the name stuck anyway.

Some or your earliest training was in classical and Spanish guitar, I think?

Yes I got to grade 6 in classical guitar as a kid. It affected my
technique as a guitarist a lot. I still think Spanish guitars are the
most beautiful musical instruments.

Your tour -- much of which is with perfect match Damon and Naomi, who geezers like me remember from Galaxie 500 -- takes you to some unconventional spaces, and you've played spots like old Victorian bandstands with your other group. How does playing an atypical venue change the experience for you, and for the audience?

With the Clientele it was a Victorian bandstand on a January day, the
wind strafing our poor frozen fingers. But I love that kind of thing.
Variety is the spice of life and all that. And we have friends to
suffer with us this time!

What's next for both sides of the Al MacLean Experience -- the Clientele and Amor de Dias?

With Amor de Dias we've been working on some longer, more experimental
pieces. Kind of improvised John Fahey-esque guitar things. And Lupe
has a great love for obscure disco records which will probably come to
the fore in some way. Oddly enough I can see us becoming a little more
lo-fi. But that might just be a passing fancy.

The Clientele is a difficult one. I think the most positive strategy
will be to try and save up songs here and there as the years go on,
count them up one by one until we have a really great body of work to
come back with. Something which almost writes itself.

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