The Young and the Restless: A Sit Down With Clay Bassford of Young Heel
Young Heel is ayoungband, with a lot of promise. Having started a couple of years ago as a one man set, by Clay Bassford, the band expanded from one to four, first adding JT Norton on vocals, then Matt Arbeiter on drums and finally Pete Smith on guitar. Their mellow electro songs are comparable toNew Zealand's The Naked and The Famous andSweden's Miike Snow. They'll be self-releasing their EPFallsnext week, and celebrating this Thursday (Feb. 2) at Glasslands. Clay Bassford sat down to chat about pop songs, dark music and the experimental.
Where's the band from? How'd you all get together?
It started out as a solo project of mine, while I was in college upstate inSaratoga Springs. At the time it was much more ambient and instrumental. It slowly progressed to a more hip-hop influenced sound that had more of a group sound. I started writing out lyrics and making more poppy song structures. But I wanted to keep something that was still more thoughtful than pop music. I asked my roommate at the time if he wanted to start working with me, and he became the front man. He's got great stage presence and a great voice. We moved toNew York Cityafter we graduated. We kept working on it. After about a year, a friend who I was in a band with in high school moved into the city, joined the band and it became a three piece. He plays guitar. And then recently we found a drummer. We call ourselves a pop band because we want people to accept the music, but we also want to challenge people as well. We've been working on the project for a year and a half, and as a four piece for about three or four months now. Ultimately, what I realized was that it's pretty boring to see someone standing in front of a laptop for an entire show. If you have more people doing things, it engages the audience more and makes for a better time.
What can we expect on your new EPFalls?
The EP has been in the works for a couple of years. A lot of the songs we wrote upstate or just when we were getting back to the city. It's kind of a snapshot or introduction to the band. Dreamy sounds with a big beat behind it. Finding the balance between something acceptable and challenging. It ended up being a lot darker than we expected, probably because we were finalizing it in these last few winter months. On the recording it's myself and JT, doing everything.
We changed some of the melodic structures. The chord productions and the songs lean more toward the minor side. We always look for the balance between major and minor. It just ended up feeling better when we made it a bit darker. We had a couple tracks we ended up cutting-they were a bit more upbeat. We felt like they didn't jive with the rest of the album. We'll save them for later. But we wanted a cohesive six-track EP, rather than a confused eight- or nine-track EP.
How'd you decide to self-release?
I grew up in a DIY punk background. So I've always appreciated when people are as hands on as possible. It also helps the budget. I recorded and mixed everything. We're releasing it on Bandcamp and iTunes on our own. Hopefully when we release an LP in the upcoming year, we'll release it on a smaller label.
Where's your favorite venue to play in the city?
We've played at Piano's a whole lot, and we've always had a good relationship with them. The sound is great. The location is easy to get to. The staff is always super nice to us. We've always had a good time there. We're playing Glasslands Thursday and that's always a lot of fun to play. They always have great events there. They're probably the most consistent venue for up-and-coming acts.
Do you guys have day jobs?
I work for an Internet start up, inSoho. JT works for Ralph Lauren, in their home department for home furnishings. We both do the day job and then get home and work on music all night.
You've referred to yourself as an experimental band; what classifies you as that?
Our goal is to challenge the listener. What I mean by that is that we want to use textures and rhythms that aren't found in common pop music and utilize them in a way that, whether it be a pop structure or melody, it's different. People automatically judge you if you drop genre names like chillwave and synth rock, if you classify yourself that way it hinders you from branching out. Experimental comes from how we're trying to utilize sounds in a different way.
Is there a tour in your future?
We're planning some weekend college tours in the spring. Nothing national yet. That'll probably be after we release an EP or an LP. We'll play a bunch of colleges in the northeast this spring, unless we get offers otherwise.
Feb. 2, Glasslands, 289 Kent Ave., Brooklyn,www.glasslands.blogspot.com; 8:30 p.m., $10.
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