Alt Country band Clem Snide has over 10 releases, toured with Ben Folds, had their song “Moment In The Sun” licensed as the theme to the TV show ED, scored films and played countless gigs around the world. This week, lead singer and sardonic yet wry songwriter Eef Barzelay provides us some insight into his newest release.
Without using the words “alternative,” “pop,” or “rock,” describe your sound.
The words that pop to mind at this moment are: “Naive yet Forthright Basement Heart Scratchings”
What or whom do you go to for musical inspiration?
A few years ago I had a meeting with Ralph Murphy, (Head of ASCAP here in Nashville), and he said, “you should try and get out of your own way.” I’ve since come to understand more and more what he meant. For years I lived in fear of the day the songs would stop coming, but reacting to that fear creatively, by forcing a song or an idea, only seemed to strengthen it, and I would struggle. So more and more I try to just be the vessel. I surrender to it and now it does come more joyfully and easily. I don’t know why or where it comes from but I love it when it does.
Describe your ideal studio environment.
Ideally I would say somewhere isolated, during a snowstorm, like in some drafty old barn in upstate New York⎯ as long as it feels removed from the outside world. I would hope for friendly, fearless musicians and nice old vintage gear.
How often do you try to put in studio time?
If I’m working on a full on proper release I would say I spend about 2- 3 weeks to get it all done. More recently I’ve been recording at home on Garage Band and cassette tape. I’ve always loved the intimacy and the warm, comforting hiss of lo-fi recordings.
The Clem Snide Record I’m putting out right now with the help of TuneCore is the latest in a collection of songs and instrumental nuggets using just this approach. It’s called Suburban Field Recording III (the other 2 will also be made available again).
What kind of studio equipment do you use to record?
I’ve kept myself ignorant to those concerns for the most part. I just find engineers and producers that make it sound nice.
How do you approach recording a song?
I just try and get a good vibe going. I do it mostly live, sometimes even vocals⎯ I’ve found it works best if the band has just gotten off the road and we’ve been playing the new songs but are still discovering them, like a new girlfriend. What do you do if you’re trying to record and it’s just not working for you? I steel away into the bathroom and, with a pen knife, make small cuts on my arms and legs. No, not really. If it’s not working I just strip it back to the basics and take a hardy listen. If something needs to be re-done then so be it. I also expect to lose a song or two in the making of any record.
How do you know when it’s right?
It’s just a feeling, hard to say. I’ve never been a perfectionist, more of an imperfectionist really. I tend to go more Zen with it all and just accept it as a culmination of the circumstances under which it was made.
And once it’s done I try and let go of it.