Crocodile, Sat Sept 29, $15.
So you're in a rock band from New York City. You extract yourself from a painful affiliation with a major label that all but sabotaged the release of your second record, which was top-flight. The extraction process takes years and nearly wrecks your band. Then you marshal your resolve and make a new album, which finally comes out on an indie label that believes in you. The record is well received by the press and, at long last, you go out on a national tour. Unfortunately, you've chosen September, 2001 to hit the road.
The Brooklyn-based four-piece whose story is condensed above is Clem Snide. The new record is The Ghost of Fashion (spinART), a gorgeous, funny, catchy, and sad follow-up to the likewise gorgeous, funny, catchy, and sad Your Favorite Music (Sire). The band is coming to play in Seattle, and if you're in the mood for an evening of country-dusted pop tunes, tastefully impressive arrangements, and sharp wit, you really ought to go. But when I interviewed the band's singer/songwriter, Eef Barzelay, the music wasn't really the topic at hand.
Is everyone you know back home okay?
Oh. Yeah, everyone's fine. You know, it's still certainly very bizarre, very fucked up, but none of us had anyone close to us that was hurt. But it's been really weird not being in New York, y'know--like we found out about it when we were in Memphis. So I've just been sort of experiencing it like every other American, as it were. I haven't even seen it yet.
Is the feeling among the guys in the band that everybody's sort of ready to get home? Or does it feel sort of nice not to have to be there in the thick of things?
I think it's a little of both in a way. You know, it's sort of a conflict. I mean, the first week, I definitely got a lot of grief from my wife, who was alone in New York and watching TV like 12 hours a day, freaking out, and I'm like, "Hey, we're in New Mexico! Cool! We're in White Sands--it's so beautiful!" And she's like, "Fuck you! I'm in Brooklyn and it sucks and it's raining and they just closed the subway station again!"
How've the shows been since the 11th? This seems like the worst imaginable time to be on the road, although maybe not....
No, I think it's definitely made things worse. I don't think people are really going out to shows because of it. Every promoter after each show sort of apologizes.... So, yeah, the shows haven't been so good. I mean, those first few days after it happened, I felt really weird even getting up on stage and making little snide jokes and sarcastic remarks, which is kind of my whole bread and butter, y'know? [Laughs.]
It's clearly not the best time to be sardonic.
Yeah, it was just kinda hanging over everything, so it just made what we were doing seem... sort of irrelevant, y'know? So that made it hard, but, y'know, I don't want to seem like I'm complaining about that--
No, no, not at all, and that's sort of what I'm trying to get at. I think that's sort of how everyone's feeling. People in bands are trying to get back to doing their stuff, but there's something about this that just makes everything ring a little bit hollow or false.
Yeah. I think so much of the last 10 years--or even more, 20 years--nothing really fucked up has happened in this country. I think there is a sense of detachment, and a lot of the music that goes on tends to be more introspective. Like my whole vibe is more about like the minutiae of relationships or what I'm feeling, and to all of a sudden have this like exterior kinda shit that's hanging over everything.... It kinda throws off your perspective.
I didn't grow up in the '60s. My whole aesthetic has always been very anti that sort of hippie, political approach to rock music. And so that definitely threw me into a certain confusion as to just what is my role when I get up on stage. Certainly, it's only in front of, y'know, whatever, 50 to 100 people, but nevertheless, you have to address those 50 or 100 people appropriately.
Well, I really love your band, and I don't mean to complain either; I'm just sort of saying it feels weird to go ahead now and try to talk about how you feel about the new record.
So, how do you feel about the new record?
How do I feel about the new record? Uh, well, I like the new record...
Excellent. Me, too.