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 JAKE LEWIS AND THE CLERGY

Jake Lewis and the Clergy is an up and coming band out of Lancaster, PA that is really starting to make their presence known.  I recently had the chance to talk to Jake about his early days as a drummer, his evolution from a solo artist to the leader of a five-piece band, their latest release Gossip, their upcoming EP and more.  



MK - I know that you played drums for a hardcore band in your teens. Can you tell me a little about that and your path from there to now? 

JL - I was in 9th grade, sitting in English class. A few of the guys sitting around me were talking about how they needed a drummer and asked me If I was up for it. I had never played the drums before but I bought a kit that week and practiced every night for months. We played every weekend that summer. In basements, dirty metal clubs and churches. I fell in love with the lifestyle of a musician. Later, I fell in love with writing and then learned to play guitar. 

MK - Since the beginning of last year you've evolved from a solo artist to a three-piece and now a five-piece. Can you tell me about that evolution and give me a quick rundown on each band member and how they became a member of the Clergy? 

JL - Since before I started performing solo in 2012, I had plans to put together a band. Josh had invited me to play his house concert, Live From The Cellar, and we became friends. He started learning my songs within the week. I met Kate just a week later at an open jam that a mutual friend of ours was hosting, she started playing drums for me later that week. An interesting thing about Kate is that she never mentioned she was a singer. When we had our first practice I asked her if she could do any harmonies and she did. As soon as I heard her voice I knew it would work, she's the perfect drummer for our band, but her voice sealed the deal for me. Anthony was a friend of Josh's who came into the studio to put down keyboard parts when we were recording Gossip. He's been with us ever since. Taylor saw us play as a trio (Me, Kate and Josh) and after the show offered to play any strings that we'd want on our album. I took him up on the offer when we were recording Gossip and he's been with us ever since. 

MK - How do think your earlier songs have changed with the band? 

JL - I use to only concern myself with what I could do with just a guitar and my melodies. Now, when I'm writing a song, I hear all the possibilities while I'm writing, and subconsciously I think it changes how I write. There's no method to it for me. I just write what I feel. 

MK - How does your songwriting process tend to work and has it changed now that Kate is in the band singing songs like "I Am Yours", "Going Going Gone" and "Run Around"? 


JL - It's different for every song. It can take months or minutes. Lately I've been recording a lot of snippets on my phone as they come to me. I have never set out to write a duo song. It just happened that way. I was writing and then realized what was happening and went with it. It hasn't changed now that Kate is in the band, except that sometimes I feel an unhealthy pressure to write more for her, just because she's there and she's great and I feel like we ought capitalize on her talent. The songs that I've written as duets have always been the more emotional ones for me. I like it that way and I'm pretty sure there's more of that to come. 

MK - I love the texture that the violin and keys add to your sound, but the songs still work without them? Do you try to write them so they can be played that way? 

JL - The songs always start with just me and an acoustic guitar. I think if they feel strong even without the band its because at the heart of Jake Lewis and the Clergy is just me and a guitar. I prefer to always play with the band, but when I go long periods of time playing with the band it does feel therapeutic to revisit my songs in the way the were written, just me. It feels like a pilgrimage. 

MK - Where do you tend to get your lyrical inspiration? 

JL - I used to sit down and write with a clear idea or story in mind. I'd put it on the calendar. Monday from 10am-2pm, Songwriting. Location, Location was that way for me. I was brand new to songwriting and it was a learning experience that I was scared to hell of and yet so eager to learn and just get to a place were I wasn't so scared anymore. My writing has changed a lot in the last 2 years. My inspiration usually comes when I'm alone and when I feel the deep desire to sing and get a feeling out. I think my inspiration has come more from my struggles more than anything else. Especially with the songs we're recording right now. I think they all deal with a different something that I'm really dealing with. Not the typical love songs. And I just write when I know I'm ready. 


MK - You recorded Gossip in under 36 hours. Can you tell me about that? 

JL - We didn't have the money to spend endless hours tracking. Our summer schedules were really tight between shows and vacations. We narrowed it down to 3 days that we had open and recorded around the clock. It was great because we didn't get the chance to overthink anything. We had to move on. A great story about that record is that I forgot until the week of recording that we had booked a show during our 3 days of recording, so we had to actually tear down all our gear and go play a show and then come right back to the studio to start tracking until 4am again, go home a sleep and come right back at 10am to start again. Some of us even slept on the studio floor. 

MK - Why did you decide to record a new version of "We Can Get Out Of Here", now called "Out Of Here" for Gossip? 

JL - That's a song that I don't feel like we've ever nailed on a recording. We've always been rushed. Gossip was a second chance and I still don't feel like I got what I wanted. But I've reconciled with that and am moving on. 

MK - "Happier Now" is such an infectious cut, with great "gang vocals" in the chorus. How did those come about? 

JL - That is a song that I actually wrote just a couple days before we started recording. I heard the gang vocals in my head right away. When we were in the studio we didn't have enough people to get it right, so during post production we got some friends together and added some more. Everyone singing that chorus is a good friend. In fact, Josh's mom was one of the original 4 to sing on the chorus. 

MK - "Stay The Night" is such a strong song lyrically and with a deeply emotional vocal performance by you and Kate. What was your inspiration for that song? 

JL - I had written that guitar part and for months I just couldn't write the words to serve the emotion of it. One night I took my guitar down to Musser Park, a beautiful little park just by my house, and the inspiration just hit me as I was sitting in the dark. And there were stars. I started sing the chorus and over the next week I worked out the verses. It took some convincing for Kate at first. She didn't like the mouthful-lines like "write a mnemonic device for the formula." But it grew on her. She sings it beautifully. 

MK - "South Atlantic" is a quirky little song that Kate sings. What can you tell me about that? 

JL - We wrote that song in about 5 minutes. I wanted Kate to have a song of her own on the record, so one afternoon Kate and I were hanging out at her house and she pulled out some poems that she had written and we came up with that little ditty. 

MK - The closing track "Locomotive" sounds like a last minute impromptu recording. Is there a story behind that? 

JL - It was just that, a last minute impromptu recording. It was the last song we recorded on the third night at midnight. I had to work the next day, so we had to make it quick. We set up 2 mics in the room and sat around it and just took a couple takes at it. I was still writing the song when we started recording, so we kinda just went with it and let it be fun. 

MK - I know you've recently been working on some new material and the songs I've heard live seem to have a darker sound to them. How is the next album coming along and what can we expect? Also, when do you think we will be seeing it? 

JL - We're in the final stages of tracking now. Only a couple vocal sessions to go and Taylor is finishing up the string arrangements. It a little album, only 6 songs. It's by far the hardest we've ever worked on a record and our favorite by far. We wanted to go to a new place with this record and I feel like we did that for sure. And yeah, some of it is dark. I'm learning how to navigate the dark stuff lately, so that's gonna show up. But there's some levity, too. And it's a little more indie rock than before. I'm hoping that we'll be releasing it in August or September.

MK - You've been doing a lot of touring recently and have been traveling further out. Are there any shows that really stand out for you? 

JL - Our last tour down south in February/March was just amazing. Every show topped the last and they were all good. We'll do that run again soon. 

MK - What other bands from around here are you listening to that you think readers should hunt down? 

JL - Dirty Dollhouse (Philly), The Lawsuits' album 'Cool Cool Cool' (Philly) and from Gettysburg area I'm into Vincent James. 

MK - I've been a big fan of Marshall Crenshaw for a long time. You recently had the opportunity to open for him. Did you get a chance to talk to him and possibly get any advice? 

JL - Just small talk. And he sat in on our soundcheck and said he "really dug it." I really enjoyed watching him play. Such a great guitarist. 

MK - You've recently posted video interviews on youtube that you did with The Static Trees and Dave Lefever. What inspired you to do those and is that something you plan to continue? Also, if you could do one with anyone, who would that be? 

JL - Those videos are just fun for me. They're an album to remember my friends by. Hopefully it benefits someone who wants to learn about songwriting, like I did (and still do). We'll be doing more for sure. We'll put out a new one this week actually, with a songwriter from Brooklyn, Lily Virginia. (Jake Lewis and Lily Virginia talk about music)

MK - Have you and your wife Shawna considered doing any collaborating involving your music and her filmmaking? 

JL - We've collaborated on things for our families. We've written and recorded kid songs together, even made music videos for our nieces and nephews. We like to collaborate on the fun/silly stuff. 

MK - What do you have planned for the rest of the year? 

JL - Finish and release the new record. Tour. 

MK - Is there anything else you would like to share with readers? 

JL - Our bass player, Josh, records his farts. He has an entire album of them. Track 6 is called "Horse Snicker". 


Interview By Geoff Melton 

 THE GREAT AMERICAN CANYON BAND

The Great American Canyon Band is an outstanding Baltimore based duo comprised of husband and wife Paul and Krystal Masson.  I recently talked to Paul about the band, their EP, videos, upcoming new release and more.


MK - Can you give readers a bit of band history? 

PM - When Krystal and I first met we would spend entire evenings singing old country songs with one another. Hank Williams Sr, Johnny and June, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Their catalogues would act as our guide through many a late night. And I can remember knowing right away that I loved singing with Krystal. When we sang together, it felt like hearing my voice for the first time. It's one of the ways we really got to know each other. And early on in our relationship I was doing the solo singer/songwriter thing and had just gotten home from a particularly jinxed tour, when one morning I was sitting in the kitchen running through "Wild Heart" and she just came in, sat down, and sang it with me. It's been that way ever since. 

MK - The songs are credited to the two of you. How does your songwriting process tend to work? 


PM - Catharsis would probably be the most apt descriptor. We pull from a place deep inside ourselves and each other. And if we don't, it won't last with us. We'll lose interest. And even if we write a melody or a chord progression that we both love and that only takes a matter of minutes, it'll take weeks and more often months before it becomes what we consider a GACB song. My favorite thing Krystal says about songwriting is "Remember that not every song is gonna get hung up on the refrigerator." 

MK - What would you say are the pros of cons of being married and being a band? 

PM - The arguments are much more efficient, which is a real time saver. 

MK - You recorded your Lost At Sea EP in Chicago. Why did you go there for that?

PM - We sort of tripped and fell into Chicago. We'd left Baltimore to move to Los Angeles, which wasn't a good fit for us at the time. We then headed to Athens, Georgia, where we ended up living in a Holiday Inn for way too long. We had to constantly sneak our poor dog in and out of the room, due to some strange rule about length of stay and animals. All our stuff was packed into this U-haul and we'd go out every day trying to find a place to live, but apparently Athens is an impossible place to rent a home if your not on the same schedule as the University there, which we were not. I knew my grandmother's old house was just sitting in Chicago, and that no one had lived in it for more than a decade and that it needed a ton of work, but even with those things hanging over it, it sounded a hell of a lot better than another night in that Holiday Inn. So we did the only sensible thing we could think of and headed North. 

MK - "Tumbleweed" is an absolutely incredible song. It was on your first single and then a different version was on the Lost At Sea EP. Why did you decide to release it again in a different version? 

PM - Thanks man. We just felt it fit with the EP and the 7-inch was such a limited release we thought why not let folks to continue to discover the song. 

MK - Your Lost At Sea EP is available to download for free at noisetrade.com and on bandcamp. Why did you decide to go that route? 

PM - Just wanted to make as many paths available for folks to access the music. It's also on iTunes and Amazon mp3, Spotify, etc. We just wanted to distribute our music the best we could as a band who was self-releasing. 

MK - You did a Daytrotter Session a couple of years ago that has the songs "Chicago" and "Song For The Rest". Will we be seeing studio versions of those songs? 

PM - I won't give a definitive "no". But we're in a very different place than when we wrote those songs and we are definitely looking forward rather than back. Those songs all served a purpose to get us to where we are, but that's it. Some songs just end up impermanent. 

MK - "Young Lady" is another song floating around on the web. Do you have any future plans for that song? 

PM - Just gotta wait and see. :) 

MK - You recently did a performance for Maryland Public Television, which can be found on youtube, where you debuted a couple of new tunes - "Wishing Well" and "Blood Red" that are going to be on your full-length debut. What can we expect on that release and when can we expect to see it? 

PM - We can't really speak to an exact "when", but we've got a great team working hard to secure a release for us. We'll announce soon as we know what's up. For now though, we're continuing to work hard in the studio. We feel we have a really great group of songs to select from and don't want to say more than we should. But, we're definitely growing as writers and as a band, which is exciting for us. 

MK - That performance on MPD was a full band performance. Is that the norm or is it usually just the two of you? 

PM - We've been really lucky to be able to work with amazing musicians wherever we've been. First in Chicago and now here in Baltimore. Playing music with people is so intimate and we've just been so fortunate to have folks who come in, sometimes as total strangers and within a short time are lifelong friends. 

MK - You have a very textured sound to your music. How difficult is it to get that sound across in your live show? 

PM - Thanks. I think we've managed to work with musicians who get what we're doing and play to the song rather than to themselves and that's made a huge difference. Playing live is such a different animal than working in a studio. There are so many variables already in place when you walk into the type of club we can book, that our mindset has always been streamline and ask for more reverb. 

MK - I love your videos and they fit the sound of your music perfectly. How involved are you in their creation? 

PM - Thanks. I think we both unconsciously tie a lot of visual imagery to our music, which in turn will lead to discussions about videos over dinner or coffee. But without our unbelievably talented friends who are capable of taking those ideas and making them a reality, they would just remain in the abstract. It's a real testament to the community of artists supporting each other and lending their talents whenever needed here in Baltimore. 

MK - You recently played SXSW. How was that? 

PM - Austin is an amazing city and an extremely accepting community. It has to be to deal with such an influx of energy like SXSW. We managed to play some amazing shows and see some great bands while we were there, but our top moment by far, was being front row for a set by Wanda Jackson and her band. Watching her belt out 'Fujiyama Mama' after telling a story in which she insinuated being Elvis' lover on their first tour together was once in a lifetime. 

MK - Is there anything else you would like to share with readers? 

PM - Be well out there.  







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