The Clause are truly Electric at the moment, gearing up to play their biggest hometown show yet in Birmingham’s O2 Institute on the 23rd December.
Writer Serafina Kenny caught up with them to discuss record labels, the Birmingham rock n’ roll scene, and the hidden graft behind their success.
Meeting Pearce Macca and Liam Deakin in Solihull town centre, I’m greeted with friendly hugs, strong Brummie accents, and the realisation that Liam and I are essentially wearing the same outfit. The lead singer and guitarist have trekked all the way from Shirley and Kings Heath to meet me in Solihull, despite having busy days of flyering and gig-going ahead of them with drummer, Niall Fennell and bassist, Jonny Fyffe.
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On the topic of Kings Heath, I asked whether The Clause have ever played the Hare and Hounds. Liam has to remind Pearce of the second time they played there back in 2016, after they’d been to the last T in the Park festival, because he can no longer keep track of the 1000+ gigs they’ve played together.
“We’ve done every venue back to front, twice. Although 900 [of those 1000] were probably at the Sunflower Lounge,” jokes Liam.
The Clause has been together for a long time; Pearce, Jonny and Niall have been playing together in some form since they were in Year 7, with Liam joining the line-up in 2016 and, if you can excuse the grammar pun, un-subordinating The Clause.
“Looking back at old pictures, we were just kids up on stage. We had one facial hair between us! But it’s been a really good time the whole way, and I’m really proud of everything that’s happened,” Liam says. And they should be – they have an album on the way, dedicated fans and, most impressively, full beards.
A key moment in the band’s evolution was their first gig, in The Rainbow Cellar to 150 people. They played covers and a few originals to a room full of family and friends, with a poster made with WordArt and Niall’s gran on the door, and, Liam says, “the ball started rolling from there”.
Being signed to a label under Universal (UMOD) in 2019 after they had some viral success with single In My Element was a big moment for them too. Unfortunately, that came to an end after only a few months with the onset of the pandemic, when they say the label “went bust” before they’d really had time to find their feet. They’re currently unsigned, and it sounds like they prefer it that way.
Liam doesn’t criticise the label experience exactly, but he does describe having a label involved as like “having to hand over your child”. “At times, we would like to have the guidance you get from a label, that umbrella above you,” he concedes, and although they both agree that they are much happier now (perhaps even having the time of their lives), they are very open to being signed again if the right situation was to come along.
The Clause have an album’s worth of records, recorded during the pandemic, ready for release, and are trying to figure out when is best to put it all out. Since they recorded the songs, lockdowns, other artists’ releases, and general life things have gotten in the way of them releasing any. They want to be ready to promote their new records to as many people as possible by releasing it at the right time, but it sounds like they’ve been stuck waiting for a while now.
The band knows they are falling prey to a common problem in the music industry at the moment; artists are only really getting mainstream attention from social media, which can mean great successes for people who go viral, but the bands that have less of an online following are suffering because of it.
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Liam runs the band’s social media himself, and finds it stressful having to run and make content for four separate accounts, as well as the writing, gigging, and rehearsing that being in a band already necessitates. Pearce says it’s tricky to balance doing covers for TikTok and Instagram, with trying not to “lose sight of the things that actually matter, like writing hits”.
“Just being in a band is a full-time job that you don’t get [consistent] pay for,” he says, “so you need another full-time job on top of that full-time job to pay for it anyway, let alone doing social media on top. I think that’s where being with a label could help, because it would take that stress off our backs and allow us to just be creative.”
Like nouns, verbs and adjectives, each band member has his own role within The Clause. Pearce predominantly writes their lyrics and sorts the production side of releasing music. Liam focuses on the marketing, social media and release schedules, and Niall, a degree-holding accountant, is in charge of the finances. Jonny’s job, Pearce and Liam quip, is to play the bass, enjoy his beer ration, and not speak.
They all graft hard on top of being in the band. Pearce jokes that Liam has “like six jobs”, and Liam describes writing his university dissertation whilst on tour in early 2022, arriving home from playing in Glasgow at 6am and having to get to his shifts at Costa by 7am. There’s been points when certain band members haven’t been able to afford a sausage roll on tour, but they work in order to keep the band going, and to afford to travel around the country to play.
Speaking of gigging, they are currently supporting The Reytons on their UK tour. They met the band by chance when playing at the same venue, and Pearce is reassured by the fact that they’ve been going for 15/ 16 years, showing that there’s no set formula or timescale for success. Apparently, it was the influence of one of The Reytons’ girlfriends, who listens to The Clause in the shower, that got them the gig. All they need now, jokes Pearce, is Mick Jagger’s girlfriend to discover them.
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They’re much less wild rock n’ roll than the Rolling Stones, though, and are very down to earth when it comes to touring. All that they’d expect in their dressing rooms is a case of beer, a packet of crisps or some bread, and although they’ll have a few beers to loosen up, they’ve learned their lesson to never be drunk on stage. “We put so much time and effort into this now that we don’t want to go on and not give 100%”, says Liam. “We definitely do play better when we’ve had two or three [beers],” concedes Pearce, “but we all have our own rules for how much is too much. Niall doesn’t drink, and Jonny is rationed to five cigarettes and three beers…”
Pearce has started thinking about his voice more too – he’s quite partial to a lemon tea before getting on stage. He’s considering taking voice lessons for the first time too, having been told that it would change the way he sang. Neither of them has been formally trained up until now, and both believe they learned more playing together in practice rooms than they would have if they’d had lessons. “None of us are spectacular musicians, bar Niall,” admits Liam.
“I started singing because there was no one else who would,” explains Pearce. “I’d built up the confidence from being wheeled out like a performing monkey at Christmas with my guitar, and there’s nothing more terrifying than playing in front of your Scottish nan who hates everything apart from Irish music.”
These days, they’re past playing to only their nans, having gone through the rougher periods when “even the sound guy would fuck off” and emerging out the other side with dedicated fans. They shout out Dave Parker and “that young lad Sean”, who’ve followed them around and come to all the shows on their recent tour – they’re seemingly more important than Jesus to a super-fan who’s flying over from Budapest to go to the band’s show in Birmingham two days before Christmas.
It’s pretty impressive that they’ve got people willing to come to Brum from somewhere as beautiful as Budapest, especially because there’s a “lack of a [rock/ indie] scene” in the second city these days.
“There’s not a music scene like there is in Manchester and Liverpool,” laments Pearce, “they have a very clear culture with a rock n’ roll heritage and a core group that brings it together. I just don’t think there’s enough people that appreciate that kind of music here at the moment.”
“And it’s weird, with the big Birmingham bands like Black Sabbath, UB40, Peace and JAWS – you don’t think of them and immediately think of Birmingham like you would with Oasis and Manchester.”
We chat about the fact that people just aren’t proud to be from Birmingham like Mancunians and Liverpudlians seem to be. “We get shamed for it, for being from Birmingham,” Pearce continues. “Bands are wanting to be known as UK bands rather than Birmingham bands. Which is completely different from bands like Blossoms, who [really emphasise that] they’re from Stockport.”
“Whereas,” Liam says, “we played in Coventry the other day, and when we said we were from here we got booed!”
Although they feel there’s not much of a rock n’ roll culture in Brum, the boys say that there’s lots of smaller bands all doing something a little bit different, and are able to rattle off a list of a few up-and-coming Midlands based artists they want to shout out: Overpass, Candid, Fitzroy Holt, The Chasers, The Novus, and The Assist.
“There’s loads of good quality bands, just not enough people to support them,” says Pearce. “It’s taken us five years to get to the Institute, and I don’t think a Birmingham band has been able to hit that level since JAWS”.
Liam thinks that this is due to fewer venues for smaller bands to play, since many shut down during Covid, and bigger Birmingham venues like the Institute not getting behind their own. There’s also the lack of a coherent community, with no successful rock n’ roll elders to advise and lead the way. And the crippling costs of touring, which, in today’s economy, makes it almost impossible for younger bands to get out and play.
Despite that, they’re planning to stay in Birmingham for the foreseeable. The four of them actually made a pact when they moved away from home for university, promising to come back and see what they could do in the second city, and they’re glad they did. “We get loads of mini holidays in different places when we tour anyway!” says Liam.
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As well as the foreseeable future, The Clause have got a lot planned in the near future too. “We haven’t got a weekend free between now and Christmas. We’re hoping to get another tune out soon too – not around Christmas because there’s no point unless you’re Mariah Carey – but maybe around the end of January,” says Pearce. “We’re going to try to release as much music as possible next year – that’s our goal for 2023. And we’re planning to build a massive tour for the spring, then hit the festival circuit again in the summer. We’d love to finish the album sometime in 2023 too, or at least have the demos ready to go as soon as we can afford time in the studio.”
The album is set to be about sticking your fingers up to the world, living in the moment, taking each day as it comes, and having the craic – seemingly a rock n’ roll version of live, laugh, love. They’re optimistic the role TikTok can play for new indie bands like themselves, and about the so-called ‘Indie revival’, although the indie rock they aim to make has got a pair of bollocks and some hair on its chest.
And they’re not going to waste a moment. “When we got a bit of attention before Covid, we spent too much time wrapped in the bubble of popularity. We’ve definitely learned to keep our feet on the gas at all times, and to keep battering the door down,” says Liam.
“I can’t imagine my life without the band,” he continues. “I’ve always loved music and I think whatever I could have done, it would’ve been in music. I’d be miserable without music, my job would be full-time misery.”
It’s therefore thankful that The Clause are in their element at the moment, if only so that Liam can stave off the misery. After our interview, the boys are headed to flyer Solihull, despite it being midday on a Friday and therefore full of OAPs who are not ‘Forever Young’ and so perhaps not their target audience. Tickets are selling really well for their Institute gig, but they’re still working hard to promote the show.
It’s clear that they’re on an upwards trajectory as long as they get their music out and venues filled, so although this is the final sentence, it’s really only the beginning for The Clause.