Foo Fest 2013: Clyde Lawrence
An Interview with Clyde Lawrence
We play mostly bluesy, kind of singer-songwriter stuff. I play keyboard, sing, and write all the music. Greg Nissan plays bass, Jonny Koh on guitar, Sam Askin on drums. And my sister, Gracie, who I’ve always played music with, sings and plays percussion.
How long has the band been around?
I’ve known all the people in the band for different amounts of time—some of them I’ve been playing music with since middle school; other people I only met a couple years ago. I’ve always written and recorded music and kind of done my own stuff, and it was really this past year when I decided for the first time to officially put a consistent band together.
How has having that consistent group of people changed the experience of performing live music?
This past year of being in a consistent band has been the most fun year of my music career. It has totally changed everything; it’s honestly been way better. Musically, I used to have a very clear idea of what I imagined every instrument doing, even if I wasn’t the one playing those instruments. Since we weren’t a real band, I kind of micromanaged what everyone was doing. But now that we’re a real band, I’ll bring [the band members] a new song I’ve written and let everyone figure out what they should be doing—it feels more like a bunch of people collaborating to work on music together. I feel like we’ve been able to work towards something and grow from that, more than we would by just playing a show here and a show there with different people on different instruments.
What kinds of goals have you been working towards?
We’ve been working towards getting bigger and bigger shows. We’ve done some really fun shows recently—like, we played at Dartmouth’s Green Key festival; we played at AS220 a couple times; we play regularly at The Spot. We were also a part of this year’s Rock Hunt, which is WBRU’s annual Providence-wide battle of the bands, and we made it to the semi-finals. We were the first college band from Brown [University] to make it that far, which was really exciting.
I think there is a certain official-ness you gain by saying, “We are a band. These are the shows that we play.” There was a point this year where we were playing shows pretty much every weekend, and that’s not the kind of thing I was ever doing before, even when I was just as passionate about music but wasn’t in a consistent band. There’s a really cool college band culture in Providence that I think has the perfect balance, where it has its own culture that’s separate from the Providence music scene, but also is so interconnected with it. There are so many schools: Brown, RISD, URI, PC, … and most of those schools are actually known for their creativity. I’d say we play a really good mix of shows, whether it’s something Brown-affiliated like a house party or frat party or something in the community like a show downtown at AS220 or The Spot. Talking to people who go to other colleges around the country, I know a lot of people who haven’t found much of a live music culture at their schools. I feel so lucky to be going to school in a city where there is so much appreciation for live music.
What has been your experience interacting with local bands who aren’t part of the college culture?
The scene here is so supportive—it definitely has a community feel. I’ll meet someone who is playing before us or after us; I’ll recognize names from week to week as we play at different venues. Everyone is just so humble and cool—like, someone will be playing an acoustic show right before us, and later I’ll realize that their band is so big in the Providence music scene… Even looking at the lineup for Foo Fest this year, I recognize so many of the names, whether it’s from having seen one of their shows or having met them at one of our shows.
What makes the Providence music scene so unique?
I feel as if it’s something you can just feel in a city. Like, I went to Austin, Texas recently, and that’s another city with this kind of community. After I’d been in Austin for a week, I could already tell that all the musicians there really knew each other and supported each other.
Would you say the size of a city has something to do with the potential of its music scene?
Definitely. Providence is just the right size for a thriving music scene—it’s small enough to have that tight-knit-community feel, but it’s large enough to attract talented musicians and large audiences. So you’re able to have that community without sacrificing any musical quality—the bands here are so great and so diverse.
Do you see yourself living in Providence long-term? Because of this music community you’re talking about, more and more college bands are choosing to stay in the area after graduation.
Ask me in two years—I have no idea! My band mates who have graduated are moving to New York, where I’m originally from, but they have loved being here. Since I’ll still be here, they’ll be coming up for shows. I think they’ll do everything in their power to stay a part of the Providence music scene. I feel really lucky to have a group of people that already know the material who I really click with and who bring new stuff to the table musically, so I think it’s totally worth it to keep the band together even after certain members have graduated.
Do you guys plan to go on tour?
We travel for some shows and try to do little college tours, but I think at this stage it’s more important for us to try to make a name for ourselves in a specific community. There are so many bands where you look back and ask—well, how did they start out?—and it was by gaining a following in this specific city, this specific neighborhood. So right now, what we’re really trying to focus on is playing more shows locally and getting more experience as performers. If I can get one person to come up after a show and ask me how they can find my music online or buy an album, then that’s totally worth it.
What’s it like to meet your fans and interact with them?
It’s always so cool and surprising to me, since I have no inclination that anyone knows who I am. Like, for instance, we played in that Rock Hunt, and after a subsequent show some guy came up to the band and told us, “Oh man, I thought you guys were gonna take the Rock Hunt—I was so upset about that. My friends and I really thought you would win.” And I was just shocked to find out that anyone was keeping track of anything we were doing. To see a little more and more of that kind of sustained fan base—I would take that over touring any day.
Don’t miss his set at 5 pm on the OUTDOOR STAGE at Foo Fest!