Melbourne trio CLAMM have just released Care, one of the best punk albums of the year, but it helps that there’s been a lot for lead singer Jack Summers to be angry about. “After my anger was justified on (previous album) Beseech Me, I felt like I had the space to speak more freely about the things that cause me anger on Care,” he tells Tone Deaf.
“I feel like with the pandemic, some of the politics going on, and some personal stuff I was dealing with, there’s been quite a bit to be angry about. On Beseech Me, I was definitely exploring my emotions more halfheartedly and worrying more about how they would be received.”
You can notice this in the band’s new songs: ironically considering they’ve gone from an album virulently titled Beseech Me to one named Care, CLAMM’s new record is darker, louder and, yes, angrier. Over 15 bruising songs, the trio – Jack, drummer Miles Harding, and bassist Maisie Everett – are relentlessly noisy and intensely passionate.
Joining shortly after Beseech Me was released, Maisie has seamlessly fitted into the lineup, despite her bandmates being close friends since primary school; their innate understanding is amplified on a standout song like ‘Monday’, which finds Maisie and Jack fiercely trading lead vocals as Miles impeccably controls the tempo.
CLAMM make clear their anger and frustration about a world that’s becoming increasingly desperate for young people to navigate. And that’s actually what makes Care an appropriate album title: through their battering noise-punk, the band cathartically express how much they actually do care about the way the world’s going.
Just before they headed off on their first-ever European tour – and just a few days after the release of Care last week – we caught up with Jack to discuss their second album, the current state of the world, and the band’s excitement about finally touring overseas.
CLAMM’s Care is out now via Chapter Music/Meat Machine.
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Let’s get the formal stuff out of the way first: where did you record the album and when?
Jack: Hello! We recorded Care in August 2020 at Soundpark Recording in Northcote. I think around six months later we did overdubs at Rolling Stock Rooms in Collingwood. We might have done a couple of sessions there, I can’t remember. It was all done between COVID lockdowns. Very strange process. One I have forgotten, mostly.
Was ‘Second Album Syndrome’ ever a thought coming into Care? I feel like your previous song ‘Liar’ captured the sense of imposter syndrome really well.
Jack: I think imposter syndrome is mostly always a thing, but I don’t think it was particularly strong on the second album. I’m sure there have been thoughts and questions like ‘what if nobody likes this one?’ but, as you picked up on in ‘Liar’ it’s kind of pointless to think like that because I can’t predict if anybody is going to like it. If anything I think Care is similar enough to Beseech Me but just with a bit more ‘oomph’ in all areas. I think we were all excited to write and record the second album and excited about what was happening for us, and we focused on this instead of all the ‘what ifs’ the brain can create.
What themes did you want to explore on Care that weren’t present in Beseech Me?
Jack: I think I just wanted to go a little further into the themes spoken about in Beseech Me. I think in doing this I was able to probably unfurl some other themes but it felt like an exploration of the same. I wanted to solidify some points, but it felt like a very different process from my end. I think as we learn and grow as individuals our thoughts and feelings about things change. These songs feel like jotted notes along this process for me. This album seems to be about navigating what I feel is a very constricted and smothering system we live in, when you don’t necessarily fit the mould.
Even the album titles are contrasting – Care has much softer connotations than Beseech Me. Was this intentional?
Jack: I don’t think so. I think we thought Care would be a good album title because the song kind of reflects the album in a way. I hope the album explores a bit of what is behind some of the anger in these songs, which I think is a deep-founded concern and interest in navigating human experience, particularly when this experience is governed by people who are inept or have ulterior motives.
How was it having Maisie involved in the album recording process for the first time?
Jack: It was great. I think we were so excited to record with Maisie because we’d been playing together for quite a while and we were all very ready to get into the recording studio together and start playing our new songs together. Maisie is relaxed, smart and very talented so it was a joy to record with her.
What made you use dual lead vocals for a change on ‘Monday’? Did the song just feel like it needed that?
Jack: We recorded ‘Monday’ a bit last minute and so came up with the vocals after we’d recorded the instruments. It was all Maisie’s idea! She came up with a great vocal melody and thought it would be great to have us go back and forth and I think she was right. Hopefully there will be more of this on future records.
I think the narrative behind ‘Monday’ is something most of us can relate to. Have you all suffered through any particularly soulless 9 to 5 jobs in the past?
Jack: Maisie worked full time at a cafe in the city for a few years. I think it’s safe to say you can only make so many coffees before it loses its excitement, right? I used to work for a construction company as a truck runner. I would basically drive to construction sites across Melbourne and heave junk into a truck and take it to various tips. Or I would have to sort through the junk in order to work out what was worth keeping, and then store that in a warehouse in industrial Tullamarine. It wasn’t particularly fun or soulless, but I couldn’t do it for long!
It doesn’t help that there’s a cost of living crisis in Australia. Have you noticed this affecting Melbourne’s music community?
Jack: Definitely. Musicians never really seem to make any money, and this is somewhat based on if their fans have enough money to contribute by buying merch and attending gigs etc. So when the cost of living is so high I think it makes it hard for everyone. It makes it difficult to price gigs as well because you want to be able to pay all the bands and sound people, but if you price it too highly you’re at the risk of people not coming because they can’t afford it because everything is so expensive.
You’re presenting these sensitive subjects – like mental health – in such a forthright manner in your music. Do you think it’s important that more and more punk bands do this? It feels like the ‘machismo’ of punk is nowhere near what it used to be.
Jack: This is a tough one. I’m not sure. I don’t really think that it’s important that “punk” music references mental health more. Bands – particularly punk bands – are going to go through their own processes of creativity. I think what is important, particularly for men, is being able to speak about emotions. But I don’t even really think about that when writing CLAMM lyrics. I’m a human being experiencing ranging emotions through life and I suppose people can resonate with that.
Without making punk music as CLAMM, how would you have attempted to process and cope with the current state of the world?
Jack: Haha I’m not sure. I don’t think I would be living in a city if it wasn’t for CLAMM. I suppose it’s my hope that in a way CLAMM is giving something to people which makes me feel good, so I suppose I would try to find another way to do this.
I presume this will be your first European tour? Excited? Apprehensive?
Jack: I think we’re all very excited. It’s the first time touring for any of us. I keep having anxiety dreams about it where I can’t find venues or lose my voice, but I think it’s just because I’m excited. We’re all pinching ourselves! We keep messaging the group chat and saying ‘Guys…we are going to Europe…’ and stuff like that. We’re giggling. It’s been a bit stressful in the lead up as we leave two days after the record comes out, but we’re trying to remain excited and grateful.
Is there one city or venue in particular that you can’t wait to experience over there?
Jack: Personally, I’ve never been to almost all of these places so I’ve got no idea what to be more excited about. We’re playing in Groningen at an apparently iconic venue and on a stacked lineup so I’m excited about that one. In Hamburg we’re playing on a boat, which seems like an interesting concept.
I noticed that you got your name on the cover of Rolling Stone France last year – how did that come about?!
Epic that you noticed that. We were on it with The Offspring! Well, they were there and we were a small name on the top right hand corner, but still! We’ll never forget it. I actually don’t really know how that happened. I think we have some fans in France but not nearly enough to justify being on the cover of Rolling Stone France.
Does the recent huge success of a fellow punk band like Amyl and the Sniffers offer you hope for finding a similarly strong audience overseas?
I suppose so, it’s definitely been awesome to watch bands like Amyl and The Chats blow up. Europe and the U.K. seem to love Australian rock bands so I suppose that fills us with a bit of confidence going over. It seems like a bit of a head start really. I think we feel pretty confident about our live show because we love playing live. Not everyone is going to like CLAMM but we’re confident we’re going to give it our all playing shows over there and that’s all we can do I guess!