We chatted to Clara Bond before she took to the stage at the Loft Live Session to support Andy Quick from The Land of the Giants, she bought her guitarist (Ollie) and her drummer (Josh) in with her to help her out, we gassed for over half an hour about supergroups, dream Glastonbury Festival lineups and desert island discs, read on to see how it all unfolded.....
I have read your Bio and a few other pieces written about you, if YOU had to describe your music to a complete stranger, how would you sum it up?
I’d say that it’s pop music overall but the cooler side of pop as opposed to the cheesy side (club mixes etc), pop with more of a band feel behind it! It can appreciated it by people who may not like pop music but enjoy the way that I use different types of musicians in my music and everyone can pick up on that. For me, I’ve always thought of myself as a lyricist first and a singer second, that’s what I try to convey.
You recently played at Ronnie Scott’s in London, tell me how that came about?
Josh – Not sure how it came about but I thoroughly enjoyed it! The experience was great, we were the second act on the bill, it was a regular event called ‘Ruby Sings’ that they run at the club….
Clara – I received an email from Ronnie Scott’s asking me to play and I instantly thought it was fake as my style is primarily pop, why would a renowned jazz club want me there? I emailed the venue asking them if it was for real and it was. They put on a regular night called ‘Ruby Sings’ which is more of a commercial night where they invite guests to perform their style of music inside the iconic venue. It was a massive honour!
Ollie – It was great fun, Josh and I got a metaphorical knock on the door from Clara asking if we’d be up for playing at Ronnie Scott’s and obviously we didn’t hesitate in saying yes! Actually, it was more like “guys, we HAVE a gig at Ronnie Scott’s”, she didn’t even ask as I guess it was a given that we’d be up for it! It was well worth the 10 minute walk to the venue with really heavy gear, those were the longest 10 minutes of my life!
Clara – The crazy thing was that our set just sailed by so quickly, everything leading up to it was SO stressful, it’s been the first time I’ve actually been nervous before a show in the past 3 years, I said to Ollie before the show that I felt really nervous and he said to me that he wanted to be sick!
Ollie – I think that was more to do with the maxed out Five Guys burger meal that I had eaten about an hour before the show, I left it WAY too late to eat!
You’re from Sidmouth but class Exeter as your home ground, how would you describe the music scene in Exeter right now?
I’d say that lyrics are being appreciated more, people seem to be actually listening to the music a lot more these days and I like that, I still say that it’s a very ‘rock’ scene and it’s really vibrant, I attend the Cavern a lot and you always get harder edged bands there which is great! Everyone is really positive, if you go to London you are the small fish in a huge pond and in Exeter, all the musicians and songwriters are much nicer to each other, helping out where they can. I often send my music around the circles and get honest feedback which is great, we’re great friends as well as working together to achieve the common goal which is nice.
Compared to Bristol, there don’t seem to be that many opportunities for up n’ coming acts and bands to play, do you think Exeter would benefit from more ‘Open Mic’ style venues where you can just rock up and play?
Ollie – There’s a growing community where everyone wants to do well but they also want to see others do really well too so that’s good, the ‘Open Mic’ style nights that we go to are often run by people that we’ve worked with in the past. Soul Mondays is a great place to attend as it’s a bunch of musicians getting together and just throwing ideas around, I find it really creative and a great place to hang out. You see a lot more involvement these days in the actual formation of songs rather than simply the end result, people are wanting to get ‘under the hood’ of the tracks and work sections out and chip in their ideas which is quite refreshing.
Clara – The fall of Mama Stones was really sad, we all miss that place, smaller venues are closing every day throughout the Uk and it’s sad when a place on your doorstep is affected. Mama Stones was one of the first places I ever played, it was a great venue to test out new material and you had a real sense of community there. Musicians in Exeter are starting to get tired of places like that closing and are starting to create new events for themselves. Soul Mondays is held fortnightly at The Sorry Head at the top of Sidwell Street runs the event, Oddfellows does well and there’s a bar opposite Timepiece that are running live nights too.
Where was your ‘Focus’ EP recorded and who produced it?
Clara - It was produced by a long time collaborator John Robertson, he’s great, he’s primarily pop but he’s bot the kind of person that you’d associate with the genre, he swears like a trooper, he should be Rock but he’s not! The EP was recorded in a room at John’s house and it wasagreat experience, I learn so much from him, he hasn’t produced my new EP but he has co-written some tracks on it
Where was the new EP recorded?
Clara - That was recorded everywhere, we used Chris Tilk who also plays bass on the EP, he works with a portable recording studio and that’s great as it allows you to record in places that you’re already comfortable in and it also allows you to get outside of the studio and try out new places and capture some really amazing sounds, we were lucky enough to use Craig Middleton’s Steinway grand piano which was beautiful and because Chris is ‘portable’ we were able to record it for the EP which if we were in a studio, that wouldn’t have been possible and we would have had to compromise and use a keyboard instead. I guess in a studio you feel pressured to get things recorded whereas if you’re at home or in a more comfortable surroundings, you are more at one and you feel much more relaxed. We recorded the drums for two of the EP tracks in a boathouse which really added to the entire experience and it also provides some great memories for us all!
Will you always favour the portable recording studio route in the future?
Clara – I’d like to say that I would always use it but sometimes it’s not your decision, timeframes have to be met, labels or management may insist on a particular studio as they know what sort of sound they want to achieve.
Which artist or band made YOU want to start performing and writing songs?
The first album I was ever given was ‘Baby One More Time’ by Britney Spears which is STILL an amazing pop album, the first album I ever bought was The Greatest Hits by The Eagles so you have a beautiful hybrid there with amazing pop and classic country, it was never intentional and I don’t go out and write country music but I sing it in a country style.
Did you grow up in a musical household?
My dad has arguably THE worst taste in music anyone could ever have, if you got in the car after he’d been in it, the first thing you’d do is eject the CD, my parents have completely different tastes in music, mu mum likes Genesis and The Stones whereas my dad likes ZZ Top and Gladys Knight but they completely clash! Other than my brother and mum playing a bit of piano, that’s about it! Maybe it’s a drive in me to go out and create music that my Dad wouldn’t listen to?
Who would you say is the BEST songwriter in the world….Ever!
Oooh, that’s a tough one, Bob Dylan’s music is great, his lyrics especially, his voice doesn’t do it for me but there you go. Right now, in terms of the contemporary scene I would say Ryan Tedder from One Republic, ‘Halo’ and ‘Bleeding Love’ are amazing tracks and he just rattled these out in a couple of afternoons, absolutely terrifying! I also love the lyrics that Matthew Healy from The 1975 is creating right now, his songwriting is so interesting, it’s so satirical, it’s almost as if it’s making fun of itself but so much so it’s serious, an amazing band!
If you could form your very own ‘Super Group’, who would be onstage with you and why?
Clara - I’m not really a massive follower of bands so it's hard to pick out individual musicians, it’s a question I’ve never been asked and I guess I’m really happy with my own little supergroup! We all enjoy each others company in and out of the band. Ollie has been around forever (I’m sure he wants to escape) he’s my lead guitarist, he’s also the band leader as he knows my tech specs, Josh Williams is my drummer who I stole from The Sherpas, he’s remarkable! Ozzy parker is an outstanding keyboard player and he’s just turned 18 years old and he is a phenomenal player, he’s probably the most musically educated person in the band.
Ollie – We all get on well and it’s interesting as we can all do amazing things when we feel like it but it’s not as if you have to do amazing things all the time, sometimes, you just sit back and let the other members of the band take the limelight.
Clara – Knowing when to step down and let someone else take the lead is what makes a great band, it’s not as if we’re all fighting for a place at the table. Chris Tilk is our bassist and Pierre Roxon plays guitar, he’s a Sherpa too and then we have in the past used Beth Key from Wildwood Kin for vocal harmonies and percussion for BBC Introducing sessions, she’s amazing, her ability to just snap into a harmony in an instant is incredible!
Maybe you should call the band ‘Dead Sherpas’ as you have members from ‘Dead Ground’ and ‘The Sherpas’?
Ollie – I actually got into a bit of trouble once for saying that, I suggested it just as the news story landed about the Nepalese disaster in 2015, I literally didn’t know, I hadn’t watched TV or read any newspapers and the sound engineer took offence, I didn’t even know until a few weeks later!
Clara – We also use Jake Friese-Greene for acoustic guitar duties, he’s the drummer from Dead Ground and he also does some cool stuff with sample pads
Lets imagine that Michael Eavis from Glastonbury has asked you to name 3 acts to headline next years festival, who is it going to be?
Josh – I’d really like to see Michael Jackson live so let’s have him on Friday
Clara – I’d choose Jeff Buckley for Saturday and for Sunday, it would have to be The 1975….that’ll do it! Jeff Buckley would kill it!
Can you name 3 albums/records that you will never tire from listening to?
Clara - Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, that’s the big one, I actually got to meet Mick Fleetwood at the O2 last year, Baby One More Time by Britney Spears and Gabrielle Aplin released a GREAT album called English Rain which I rinsed from start to finish and inside out, I think at some point I HAVE to tire from listening to it but I’ll stick with these three for now!
You’re massive on various social media channels, would you say that you rely on this more than having to get out there and perform live to grow your fanbase?
I don’t rely on it more than gigging, I think I’m very slack when it comes to being ‘active’ on social media, I tend to ‘tweet’ utter nonsense as I’m unsure what people want to hear from me, I use social media to promote my gigs, I WILL get better at doing social media and I won’t just post pictures of my dog on all channels in the future! I’d like to think that I don’t rely it for an advertisement of my success, I don’t feel that the amount of followers you have relates in any way to how good you are…. I use ‘Bandsintown’ for all my shows, my website will be having a refresh to coincide with the EP release in the near future so watch this space!
There are loads of bands and artists out there, please give me a local one that I should be checking out
Clara - I am a massive fan of Dead Ground, I’ve seen their new material and it’s so nice to see your friends doing so well, it’s also nice to see them play live as they really kill it every time. They’re 3 great musicians who really capture the mood, the audience lap it up! They’re often better than other support acts on the same bill, it’s a shame that the singer/guitarist is such an arse!!!
Prior to releasing Clara back into civilisation, we wanted to put her under some real pressure and make her run the quick fire question gauntlet, we strapped her in and rolled out the big guns!
Beach or Pool? Beach
Summer or Winter? Summer
Wine or Beer? Wine
Twitter or Facebook? Facebook
Acoustic or Electric? Electric
Bob Dylan or Cat Stevens? Bob Dylan
Fry up or Sunday Roast? Fry Up
Birthday or Christmas Day? Birthday
Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead? Walking Dead
Camping or Campervan? Camping
Festival or Regular Gig? Regular Gig
Pizza or Burgers? Pizza
God or Google? Oh…..Google
We'd like to thank Clare, Ollie and Josh for taking the time to chat to us before their performance, we wish them the very best for the future and look forward to catching them again in the near future. Please take a few moments to explore Clara's social media, she admits she's not very good at engaging on them but she has promised to get better!
Interview by Steve Muscutt