The Clientele – in session for Marc Riley/Gideon Coe – July 26, 2023 – BBC 6 Music –
The Clientele to point us in the direction of the weekend. With some 8 albums to their credit and a pretty good reputation in the States (more so than in their native U.K.) – they have a new album and are getting ready to hit the road this month.
Guitarist and lead singer Alisdair MacLean and bassist James Hornsey both grew up in Hampshire, England, and began collaborating musically while still in school, after MacLean saw that Hornsey had written the name of the band Felt on his pencil case. The band formed in 1991, with Innes Phillips sharing singing and songwriting duties with MacLean; their original name was The Butterfly Collectors. The band recorded an album’s worth of material but failed to get any label interest. Innes left the band (and would go on to found The Relict); the rest of the group re-formed in 1997, after which they moved to London and released a number of singles that were eventually collected on Suburban Light (2000). That compilation won the band glowing reviews; SF Weekly said the band “offers a brand of appealingly melancholy pop that might just surpass that of its forebears.” The Violet Hour (2003) was their first album proper, which again saw great acclaim, but, as yet, little commercial success.
August 2005 saw the release of their second full album, Strange Geometry, the first the band recorded with a producer, Brian O’Shaughnessy, who had previously produced Primal Scream. It was notable for a much cleaner production sound than the reverb-heavy sound that had previously been their defining characteristic; it was also the first time the band had used a strings section on one of their records. The task of writing these arrangements was given to Louis Philippe. One single, “Since K Got Over Me”, was released from the album. Another song from the album, “(I Can’t Seem) To Make You Mine”, was featured on the soundtrack of the film The Lake House.
Strange Geometry was quickly followed by a collection of recordings from 1991 to 1996, featuring Innes Phillips, called It’s Art, Dad. After a U.S. tour in August 2006, The Clientele became a four-piece again, adding Mel Draisey (on violin, keys and percussion), who became their first female member. They then recorded the album God Save The Clientele with producer Mark Nevers, known for his work with Merge labelmates Lambchop; the album again featured several Louis Philippe-composed string arrangements. God Save The Clientele was released in May 2007 in the United States. Bonfires on the Heath followed in October 2009, and Minotaur, a Mini-LP, was released on 17 July 2010.
On 6 July 2011, the band announced on its website that The Clientele would be taking an indefinite hiatus. MacLean subsequently spent time on a project called Amor de Días, a collaboration with Spanish vocalist and instrumentalist Lupe Núñez-Fernández (of the indie pop duo Pipas). Amor de Días released two albums between 2011 and 2013.
The Clientele’s music has often been noted for its reverb-rich production and MacLean’s distinctive breathy vocals (an effect achieved partly by MacLean singing with a microphone plugged into a guitar amplifier) and fingerstyle guitar technique. Their lyrics take a strong inspiration from surrealist literature and art from the early 20th century; “We Could Walk Together” quotes a line (“like a silver ring thrown into the flood of my heart”) from a 1928 poem by French surrealist Joë Bousquet; in its final two verses, the song “What Goes Up” quotes the poem “Stupidity Street” by Ralph Hodgson in its entirety.
Press Play, turn it up and relax. A definite mood enhancer.