Deep into the UK section of their New Levels New Devils tour, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Clay from Polyphia and get right into tour antics and grab an insight into what was next for the American instrumental rock outfit. Having completed the American leg of the tour, the band was in the midst of their UK dates and right before doors, at The Fleece in Bristol, I had a chat with the band’s bassist at the local pub next door.
So, Clay, how are you doing, ready for tonight?
Well dude, I’m about to feel a lot better and a lot warmer after this tequila shot! I’m not trying to paint out this super cool rock‘n’roll thing to do, to drink all day, but of course there are certain stereotypes… It kinda gets me into the spirit of things to drink early, and of course it affects my abilities on stage but it definitely loosens me up! It’s all about balancing this equation of inputs and outputs from my body, in order to feel ready for the show. There was this one time I hit a quadruple espresso on the way to the venue and hit the bottle of tequila just before the show, and I definitely had a great time! Though l don’t want to go on and on about my alcohol habits, cheers for the pint though!
You guys are mid-way through this UK tour, how has it been so far, how is the UK treating you?
It’s good man! I dragged my feet a little at first, because I know we’re heading out to India straight after this. So, I kinda don’t wanna get too burnt out partying hard here in the UK – especially when this next part of the tour is gonna involve waking up at 7am to catch a flight to the next show. But yeah, I’m really excited to be here and I’m really looking for tonight’s show! Nottingham had one of the nicer venues I’ve seen in the UK, but in general the shows have been getting better and better as they’ve come. I always get first show blues, but that goes when we have breaks between tours. We had a month and a half’s rest from the US section of this tour, and it does take adjustment from to break the habit of lazing around at home jackin’ off and eating Cheetos! But no, it does take a while to get back into the swing of things when you’ve had your girlfriend and your dog and your mom for a while, though the UK is treating us well and tonight’s show is sold out so I’m excited about that!
Touring can be rewarding and fun, but also quite heavy on you then I suppose.
Yeah for sure. Who am I to complain about the lack of elbow room on this small bus or the fact I can’t fart wherever I want to? Actually, I do that anyway… But it’s really those unnoticeable luxuries of a clean toilet. I guess that’s why I do need a bit of time to get into the sleezebaggery like not taking a shower for a few days or something to really adjust to the climate! Oh, and the hot pockets, yes, the hot pockets are what I’m known for. Really not that great for me but can’t help myself on tour.
So, this tour is promoting the release of your new album New Levels New Devils, how was recording that? How have you reflected on its release?
We recorded it on tour with this band called Chon. Our f*cking dear friends in Chon. We spent most of the Super Chon Bros 2 tour out in the US recording it on the road. Drums had already been done prior to the tour, but most of the guitars hadn’t. I was probably about halfway through bass before we started the tour and I finished the rest of it on the bus. Which wasn’t even a proper bus – it’s called a Bandwagon back home, it’s like a diet bus. It’s kinda like a truck with a glorified trailer like living space in it. But, yeah we finished it, and then got home and recorded some videos and then got ready for its release! From then on it was a blink of an eye, we toured on it pretty hard through Asia and then the US.
I’ve noticed you’ve got a pretty large fanbase out in places like Japan, what’s it like playing out there?
The culture is so different out there, guitar music is valued much higher up than it is back home. It sits on a much higher pedestal there. The people still buy CDs and records back there, and it definitely vibes different to the west. We love heading out there! 10-year-old Clay would have been like ‘Mummy what’s the difference between China and Japan’ but now that I’ve been out there and experienced it all, it’s honestly so overwhelming. The culture differs so much out in Asia, and each place honestly takes my breath away. It’s crazy to think I’d have a culture shock going from place to another in Asia – even in Europe too!
Have you got any favourites on the record? Or any ones you particularly enjoy playing live?
“Death Note” is a big one and so is “Drown”, and “O.D.” is also f*cking sick! But it’s funny, some of the ones that I loved like “Saucy” are now a b*tch to play because it’s just been played so much out on tour. Though of course we’re playing the big hitters of this record. We’re also playing a few off some of our earlier records tonight. A couple of Renaissance and a couple of Muse but largely from the latest record and our EP The Most Hated.
I’ve listened to you guys from the Inspire EP days all the way up until now, and I’ve noticed a clear shift in sound in each record put out. What would you say is the catalyst for the change in your style? What’s next?
Changing itself is the idea and the catalyst that we’ve sort of always had. Growth has always been this generative motif that we’ve had as a band though it’s not something that has been forced. Well we see it as growing anyway. I don’t know what’s next man. I often ask myself what the f*ck are we doing? If you were to ask Tim or Scott that they would probably say… You know what I’ll say it how Scott would (in a thick southern American/Texan accent): “Well man I don’t know… We’re all over the f*cking place, we might make a country album next who knows.” You can quote me on that. I think the general idea has been to make some harder sh*t. Not difficulty wise, and not heavier wise – although we are trying to through in some Meshuggah riffs into each set, but some gangster sh*t. Some of the stuff is gonna be a lot simpler, I really want a to just write a song with 3 notes that repeats for 3 minutes, but some of the stuff is gonna be pretty intricate!
What’s it like touring with Covet? Was that a choice of yours?
They’re great and there is a reason why we brought them out in Asia and the US and now here! Honestly, as a band like us, where it is such a mix of sounds, there are so many bands we could take out on tour with us – but there are so few that rest in the image of who we play to. Our fans f*ck with Covet hard and so do we! They’re a good hype up band for us.
It’s been a busy start for the year for Polyphia, but what does the rest of 2019 have in store?
Well after India, we have a headliner in the US in April called the Look But Don’t Touch tour that we just announced. And then I think we may or may not be coming back to the UK this year, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it… (Clay nods his head and mouths “yes”…) and I know one of the bigger bands on that tour but I don’t know the others. Though who knows if we’re playing this… Maybe some Asia stuff later in the year, but definitely a whole bunch of writing. Trying our cards in different avenues for in terms of collaborating with different artists like we’ve always done. Nothing is set in stone, it’s just Tim and Scott being like “Hey we wanna write with this guy or that guy”.
I’ve noticed there were quite a few features on this record, but it’s a theme you’ve had right from the beginning with Aaron Marshall from Intervals on the Inspire EP.
My favourite tracks have always been the ones where we’ve had some sort of collaboration. Even if it wasn’t specifically this song featuring this guy, just writing with other dudes is cool. And yeah Aaron has featured on two different records and we had this guy Rick Graham on a track called “Envision”.
I’ll tell you a funny story about the video for that track. We released it out as a playthrough video, and we tell people it was like a track that didn’t get finished for Inspire but I don’t know… But anyways I was working at a bakery at the time when I was 19 or 20, and I was a dishwasher. I was cutting open a bag of soap with a big knife because for some f*cking reasons I thought it’d be a good idea to do so. I ended up slicing open my finger and had like 20 stitches in it or something. And then recorded the video with stitches in my finger a week later! I was losing my sh*t as this happened just before the video was meant to be shot. But yeah memory lane dude…
I definitely didn’t notice that in the video! Though I guess back then those sorts of videos were what your audience wanted. That whole young djent/prog-metal fan base wanted playthrough videos of bands rather than traditional music videos.
It definitely was a f*cking trip, because playthrough videos were kinda our thing back then. We used it as a way to promote our records and get our music out there. We really capitalised on the whole thing of shooting music video playthroughs outside by some cool fountain or in the middle of a meadow. We didn’t want to just sit at home in our bedrooms like a dildo! Though back then we were much more of the prog band trying to break out of that genre. But now, to say we’d broken out of that would be a straight up lie. But I don’t know where we sit when it comes to categorising our music or our place in genres. But on the whole music video thing, we really do pay a lot of attention to the colour, the aesthetic and the themes of our playthrough type videos. With all the hype we have now, we just want to be as loud and as obnoxious with our videos as we can! It’s all about how sick can we make this be. “Euphoria” was cool. We decided we wanted to put a play-boy model in one of our videos, because you know boobs. And we did! But it was all artsy too, we want to integrate really cool video features too.
Anyways, it’s been a pleasure having a drink and chat with you Clay. Good luck with the show tonight!
Honestly Dhylon, the pleasure is mine, I would have been doing some drinking in some form anyway!
Polyphia’s latest record New Levels New Devils is available now through all major digital outlets