Clean Cut Kid share playlist of the music that inspires them

Roisin O'Connor
Monday 08 May 2017 12:51
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Following their packed-out show on The Independent/Refectory stage at Live at Leeds festival, Mike Halls from Clean Cut Kid sent us some of the tracks that inspire their own music - check it out below.

St Vincent - 'Neutered Fruit’

​This track was an early inspiration for the whole 'guitar-approach' of the record. My vision was for this 'super real white noise' texture; kind of like velcro ripping. After delving into the track in more detail, we soon established that the key to achieving the effect was a REALLY short bright gated room reverb. You'll hear similar guitar tones all over 'Felt'.

St Vincent is pretty much my only modern inspiration for approaching guitar sounds. Strange Mercy is a masterclass in claustrophobic fuzzy arrangement.

Peter Gabriel - 'Sledge Hammer’

The official Sledgehammer video in HD. Directed by Stephen R. Johnson, produced by Adam Whittaker. Claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation provided...

I could have pretty much picked any record from Peter Gabriel as he's a HUGE sonic inspiration for CCK.

'SO' is arguably my most listened-to album, and there isn't much Daniel Lanois doesn't know about ambient recording.

I chose to focus on this track as the drum sound particularly epitomises one of the key elements of Felt: unnatural spaces. I never wanted any recorded part on Felt to feel like it existed too comfortably within the space of anything else. That way you can have a snare drum sounding like it's in a huge hall, along side a bone dry guitar part; all topped with a vocal that you would swear was recorded in a bathroom! Gabriel is the unchallenged king of that sound for me.

Arcade Fire - ‘The Suburbs’

If ever there was a musical guidebook for writing the perfect concept record: 'Suburbs' is it. In fact, it's probably the album that has most effected my writing over the last 5 years.

On this record they take subjects as tiny as writing a letter to a pen pal, and shape them into epic musical soundscapes. Every one of these micro-concepts then slots into a huge dramatic landscape of this rundown suburb. It's perfection.

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You'll hear lots of musical similarities between us and Arcade fire too. Particularly the way we mix and arrange mine and Evelyn's vocals, and in our use of old instruments for 'synth' style parts. We were lucky enough to record our single Pick Me Up with Craig Silvey too, who was actually the mix engineer on The Suburbs as well!

Hall And Oates - 'You Make My Dreams’

One element of 'Felt' that we were really careful to retain, was human feel. The modern music industry is quite heavily geared towards recordings being tracked to a click-track and pulled into time artificially. It aids producers in being able to sync delays and compressors in order to make modern pop records 'pump' harder.

This approach pretty much goes against everything Clean Cut Kid love about recorded music. We believe that the magic and emotion in a performance comes from the feel of human beings playing together live. 'You Make My Dreams' is a fantastic case in point.

It's all about space. When people play together, they naturally leave space between beats for the music to breath. You also get the subtle nuances of each persons timing all imprinted on how the track 'feels'. This is basically the foundation of the Clean Cut Kid sound.

Bon Iver - '715 'Creeks’

​The roots of my songwriting lay quite heavily in folk; in fact every project previous to CCK was pretty much Americana/folk. The first Bon Iver record was the ultimate motivator to folk-based musicians that if you were good enough, all you needed was one microphone and a few weeks of solitude and you could take over the world! Needless to say, I was hooked from first listen!!!

The new record (22, A Million) came with a lot of information to take in. Not least the fact that Justin Vernon had basically invented his own language format by way of better explaining what the songs meant to him. However, it had somehow retained all of the things the world loves about Bon Iver.

There was smashed and crushed drum loops, pitch-shifted vocal samples, glitsching Lofi-tape tracks and what I can only describe as some of the most challenging arrangements I'd ever experienced. But through it all the sense of melody, poetic lyrics and delicate filmic instrumentation was all still there in bucket loads!

In putting together the final tracks of 'Felt', 22 A Million served as beacon inspiration for pushing productions into a challenging territory; while retaining the essence of Clean Cut Kid. 715 - Creeks is the perfect example, bold, modern, minimalist and experimental - yet somehow still 'classic'.

Phil Collins - 'In The Air Tonight'

When we recorded Vitamin C, this track was very much in the forefront of our minds. Not least because we did it at Parr Street Studios; the once home of Phil himself!

In The Air Tonight is basically your bible for 'gated-80s' drum sounds! Went we began recording 'Felt' we wanted it to be like the audio version of Napoleon Dynamite: stylised but not 'of a time'. Packed with lots of cool musical quotes from all of favourite artists, but not falling into the trap of being dated by them.

Good old Phil was really good at making drums sound HUGE by manipulating the space around them - you'll hear this approach in almost every track of Felt.

The Beatles - 'Paperback Writer’

It's probably a HUGE cliché to be sighting a Beatles tune as an influence. The fact of the matter is, I'm a gigantic Beatles addict and have been since I was 5 years old! So why Paperback Writer specifically? The way in which the guitars, drums and bass work together in this track is kinda my blue-print for a rock and roll rhythm section.

I love Led Zeppelin and the huge sound John Bonham makes, I love The Police and the fusion-influenced beats of Copeland; but all things considered Ringo and Macca take the cake. If you listen to our track 'Evelyn' you'll hear what I'm getting at. The into is recorded in mono (as a lot of he Beatles stuff was), and what you get is this tight little 'garage' rock sound that will never be topped for coolness.

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Fleetwood Mac - 'You Make Lovin' Fun’

My favourite band of all time, and my favourite album of all time. Period.

You can take any modern pop record, any epic 80s rock recording, any 90s dance floor filler; and 'Rumours' will trounce all of them. Start with some of the best classic rock/pop songs ever written, add THE most perfectly arranged musical parts ever recorded, sprinkle in arguably the most groovy pop rhythm section off all time; and lay it all down in the golden age of analogue tape recording. It's untouchable in my eyes.

Rumours will always be a kind of 'destination' for CCK records, how close we get to reaching that destination is a different matter!

Clean Cut Kid's debut album Felt is out now. They play Scala in London on 10 May and Alexandra Palace (supporting The Kooks) on 13 May

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