Clean Cut Kid arrived in Belfast on Tuesday afternoon to play their first ever headline show in the city at Voodoo.
The four-piece from Liverpool, made up of husband-and-wife duo Mike and Evelyn Halls, Ross Higginson and Saul Godman, are coming to the end of ‘The Fuzzy Tour’; their first run of UK shows since the release of their long-awaited debut album, Felt, at the beginning of May.
“We put everything into it,” Evelyn replies as I ask what the Belfast crowd can expect from the band’s show tonight. “We’ve spent years perfecting [our live performance] and we’re always really happy to be onstage.”
This rings true from the moment the band take Voodoo’s stage. Despite playing to a smaller crowd than they’re used to on the mainland, the band is full of energy and engages in playful banter with each other and the audience between songs. It is clear that Clean Cut Kid is a band made up of uniquely talented individuals who have spent plenty of time on the road perfecting their live performance – every song is lively, infectious and upbeat, encouraging the whole room to nod, clap and dance along.
This is of course a testament to frontman Mike Halls’ song-writing ability. Clean Cut Kid have established a unique sound in a sea of upcoming British bands, which Evelyn describes as “buzzy guitar pop-rock”. However, she is keen to point out that the band do not feel limited to a single sound and they enjoy the freedom of not fitting to a single genre.
This makes their live show more dynamic and enjoyable too. Whilst the crowd is treated to a majority of power-pop anthems like singles We Used To Be In Love, Leaving You Behind and Vitamin C, other songs with heavier folk and country influences are a welcome part of the set by showing another side to the band, including Mike going “full Slash” with an epic guitar solo at one point.
Evelyn acknowledges that despite their unique sound, the band still has plenty of musical inspirations both in song-writing (“old school greats from the classic school of song-writing, like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon”) and production (“David Bowie, Prince and Peter Gabriel”). The band also find inspiration in the creativity of Liverpool, the home city to Mike and Saul: “The aftermath of bands like The Beatles gave the people of Liverpool the encouragement to go ahead and pursue music.”
If you like new music, Clean Cut Kid is unlikely to be a new name for you as the band had established themselves on the live circuit long before Felt was released. Evelyn acknowledges that juggling touring life and the recording process led to challenges in making the album: “We recorded it in so many different places. Ideally, we’d love to spend a couple of months doing the whole thing in one place from start to finish but because everything kicked off for us around the same time, it meant we had to do it in short bursts.”
However, in the face of these challenges, the band fought to capture their live energy in the album’s recording: “As a modern band making commercial records, it can be really fought against. A lot of people will try to keep you very ‘safe’ [in the studio] but you need that human feeling in there, because you need people to have that emotional response [to the music].” It is safe to say the band succeeded and the album has been well-received by critics and their fan base alike since its release, with people at their shows already singing along to the entire set list (including plenty of brand new songs from the album being played for the first time).
Felt is a concept album, chronologically exploring the emotions and experiences of a break-up: “it goes from the relationship, to the breakdown of that relationship and ending with the start of a new one”. This concept is obvious from a simple glance at the track list: Runaway, Stay, We Used To Be In Love, Time To Let You Go all indicate the different stages of a relationship and its painful breakdown.
Mike and Evelyn felt this concept was best summarised by the track (and word) Felt: “It deals with the past, a past feeling, which is what a lot of the album talks about.” Mike sums this idea up rather succinctly on stage when introducing Time To Let You Go: “This is about the day you wake up after a horrible break-up and no longer think, ‘God, I hope you’re dead!’”.
With their debut album finally out in the world and a faultless live performance to accompany it, Clean Cut Kid are continuing to define themselves as one of the most exciting upcoming British bands in new music right now. Find out more about their album & their upcoming tour dates here: http://cleancutkid.co.uk/