INTERVIEW: “I wanna crowd surf, I wanna bite somebody and I wanna run across the bar. They are the three things on my to-do list. I wanna run across a bar, WHILST biting somebody...” that's just a taste of the crazy deep chats I had with Clay, Cole and Maz from Sydney punk band Clay J Gladstone just before the band released their debut EP Dead Friends.
Interview Date 22 July 2021
So the band initially started as ‘frenemies’ or rivalries merging, right? How did this come together? What is the story behind the band?
Cole: Well... Highschool Drama we wrote a song about it haha.
Clay: yeah so, me and Johnny (whose actually name is Matty, but everyone calls him Johnny and I refuse to call him Matty), anyways we went to school together and interestingly we used to have a bit of beef back in the day, I remember I was dating some girl and I can't remember the full details around it but I remember I was at a party when I was 14 or 15 and on the old flip phones, and I remember Johnny jumped on the other line and I hear this yell across the phone saying your bed fucking sucks!
Anyway, that's kind of where it all started, and yeah I guess we reconnected probably a year or two years ago, when I was doing this solo stuff, which was Clay J Gladstone,and he came to a show then we got absolutely trashed and decided to turn it into a bit of a punk band. Matty used to play in bands with Cole…
Cole: Yeah we played in Caulfield together and we also played in Buried In Verona at different times haha, and we also played in Resist the Thought when they started up again.
Clay: Yeah so that’s basically how we all got together and Kabir… he actually works with me. We were out at a party one time, and same sort of deal, we ended up getting drunk or whatever and started talking, and he wanted to join the band so we said Okay come in! And then Maz, good old Maz, we used to play in bands together years ago, and we were just looking for a drummer and yeah..
Actually no! I messaged Maz…
Maz: Yeah this is the actual story haha. Tell the actual story.
Clay: Okay I’ll tell it! So I messaged Maz a year ago saying Man come and play drums for us, we’ve got all of these songs ready to go, anyway… nothing, nothing for a year.
Haha did he leave you on read?
Clay: nah it wasn’t on read.
Maz: oh did I not even see it? Haha
Clay: nah, cause i remember when I spoke to ya like one-two months ago I went back to the message and then you jumped in and then it came up.
Maz: okay cool cool cool, cause I didn’t wanna feel like a dick if I had left you on read for like a year haha, and then it was like oh yeah cool I’ll do this now. Yeah that’s funny.
Now you've just dropped Dead Friends, the single last week (at time of interview) so we will be going to be chatting about the upcoming EP shortly, which is also called Dead Friends but I wanted to talk about the latest single and the music video. It's a lot darker and a lot more serious compared to Sorry, and mentions phrases such as ‘drinking Kool Aid’, ‘Romance is dead’, ‘Lost in my head’, can you guys just explain the themes behind Dead Friends, the single?
Clay: I guess with the song, have you ever seen the documentary... I think it's called ‘The Vow’ (True Crime Documentary about Cults) by any chance? It was on Netflix for a period of time, it's basically about a modern day US cult, like a sex cult, it's like a self-help organization. So imagine, you know, a company that kind of promises personal development and stuff like that but anyway it's basically about this guy that manipulates this whole school of women...
Like a Charlie Manson sort of thing?
Clay: Kind of, yeah so anyways the song is based on that. I remember watching that documentary, and then that kind of song kind of just came out, and so if you listen to the lyrics, it's all about just being… I guess succumbing to, you know, an environment that you don't want to be in that you can't get out of. That's the concept.
For the video we initially had this very ambitious treatment, which was never going to work haha. But we got Billy Zammit on it, he's done stuff with Bloom, he's just a local guy in Sydney but he's stuff is so so good. Anyway, he came in and basically just just changed the whole vibe of the clip into something that was workable for us and something that I think is sick! I’m really proud to be honest. Did you guys want to add anything to that?
Cole: Do we want to give out that it wasn't originally cold Dead Friends?
Yes, yes you do
Cole: So, that kind of came later, because we were kicking around ideas for naming the EP, and that was one of Johnny's little nuggets of wisdom that he threw out, and we all just kind of like latched on to it we're like yeah that's the vibe! Then we kind of yeah retroactively gave that song that name, because we felt that song kind of encapsulated what we wanted to be the face of the EP. The EP goes to such different places, but like Dead Friends the song was always one of the strongest ones I think we felt.
Clay: and it was initially called an Ode to a Cult like Figure that was the original title.
With the music video you guys had bandages wrapped around your heads, was that hard to play like with the live performance scenes?
Cole: I think it actually helped, because we filmed a bunch of the stuff up in the Blue Mountains, which is like two hours out of Sydney, and it was dark, so it was freezing! When we were anywhere not near that giant bonfire that we had. It was actually kind of nice to have this thing around our face, it was kind of like a beanie for your whole head haha.
Clay: Says the guy that didn’t have to jump in a bath!
Cole: haha yeah, naked in a bath full of cordial, that was him!
Clay: yeah so Jess there’s like a tiny tiny piece in the video clip where I’m in a bath- and it’s was a tiny, like a second, two seconds of it. That was fucking insane I had to jump in, in like two degrees of water in a bath.
Was it worth it for 2 seconds of film clip?
Clay: Absolutely! It was warmer in the water if I'm being honest, once I got in, I was like oh yeah I kinda didn’t want to get out, but I was getting like strangled, there was like of these outtakes of me getting strangled and all that.
Maz: It was so funny like even before I had heard the majority of the songs that are on this EP, Tim have been sending me photos and like a little snippets from the video clip being like hey man, this is what we're doing, and it just got me super excited by how excited he was about it all, and coming in from like sort of like a fan sort of perspective, I was like, Holy fuck, like you want me to play this with this image like I'm completely sold! like without even hearing the full song, I was already like, Yep, cool I’m totally keen!
Nice, now Maz you've just joined the band haven't you? How new are you?
Maz: Yes, ah if everything had gone along to plan, it would be like two shows now, but currently it's none haha. So, we've had a couple of rehearsals to sort of just feel it out and, You know, sort of see how everything’s going and it's like cool yeah this is very fresh.
Okay, going back to the EP, so I have had an early listen to the EP early, which I'm very grateful for, thank you for sending that through…
Clay: WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE SONG?!
I like People Like You,
Cole: yeah it’s a vibe
I feel like there’s a lot of contrasting in it and it’s very My Chemical Romance, and it’s just got some character to it. Then probably next would be Balance, because it’s very danceable haha
Clay: Right okay, interesting.
Maz: the lights for that are insane, like I had a lot of fun doing a lot for that song. I’ve had way to much spare time haha
Haha what sort of lighting have you got for Balance?
Maz: You’ll have to come to a show for that, I can not tell you haha
Fair enough. I found the whole EP to be very confronting, just like thematically talking about mental illness, violence, addiction and relationships. Why as a band are these things important to put into your debut EP?
Clay: I guess, from a lyrical perspective, I don't know how to write anything else if I'm being honest. I don't know how to write anything super happy, I've tried to find... I actually tried to write an uplifting song the other day but when I listened back to it, it's probably the most depressing song ever written haha
But we’re a bit like, you know, we're not young, we're not 15 anymore and we've all gone through shit growing up and, you know, you kind of learn a lot and you do a lot of things that you probably shouldn't have and, you know, you have a lot of experiences.
I can't give you a great answer on what I think feels right and what comes out, whatever is on my mind. So, yeah, I don't know if there's like a conscious thought on that or not, but it's just kind of what comes out here.
Cole: At least for me, I think the reason we all get behind it so much is because it's the kind of stuff that we like listening to. I really like music that is confronting and honest and has that rawness to it. So like Tim (Clay) comes to us with these concepts, and we're just like, yeah that's what I want to be a part of.
Clay: That is a good point, when I think about the stuff I write lyrically, I try to be very direct, and actually in People Like You, so the lyric People like you is why we have middle fingers, that’s one of Cole’s lyrics he came up with that one! That’s a Cole lyric and I loved it! It was great! Haha.
Cole: He was like YOU GOTTA PUT THIS IN A SONG MAN! Haha
Maz: I think I said this to you too when you asked me to play. You were like hey do you want to play it? I'm like yeah this is the kind of music that I want to play but also want to be in the crowd for, I want to be able to listen to it, but also be able to play it. So the fact that I get to play it as well is fucking awesome! I think every song that you've shown me, I'm like, okay, cool our set is not long enough to be able to play all those songs haha, but they are fucking great songs!
How did the creation of the EP come about? Was it pre-lockdown during lockdown written last week?
Clay: It was actually intended to be an album, so we will go into record an album. I won't say the name of what the album was going to be, because we're still probably going to use that next.
An album? Yeah, your EP is actually a long EP, six songs, it's good and decent.
Clay: That's the thing, the album is a concept album, we kind of got talked out of releasing an album, when I look back it was for a good bloody reason! Just cause, you know, we're not a big band, and I think we've got to kind of cut our teeth just releasing stuff and seeing if people enjoy it for one, but I think now I just don't really give a fuck I kind of do an album just so cause haha, so I can put it in the pool room somewhere haha.
That idea came about a bit over a yeah, all of these songs I’ve just had lying around. Cole and Maz would tell you that on my hard drive, i probably have hundreds and hundreds of ideas on there, and lots and lots of different songs too, but yeah, so basically the EP was all of the fast heavy stuff that we wanted to compile into a collection of songs, we agreed on putting them in there because we've got a couple of ballad type stuff, we've got a bit of some slower jams and whatnot, but when we were forced only put six songs together we're like okay well let's just keep it pretty up tempo.
Were you guys able to record it all together in a studio?
Cole: Yeah, so we did it kind of at the tail end of the last lockdown, wasn't it? It was, because there were restrictions but it wasn't like when everyone had to stay in the house. We all went to the studio. We were there for five or six days or something, and we were checking in every day, not really going out or doing anything, we just went to the studio.
As a band, your influences are My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy, from listening to the EP I thought there was a bit of Hellions thrown in there because of the theatrical vibe, and also I found that the last song on there, which I believe is King Ugly is a bit Simple Plan-ish, what sort of other influences do you guys take from?
Cole: I don't know if we have enough time to tell you haha. People Like You, that has a really Arctic Monkeys vibe, and that's something that we all kind of agreed on in the room, and then there's like, kind of Strokes-ey thing going on with Balance, There’s such as wide range like one of Tim (Clay)'s favourite bands in the world is Say Anything, so I think that definitely translates a lot of like little things but constant things through everything that band does.
Clay: All the classic stuff as well, like we grew up on Blink-182 like you know, you can't skip pass Blink-182, like King Ugly is just an ode to Blink-182 for me, and like Simple Plan to. But yeah, who else? Matchbook Romance.
Maz: Ugh, yes great band!
Clay: Great fucking band!
Maz: Also I hear a lot of Wake the Dead by The Used in Dead Friends, like from that album. When I first heard that I was like Ah fuck that reminds me of them.
Clay: and Jess, maybe with the Hellions influence, Matty used to live with the singer from Hellions...
Haha oh really?
Cole: He just absorbed it haha
Yeah sub-consciously he’s absorbed Hellions! That’s funny! Small world
Cole: They’re like a hardcore band with poppier influences and that’s definitely something that a lot of our band brings to this. Like we’ve all played in heavy bands and now we’re playing some kind of pop-punk stuff. We probably still have a couple of chord progressions from hardcore that kind of slip in every now and again
Okay what’s your ultimate favourite track off the Dead Friends EP?
Clay: For me, Move On is definitely the favourite. I don’t know if you’ve changed your mind Cole?
Cole: I’ve really spun around on Balance. I’ve really felt like Balance was one of the weakest songs on the EP, but yeah I don’t know, there’s something about it that just kind of hits all the right points.
Maz: It’s really funny like you said, Move On is definitely the more challenging song for me to play live…
Clay: with two days to learn it haha
Maz: yeah haha, the amount of times that I've lived through it working on the lights. I'm gonna say King Ugly is my favourite, it’s a fun song to play, it’s just really enjoyable.
Clay: King Ugly goes WILD LIVE! We played this show at Frankie’s Pizza when lockdown finished, and THAT SONG! There’s some footage of it somewhere online but during that song everyone was going nuts! It was so much fun.
Speaking of live shows, and footage on your tour, on ‘The Wolfstone Park Tour’ with Drastic Park and Wolf & Chain, I believe I saw on Drastic’s Instagram Stories that Clay, you took your pants off during a show?!?!
Cole: Yeah! in Sydney hahaha that was the first show of the tour! The very first time we had ever met those dudes haha
Haha what was going on?! and then John (Stokes) put up a caption like ‘is he single?’ hahaha
Clay: ahhh, I did not do that haha. I can’t remember what happened there…
Cole: it was a couple of beers, I think…
Clay: no, it was someone in the crowd was heckling me, telling me to do it, it was a sit down show mind you, so everyone was sitting down, and that was actually a great show! Again, we've only, we've only ever played sit. Wait I think we’ve played one stand up at Frankies, besides the tour interstate, but every other Sydney show well the majority of them have been sit down, so we've had to kind of think of other ways to just entertain people. So that's why I take clothes off haha
Maz: Because apparently it’s entertaining to see you naked, yeah okay cool.
Clay: There’s not much to see there, so don’t worry about that haha
Cole: It’s pretty punk rock!
Clay: Yeah, no pants! I’m going to play every show with no pants on from now!
It could be your gimmick, you guys could be known as ‘the band with no pants’ haha
Speaking of shenanigans, I know you guys have had your AM/PM Sydney show and FANGZ support show get postponed/rescheduled because of lockdown. What shenanigans do you guys have planned for upcoming shows, once they start up again?
I know you've got a sick lightshow happening haha, what else can fans expect to see a future shows?
Cole: It's something that we've just been trying to really streamline, I guess our shows normally, are a bit wild and a bit loose. I think there's a lot of people who would just be up there rambling and cracking jokes and stuff, and so I think that we are really trying to make it a cohesive experience, I guess.
Maz: Yeah, while still incorporating some of that incohesiveness from Tim.
Cole: We don’t want to lose the spontaneity and the fun, like the fun is the whole reason we want to play shows. We just kind of want to make it a bit more of like an experience.
Maz: I think that's a really good word for it.
Clay: I wanna crowd surf, I wanna bite somebody and I wanna run across the bar. They are the three things on my to-do list. I wanna run across a bar, WHILST biting somebody haha
*everyone started laughing their asses off during this interview*
Clay: Sorry about that, Cole’s like we want to be cohesive and I’m like I wanna bite someone! Haha
Cole: See we can’t lose that! We’re a punk band, we do what we want to!
Do you guys have any final words you want to say, from the band, about the new EP, anything you want to get out to fans?
Cole: I'm just really stoked that so many people seem to get what we're trying to do. Support has been awesome, everyone's just kind of hearing it and being like, yeah this really kind of talks to me, and that is the whole reason we want to play music, and thank you so much for the opportunity of just having a chat.
Well thank you for your time.
Clay: Yeah, I think messages from me as well, like BUY A FUCKING SHIRT
Cole: hahaha Tim is straight to business
Maz: Buy a shirt, come to a show.
Clay: Jess if you can at the bottom of this, just in capitals…
BUY A FUCKING SHIRT ?
Clay: Yes BUY A FUCKING CLAY J SHIRT
Cole: That’s a Time Wiseby quote
Clay: Going on from what Cole said, like at the end of the day for me as well, I was thinking about this today, but I don't really care what happens with this but, you know, doing an album, releasing as many songs as we can over the next couple of years before we die, or one of us dies.
That, to me I think is important and that's why during COVID A lot of bands are sitting back and not doing anything, and rightfully so, you know a lot of bands, that's their bread and butter, that's how they get paid, we are kind of in a position where we're not full time musicians, you know we're full time people. But I think the idea is we really want to give this a good crack, try and release as much music as we can, and just enjoy ourselves.
That was Clay (AKA Tim), Cole and Maz from the Sydney band Clay J Gladstone. Their debut EP Dead Friends is available RIGHT NOW to listen to, so jump on that and also…
BUY A FUCKING CLAY J GLADSTONE SHIRT!
Links to merch on Clay J Gladstone’s social media
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