Show us a more impressive pop beard than Clock Opera’s Guy Connelly’s whisker suite and we’ll, erm… probably still have beard envy. But hirsute pursuits aside, Connelly and his fellow operatics are just about to release Ways to Forget, a debut album so rich in quirks and melodies, you’ll be humming along to its contents post-haste and writing to your local MP if it doesn’t get nominated for the inevitable accolades it deserves (Mercury Prize and Brit Awards, we’re looking at you).
Ways to Forget comes out next week on the back of several more-than-satisfactory singles (including A Piece of String, Belongings and Once And For All) and numerous high-profile remixes for other artists such as Feist, Everything Everything, Tracey Thorn and Marina and the Diamonds.
We put some questions to Connelly and he had the gentlemanly good manners to take some time out from the band’s busy tour schedule (which sees them playing London’s Scala on Tuesday) and furnish us with some replies. And so, we now know a bit more about the origin of the band’s name, what happens in Siberian women’s prisons and the working rights of pancakes. Win.
First things first. Some reviews and articles about Clock Opera have implied that you’re a one-man act. Let’s set the record straight — is Clock Opera merely your nom de plume or indeed a four-piece band?
It is a four-piece band and has been since very soon after the start.
Where did the name come from?
I read a story about a composer who’d written a symphony for pocket watches. It was lost and never performed, so I thought we could do it instead. There’s a mechanical aspect to our music and it made good sense.
How long did it take you to get a record contract after you first started out?
We’ve worked with a succession of labels, putting out a few singles along the way, so we’ve always had people helping us. I guess that process lasted for a year and a bit before we signed with Moshi Moshi/Island.
Was it a difficult process?
Picking your way through the minefield of the music industry can be tricky indeed. We’re happy to be where we are.
The album’s title track, Ways to Forget, was relegated to the deluxe version instead of the main release. Was it not good enough to make the final cut or was it so good only the hardcore fans deserve it?
This was hard. We wanted the album to be concise and it’s made to loop around from the end back to the beginning again. There are songs I really love that didn’t even make it on to the deluxe version, so Ways To Forget can count itself lucky and stop mumbling about whether it can have more lines, or even a close-up.
What’s the new single, “Man Made” about?
It was constructed from a story in a 50p magazine about a beauty pageant in a Siberian women’s prison, whereby the winner was granted parole. I thought it was wonderfully ludicrous and probably fabricated, but also seemed to connect interestingly with the idea of female beauty as defined and controlled by men. Also, I read an amazing book called Women’s World by Graham Rawle, which is entirely built from cut-outs of women’s magazines from the 50′s. All that fed in to the song.
Were any pancakes harmed during the filming of the video?
Hundreds. But they didn’t have a union, so the director was able to abuse them viciously and get away with it.
Most people initially heard of Clock Opera via your remixing of other people’s tracks. Do you think remixes have replaced cover versions as the most effective way to get one’s act exposed to new audiences?
Remixes have been good for us, I agree. I’ve often shied away from covers because creating a new song is my favourite part. I suppose anyone has access to do a cover of any song, so maybe that’s why we haven’t done one. I’d like to at some point, though.
Which of the remixes you’ve done for other artists is your favourite?
Probably the one I did for The Drums. That was the most successful in making a new song out of the old one, which is what I generally try to do.
The album is pretty much chocker-full of festival anthems. Do you like playing festivals?
Very much, feels like anything could happen. I hope people agree with you.
Which festivals are you playing this summer?
The ones we’ve announced so far are: The Great Escape, Camden Crawl, Dot To Dot, Blissfields, Winterwell & Beacons. There will be a few more announced soon, so keep an eye on our website.
What’s more important to you in terms of the album’s success: a top 20 placing or critical acclaim?
Both would be nice, but neither are vital. To us, one person coming to and loving a show is as important to us as one person’s opinion in a publication. We’re certainly glad and grateful to have had support from a lot of people so far, but we’re aware that fashions are fickle. We keep a very close critical watch on ourselves and we’re very proud of our album, so we have faith that a few others will do too.