Jason Homey â€“ Banjo, Mandolin
Chris Jonat â€“ Bass, Vocals
Andrea Lewis â€“ Fiddle, Vocals
Gord Robert â€“ Drums
Trevor Rogers â€“ vocals, guitar, harmonica, percussion
The story of The Clumsy Loversâ€™ career development is often a story of happy accidents. From the evolution of the bandâ€™s lineup, to the expansion of its touring fan base, right up to its eventual connection with Nettwerk, things have sort of just happened more then they have been planned.
â€œNot to say that weâ€™ve been just sort of blindly along for the ride,â€? says bass player and de facto bandleader Chris Jonat. â€œWeâ€™ve worked really hard and tried to be pro-active. But we never sat down with a business plan, either. We didnâ€™t even really know you could make a good living touring as an independent band before we started this, we just sort of stumbled across it.â€?
Clumsy Lovers The Clumsy Lovers, like so many bands, started out playing tunes in their parentsâ€™ suburban Vancouver basements and scrounging about for gigs. Their unique blend of Celtic, bluegrass and rock influences made that search a little easier, and soon the band was playing a fairly steady schedule of weekend gigs at local pubs. One of the bandâ€™s original members was American, and at his prodding they added short trips south to Seattle and neighboring American towns.
The response they received at those locales was often overwhelming, and enough to encourage them to slowly add more Pacific Northwest cities to their itinerary. Still, it wasnâ€™t until they began to make the switch from pubs to nightclubs known for original music that the idea of The Clumsy Lovers being a full-time job began to get consideration.
â€œWe were having great fun in the pubs, but it wasnâ€™t overly lucrative, and you donâ€™t really know if it will translate to larger roomsâ€?, says Rogers. It did, in spades, and with a burgeoning draw throughout the Northwest the band members found themselves at a crossroads.
â€œWe knew for it to go further we had to really hit the road, not just the weekend warrior stuff weâ€™d been doing. But that was hard because we didnâ€™t know if we could make it work financially,â€? remembers Lewis, who gave up the security of teaching 40 violin students in her home studio for the unknown world of full-time touring. It was a gamble not all members were willing to make, and while the core of Lewis, Jonat and Rogers stayed intact, the other positions turned over as the bandâ€™s schedule steadily increased.
â€œItâ€™s one of those things where you never wanted to see people go, but in retrospect it always ended up being a good move for the band,â€? says Rogers.
Jason Homey, an accomplished bluegrass musician joined the group in 2001. Living in a remote part of Canada (Yale, British Columbia to be exact), the Lovers had a bit of a tough time tracking him down but persisted. So pleased once they located him, he was offered a spot after one run through of the bandâ€™s material. While banjo is his specialty (he won the Western Canada Banjo Championships both times he entered, at age 15 and 16), he also plays mandolin on stage, and a fair amount of guitar on After The Flood.
Homey found the switch to playing in what the Lovers describe as â€œraging bluegrass Celtic rockâ€? a nice alternative to the music heâ€™d become accustomed to playing. â€œI found it very freeing to play outside of the traditional acoustic, everyone glued to microphones, configuration. And the sheer volume and speed of our music, never mind the passion of our fans, is energizing.â€?
Lewisâ€™ frenzied fiddle playing remained a focal point, but the addition of Homey as a musical foil saw the band meet the potential they knew was possible. With a nearly complete line-up, a booking agent in tow (before 2002 theyâ€™d been doing all of their bookings themselves), the Clumsy Lovers began to expand their touring base. By the end of 2002 theyâ€™d played 300 shows over the course of the year and were playing all regions of the continental U.S., from Bellingham, Washington to Key West, Florida, in addition to Canadian dates.
2003 saw a similar number of shows, with increased focus on new markets. Developing a grassroots following can be hard sledding, but the band has been fully committed to the task.
â€œIt can be strange,â€? Lewis acknowledges. â€œWeâ€™ll play sold-out shows in some cities to raving die-hard fans, then a few days later weâ€™ll be playing for a handful of curious onlookers in a market we havenâ€™t developed yet.â€?
â€œIt definitely keeps things real,â€? adds Jonat.
Gord Robert joined the band on drums this past summer, solidifying and completing the line-up, and he shares the bandâ€™s appreciation for accidental developments, and their dedication to touring. â€œIt happened quite by chance, I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. Joining a great band that tours as much as we do is exactly what I was hoping to find.â€?
While The Clumsy Lovers released almost a CD a year independently, they were more souvenirs for fans of the live show then stand-alone records. Always recorded quickly and on the cheap, they were ultimately an afterthought.
â€œOur fans liked the records, and we obviously tried to make them as strong as we could considering, but I do think we were selling ourselves short,â€? says Jonat. â€œWe were mainly about touring, and still feel in our element on the road, but we realized most of the bands we love itâ€™s because of their records. We wanted to try to make a good record, if for no other reason then our own satisfaction.â€?
So the band put aside some time early in 2003, spent more time on arrangements and song craft, hired producer John Webster (a studio keyboard player with an endless list of recording credits including Aerosmith, Cher, The Cult and so on who recently has turned to the production end of music), and set about recording After The Flood. As recording progressed, the band began to consider giving up its long history of independence. â€œWe liked the record, felt good about it, and wanted it to get heard by more then just our existing fan base,â€? says Rogers.
â€œBesides,â€? Lewis adds, â€œeven though itâ€™s worked so far, at this point we wouldnâ€™t mind not earning all new fans one at a time. A little outside support might be fun.â€?
They didnâ€™t have to look very hard. In keeping with the bandâ€™s history of accidental breaks, Nettwerk became aware of the project through a conversation between producer Webster and Nettwerk label head Ric Arboit at the Juno Awards. While they had not begun to shop the record, The Clumsy Lovers were already, through similar chance meetings, receiving interest from various places. But they liked the idea of working with Nettwerk for myriad reasons, and held tight on pursuing other options while things slowly developed with the Vancouver-based label.
The band is cautiously optimistic about what the future holds. â€œWeâ€™ve certainly heard our share of horror stories from bands who have signed to labels,â€? admits Lewis. â€œBut weâ€™ve had nothing but good vibes from Nettwerk, from day one. And whether it works out the way we hope or not, weâ€™re just going to keep touring.â€? The band signed their recording contract after their 1324 show in Palm Beach, FL.
Indeed, with a 2004 itinerary developing to match the intense schedules of the past couple years, The Clumsy Lovers show no signs of letting up on the touring front.
â€œPerforming live is still the most real part of the business, and itâ€™s the one thing we can control,â€? Rogers says. â€œAnything else that might happen is just a bonus.â€?