Features Interviews Interview: Clothes Make the Man But Music Makes the Band

Interview: Clothes Make the Man But Music Makes the Band

Clothes Make The Man
Clothes Make The Man
Interview by: Sara Harowitz

It is a glorious day and I am sitting in the sun with two out of four members of Ottawa’s Clothes Make The Man.

Guitarist Scott Henry sports multi-coloured sunglasses that he says his mom bought him at Marine Land. Bassist Ross Machon sits across from his band mate, looking as though he could use a few more hours of sleep. We are nearing the end of our conversation, and both guys are silent for a moment.

“It’s about looking at bands when you were young being like, ‘I want to be like that guy,’” says Machon. He is talking about his love for music. “And then you just become that guy, and then it’s hard to not be in a band, I guess; hard to stop.”

Henry nods, contemplates.

“It’s like a drug,” he says with a laugh.

“It’s like drugs, eh?” says Machon. He puts his thumb and pointer finger to his lips and takes an imaginary puff. Exhale.

*

Clothes Make The Man have been together for nearly eight years – a statistic that shocks even them (“It doesn’t feel like eight years,” says Machon. “It feels like a year, maybe two”). Henry, Machon and lead singer Ryan McLennan went to high school together and started out in different bands; but eventually they found each other.

“We became an all-star Confederation High School band,” Henry says.

“Like the super-group of that high school band,” Machon adds, and then reconsiders. “But not even a super-group, just a band of people that were still in bands and still cared.”

“And then Pat, our original drummer, left in the summer of 07 and we picked up our new drummer, Phil Wilson, off the Internet, off of Craigslist,” says Henry. “His hair is ginger.”

“It’s good to have a ginger in the band,” says Machon.

Uh, why is that, Ross?

“Grants,” says Machon. His face is serious but his voice drips of sarcasm.

“It’s easier to get the government’s money,” adds Henry jokingly.

“Australian people call redheads ‘rangers,’” says Machon. “Like orang-utans.”

Hey, you never know when that information will come in handy.

Past their teens, the guys of Clothes Make The Man took time to get post-secondary education before putting all of their energy into music. Still, they have a lot of respect for bands to take a chance on music right after high school.

“I think it’s fucking awesome,” says Machon. “I think it takes a lot of balls to do that. I sort of wish we did that.”

Clothes Make The Man are a band you will either get (and get good) or fail to understand. McLennan’s raspy lead vocals combined with hard drums and guitar riffs result in a sound that is both dirty rock enough to open for a band like Cancer Bats and approachable enough to open for a band like Attack In Black.

Being so versatile results in pro’s and con’s – on the one hand, they have enough versatility to appeal to a wide range of people. On the other, they lack a true market or scene to cater to. But who says they are catering to anyone?

“We have a lot of different musical tastes,” Machon says. “If we were just to do the same thing I think we’d just get bored. One person might be excited to play hard, fast music all the time but another person might be like, ‘I can’t do this every song.’”

“We try to get the best elements of what we love about love ballads and death metal and get closer to the middle,” continues Henry. “Personally I like a live set that moves and goes places.”

“We sort of fucked ourselves in that way too,” Machon says. “We don’t fit into a scene.”

“We’re not a punk band, we’re not a pop band, we’re not a rock band, but we’re all three depending on the night and who the headliner is,” says Henry. “It is what it is and we’re going to keep doing it until we die.”

Machon and Henry seem to embody a “We Are What We Are” attitude that leaves me both shaken and impressed. I get the sense from the two of them that they do not really care what I think or write about them. I sense right:

“Ross [Machon] sends me links,” Henry says of articles written on the band. “I personally don’t care. But I appreciate good writing so I like reading stuff.”

So will they be reading this?

“Yeah, Ross will send it,” Henry says. Pressure is on!

“Because I want to know, do we sound like assholes?” Machon says.

“She chooses how we sound,” Henry says, referring to me. So how am I doing so far?

“I’m a journalism drop-out,” Henry continues. “I actually just recently got into sports writing because I’ve always liked writing.”

“Scott [Henry]’s got a sports blog,” Machon says. Take a gander: www.hockeybleeders.blogspot.com.

“We respect the craft, especially myself, for sure,” says Henry. “But I don’t care what’s written about our band because it’s just an opinion. I know what I like and care about.”

“It’s not going to change anything,” adds Machon.

“If someone I don’t know tells me something I won’t listen to it,” Henry says.

I bring up how I have never quite felt comfortable reviewing CDs and live shows because I do not feel particularly qualified for the job.

Henry nods. “Yeah, can you write a song?” he asks me, voice full of accusation.

I cannot. I attempted the alto saxophone in Grade 7 and the acoustic guitar in Grade 12 and then decided that I was just better off on the listening end of things. Still, Henry’s tone leaves me stung.

Regardless of what I think of them and what they think of my writing, I cannot deny that these guys have an unfaltering passion for music.

“Music is emotional,” Henry says. “I feel like I’m being real to myself.”

I also cannot deny that I really enjoy the music they create.

*

“It’s like drugs, eh?” says Machon. He puts his thumb and pointer finger to his lips and takes an imaginary puff. Exhale.

Machon passes the pretend joint to Henry. He sucks it in, exhales, and then holds it out to me.

So here I sit, face-to-face with the drug of Clothes Make The Man. This is where I decide – do I accept and breathe it in, or reject and say it is just not my thing?

I take the imaginary joint from Henry and put it to my lips. I breathe in, exhale. What a high.


Catch Clothes Make The Man at the Horseshoe Tavern on September 15th at 9:00pm. They will also be holding a CD release party at the same venue on November 11th. Download a free song from their MySpace page, link below.