THE cover of The Clench’s LP, Walking in the Devil’s Tracks, shows five men digging a grave at gunpoint beneath an eerie blood orange sky.
This is the world that The Clench inhabit – one of dusty highways, vengeance, gun-slingers and boot spurs. At least in song, that is. In reality, The Clench are six young men from Sheffield who rehearse in a room just off London Road.
But that doesn’t matter. Once the music starts Sheffield couldn’t be further away – the band’s Western-drenched material is intoxicatingly evocative. Cowboys cross borderlines, lovers leave lovers, men seek vengeance and guns are fired – and all to the tune of visceral, haunting lap steel guitar and mariachi rhythms. Songs such as Cross the Borderline fuse fifties spaghetti Western guitar with cowboy motifs.
‘Gold and silver in my pistol’, ‘I got no reason to be living / this drifter’s desperate to be found,’ sings Joe Meredith.
And, sitting in a London Road pub, with their Fifties quiffs, pints and ‘majestic wolf’ t-shirts, The Clench aren’t hard to spot. “We do talk about what we wear on stage – I always seem to be wearing a majestic wolf t-shirt,” says James McVeigh, laughing at the huge elaborate print of a wolf’s head on his t-shirt.
“I’d wear a cowboy shirt but it’d get too sweaty playing drums,” says Billy Sirens.
But The Clench don’t need character dress to perform. Their last show at The Greystones left the crowd rapturous. “It was great,” says Meredith. “We were one man down – Hal (bass) told us that day that he was too ill to play so we had no bass.
“We cranked everything up so it drowned it out and it worked. But we went out for a fag after and apparently the crowd were shouting for an encore but we didn’t hear them – we must have looked really arrogant.”
Looking back at the album, Hal Walker mocks. “Bear in mind that’s the sum total of our four years together – we know how to paint a false picture.” But modesty and down-to-earth humour aside, The Clench’s lyrics are clearly carefully constructed, as Meredith explains. “Some songs are narratives about things like epic heartbreak – such as A Fistful of Nothing. But most are inspired by films or video games. Sometimes I have a vivid visual picture in my head that inspired the lyrics whereas other times the lyrics create a visual picture.”
This references to Westerns and American history allow this vivid evocation to take place, as The Clench draw from a very familiar set of references. “It’s well-known mythology,” says Meredith.
But also, as Walker points out, American history is a compact source of inspiration. “American history’s finite, there’s a finish and a start to it and generally that start is when the pioneers started crossing the frontiers. Our history, on the other hand, goes on forever. With American history there’s at least a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.”
The album was recorded at 2Fly Studios with producer Dave Sanderson. “He was really good,” says McVeigh, “He added atmosphere to the tracks and even added some Hammond organ to Act of Vengeance and made another of the tracks so much better that we completely changed the composition afterwards.”
The Clench’s next release will be an EP, although they aren’t decided on the name. “It took us about six hours to come up with the name of the last album,” says Walker. “We had about 40 names to choose from. So it’ll be another six hours to decide on the name of the EP.”
But in line with The Clench’s strong visual element they are, at the start of next year, performing a score to a zombie film, Dead in the West, which was directed by lead guitarist Rob Nevitt, who also established the Celluloid Screams horror festival at the Showroom Cinema.
Until then, the band is preparing for a live show at the Washington next month. “It’ll be great – James will have his majestic wolf t shirt on and I think we’ll even get one of us to ride his husky dog on to the stage.”
The Clench play at the Washington on October 20 with support from Roaming Son and Plug on December 10, supporting the Lancashire Hotpots.