Today’s Feature, November 7th-8th: The Clarks

November 9, 2007 at 2:21 am (Today's Feature)

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It all started on the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Guitarist Rob James, bassist Greg Joseph, drummer Dave Minarik and singer Scott Blasey inexplicably came together to shape a path to music glory… a course that has been of their own creation.

They’ve never had to be somebody else to be successful – never had to rely on a gimmick or costume in order to find their way into the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere. They’re just “your casual college band turned into a career dream come true, complete with airtime on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ and more than a quarter-million albums sold (And they got a shout-out from Esquire magazine as one of the biggest reasons Pittsburgh topped the mag’s list of towns that rock.)”

These guys are catchy, plain and simple. Whether it’s your first time listening to their sound or you’re a long time Clarks fan, songs like “Better Off Without You” and “On Saturday” are tunes you can’t help but sing along to. These tunes are part of an overall stunning live show, one that is now available on their first DVD, “Still Live.” The video, which was taped over a four-night stand at Pittsburgh’s Mr. Small’s Theatre, is a mix of “indelible melodies, confident riffs and thoughtful lyrics that connect with listeners.”

Headlining at events like Rolling Rock Town Fair and Milwaukee’s Summerfest, and sharing the stage with acts like John Mayer, Marc Broussard, OAR, Steely Dan, and 3 Doors Down has meant a lot to the band, but it was something special when the four received the title of “distinguished alumni” from their alma mater. They live and breathe Pennsylvania, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be playing a show near you soon. They’re out on tour now. As Scott Blasey says, “It’s still a good time to be onstage … we still get turned on by it.” Read on for the answers to their XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Clarks – Scott Blasey, Lead Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars

Pen’s Eye View: How and when did the Clarks first begin?

Scott Blasey: We formed in 1986 at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Rob, our guitar player and Dave our drummer lived in the same residence hall. At the time they said “Hey, let’s get a band together!” I knew Rob through mutual friends and Greg ,our bass player came on board about a year later. It was just one of those situations where we wanted to play for free beer and to meet girls.

PEV: What was it like at Indiana University of Pennsylvania?

SB:: Well, it was the middle of the 80’s, life was different, music was a bit different. It was still a rock -n- roll world! Hip hop had yet to take over the music industry, and it was still the time when rock bands, two guitars, bass and drums, ruled the charts and we were just out to have fun. Once we realized we had something good going, we focused on trying to put out records and travel the country like some of our heroes such as Tom Petty.

PEV: Growing up, what kind of music were you into?

SB: In college I went through a classic rock phase. I’ll be 43 soon so I grew up listening to the music my dad liked. I listened to stuff like Al Green and Marvin Gaye. When I got older I listened to a lot of rock like AC/DC and Tom Petty. When our band got together it was stuff like U2 and REM, who were still a bit underground, more like college bands.

PEV: Was their a point when the band felt that music was going to be your career?

SB: Yeah, there was. It was right after we did our second CD, about late ’91, early ’92. We had been playing for a couple of years and we got on the radio here in Pittsburgh. That really changed people’s interest in the band. We went from opening shows to headlingin shows around here. The fans interest really skyrocketed in Western Pennsylvania and we started taking it a little more seriously. We all started quitting our day jobs around ’92/’93 and we were able to play more shows throughout the week.

PEV: What was it like the first time The Clarks stepped into a recording studio?

SB: It was really a long time ago. Our first record was in in 1988 and it came out on vinyl, it was that long ago! It was pre-CD’s. CD’s had been out, but a lot of up-and coming bands didn’t have the money to do CD’s, and people were still buying records and cassettes, so we put out the vinyl and cassettes and, I’ll tell you what, it was very raw, man. We were still young and learning how to play and how to sing. It was a lot more aggressive then the kind of music we do now. It was fast and loud, there wasn’t anything too slow. We were just neophytes and did what the guy that was producing us told us to do. We didn’t have a clue as to how the studio worked.

PEV: It is said how The Clarks didn’t have matching dance steps or wear matching clothes. When a lot of that stuff goes on in the industry, why did you guys decide to go in an opposite direction?

SB: I think it was just us emulating our heroes, and our heroes were guitar oriented bands, guys who played music from the heart. Even back when we first started there was a lot of processed music going on, but we were a rock band. We never felt the need to have staged shows or do anything that didn’t come naturally.

PEV: What kind of environment do you surround yourself in when you sit down to write music?

SB: We write individually now. When we first started we wrote collectively. Now we just write in our own homes, then get together and add all our parts together.

PEV: Any pre-show rituals?

SB: No, we are pretty laid-back guys. In fact, when people visit us backstage before a show, they are surprised how quiet it is. It’s almost like the calm-before-the-storm. Some us take naps or have a nice dinner. We are a long way from the Jack Daniel swilling party guys!

PEV: Which city has been your favorite to perform?

SB: I have to take Pittsburgh out of the mix because that is our home town and people know us. It’s just easier and the shows are really big. I would say the best place in the world to play is the 9:30 Club in DC. They treat you right, the room is nice, the food is great, the dressing rooms and the crew. Everything about it, its the way a club is supposed to be run. And for some reason we get a lot of people to come out. It is just a blast.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? The best parts? The worst?

SB: Life on the road has changed very drastically in the past 5 years. We used to do 200 shows a year and be on the road two thirds of the year. That was great, when you play four or five times a week things are just slamming and you get in a groove. But since we have all slowed down, particularly me. I have two young daughters, thrree and one year olds. I have to say to the guys that I can’t go out on the road like I used to. Now we only do about 70 to 80 shows a years now, which is pretty perfect. I get to be a dad and do family stuff, but I get to get away and play rock-n-roll. We still get to hit New York, San Francisco, LA and Chicago.

PEV: What do you like to do on your time away from music?

SB: I am Mr. Mom! I take care of my kids, my wife works as a high-powered executive, always traveling and working, so I take care of two little girls, is what I do. Playing Mr. Mom and I love it! Getting up early in the morning…that part does suck! Other than that, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

PEV: What would you like people to take away from your latest album, “Still Live”?

SB: This is our second live album and I just love having a historical document saying, ” this is the band at this point in time.” That is all I want people to get out of it. People thinking about the show and bringing back good memories.

PEV: What was performing on the David Letterman Show like?

SB: That was the highlight of our careers! We would all agree. We had alot of successes and a lot of failures, but that was a symbolic way of reaching the top of the mountain. And they treated us great, we played great…we were just beaming. We weren’t thinking that it was going to do this or that for our careers, we were just thinking that we were going to have a great time. You know they tape it earlier in the day, so we went out and played, then we took our wives out to dinner and went out to a bar and watched it. Imagine it, you are sitting there having a drink and then there you are on David Letterman.

PEV: How have your friends and family reacted to your career?

SB: I have been very fortunate. My mother and father have been very supportive since day one. My dad is a musician and he thought it was the coolest thing in the world that his son was in a band. My mom enjoyed, but it took a while for her to accept that I quit my day job and this is what I was going to do as a career. All our friends think it’s cool, especially when you have some success and they get to come to some of the cool events and really feel like they are apart of the scene.

PEV: Any other memorable moments other than Letterman?

SB: Yeah, it opened alot of doors, especially getting to sing the National Anthem at Steelers’ and Penguin games.

PEV: What is one thing your fans would be surprised to hear about the guys in The Clarks?

SB: Probably that we are all married, family-oriented people. NOt your typical rock-n-roll-type people.

PEV: What is next for The Clarks?

SB: Another record, probably in the next 6 months or so. We are going to start writing songs and getting some new music out since our last studio record was in ’04.

For more information on The Clarks, check out www.ClarksOnline.com

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