Jack Harvey knows what he wants Clay’s songs to do.
“Change the world,” says the guitarist of the Leeds four-piece who broke out in late 2014 with their debut single ‘Sun Dance’. They’re well on their way, with the success of subsequent singles ‘Oxygen’ and ‘Stay Calm’ as well as the EP ‘Heaven’ helping them to secure slots at festivals like Reading & Leeds and Kendal Calling.
Following their sold-out debut headline tour in August, the band – rounded out by Jack’s singer brother Joe, bass player Rob Gration, and drummer Danny Armitage – have released a new song, ‘6 AM’, and announced a second nationwide trek for December.
As they gear up for their biggest tour to date, Jack talks growing up in Leeds, being in a band with his brother, Duran Duran tribute bands, and headlining Glastonbury.
You and your brother had been writing songs for years, but without a clear idea of what you wanted. What changed when you invited Rob and Danny to form the band?
I think it was more the fact that they kind of brought a band mentality to what we were already doing. We rehearsed together and it just instantly worked. These tracks that had existed for some time became something more, I suppose.
I’m not sure what each of us bring individually but Clay is greater than the sum of its parts. We all want to be the biggest band in the world and this belief that we have collectively is what unites us. Musically, I suppose our diverse tastes individually all contribute to what makes Clay, Clay.
What’s it like being in a band with your brother?
There’s certainly a healthy dose of competition there, but I’m not sure I’d label it as rivalry. We ultimately have the same goals so that compels us to work together. It’s pretty harmonious. Together we write truly great songs, so we need each other.
How did it feel to have ‘Sun Dance’ picked by Zane Lowe as a ‘Next Hype’, and then used in the show ‘Ballers’?
It will always be a special song for us. It was written in a tent at Leeds Festival and it took us a few incarnations to get right, so to have the recognition we got for the version we released, was very fulfilling. It still goes down the best at our shows – in all honesty I can’t see us ever not ending our set with it, it’s got that sort of emotional nostalgia to it.
How do you feel you’ve grown as a band since ‘Sun Dance’?
Though I think it’ll be impossible to rediscover that innocence and naivety to create ‘Sun Dance’, the songs now have grown massively. ‘6 AM’ is our most daring work to date and it’s a style we’ll continue to explore.
‘6 AM’ is our best work yet – it’s a progression again from the ‘Heaven’ EP and the recording process was a dream. We’re lucky to work with people like our producer, Gethin Pearson, who understand our vision and help us break boundaries. It came together out of thin air in all honesty, like the best songs always do. I wrote the groove on a piano and recorded it instantly from there. It’s a tale of giving everything you have to something, but not necessarily having that emotional investment reciprocated.
Do you think growing up in Leeds has in any way influenced your music?
Leeds definitely has had a huge impact on us. It has a tendency to be quite self-deprecating and often gets some bad press, but we love it dearly. It’s a very exciting city to be living in at the moment and is constantly evolving, which is something I like to think has rubbed off on our music.
What’s the most memorable gig you’ve played?
Our show at The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham as part of our August tour will be one we always remember. It was the first time we’d sold out a show in a different city and that was special for us.
And the strangest?
Strangest? One of our first ever shows was supporting a Duran Duran tribute band. Also in Birmingham, coincidentally.
You’re about to head out on your biggest headline tour yet. How are you feeling?
Excited. The Manchester and Cardiff dates are on the brink of selling out which is insane. To see the shows getting bigger and bigger is mind blowing. We can’t wait.
Beyond the tour, what are your plans for 2017?
We’re touring the UK with Declan McKenna in January and after that… we shall see.
Originally, Clay were united by the desire to escape the mundane routines of living in suburban Leeds. Do you feel you’ve achieved this?
To an extent, but we’re nowhere near the heights we want and expect to reach. It’s happening though, and it’s happening fast. We want to headline Glastonbury.
See Clay this December:
1st – Sheffield, The Rocking Chair
2nd – Newcastle, Jumpin’ Jacks
6th – Liverpool, Studio 2
7th – Birmingham, The Sunflower Lounge
8th – Edinburgh, Electric Circus
9th – Leicester, The Cookie
10th – Manchester, Deaf Institute
11th – Oxford, The Cellar
12th – Bristol, Louisiana
13th – London, Borderline
14th – Cardiff, The Moon Club