Clothes Make The Man makes return

If there is one thing that you quickly learn in the music business, it is that things don’t always go as planned. As the mighty David Lee Roth of Van Halen once sang “You gotta ro-o-oll with the punches…”; and no truer lesson has been learned by Toronto band Clothes Make The Man.

In the midst of making of the group’s next full-length record Distance, the band somewhat unexpectedly encountered some issues with financing their work. Not so much the recording itself but all of the necessary “evils” that accompany album releases such as a publicist, radio promoter and more. The “other” expenses encountered could probably easily rival what it costs a band to make a record.

Clothes Make The Man vocalist Ryan McLennan says rather than taking a half-cocked approach to getting their upcoming 12-song record released, they wanted to do things properly. The band’s new EP entitled Control features four songs that will also appear on the Distance full-length when released early next year.

“Ultimately, we just wanted to ensure that the record was properly released,” he says. “Getting on the radio and having all the puzzle pieces fall into place can work out really well if you end up getting the radio airplay. So rather than holding back the album’s release altogether, releasing an EP and making our goals a little more manageable is more realistic for the time being.”

Indeed, any one of the four songs on the group’s Control EP could arguably secure the band radio airplay in a perfect world. McLennan’s vocals anchor the group’s melodic rock songs, which also show off the group’s technical ability.

Asked how the songs on Distance shape up compared to the group’s previous efforts, McLennan claims the new tracks are “more worldly” than other songs the band has written.

“These new songs are a lot darker in context. I think we have discovered how strange the world can be if you stop and think of how the world works. There are still the sad love songs on there but there is a little more topical matter that falls outside of love as well.

“Lyrically, we are exploring different venues which help us stay interested. We really took our time writing and recording this record and think that it comes off as showing a more mature band.”

At the helm of Clothes Make The Man’s newest album is Julius Butty, who has also worked with other Canadian acts such as Alexisonfire and Protest The Hero. When the subject of Butty arises in the course of conversation, McLennan clearly can’t say enough good things about the band’s experience with the producer.

“Besides helping to make me a better singer, Julius was relentless in getting us to try different things. He pushed us to do our best and was such an incredibly patient guy to work with. Going into making the record, we agreed that having a good time and enjoying the experience was going to be of paramount importance to all of us and he definitely helped make that happen.”

Formed in Ottawa in 2002 by McLennan along with bassist Ross Machon and guitarist Scott Henry, and later joined by drummer Phil Wilson, the band moved themselves south down Highway 401, settling in Toronto for what they hoped would be opportunities that they might not be afforded by staying in the nation’s capital.

McLennan admits that while they have all fallen in love with being and living in Toronto, they each continue to hold a flame for their hometown each time they return “home.”

Given the frequency with which Clothes Make The Man play shows on the east coast however, one might be inclined to think that the group could be considering calling the Maritimes home before long. While that isn’t necessarily the case, McLennan says the band does enjoy the time they spend on the Atlantic coast.

“We have become good friends with the guys in (Moncton band) The Motorleague. They have been very supportive and it’s nice going east because we know we always have a place to sleep when we are in Moncton.

“We tend to play Halifax and Moncton quite often and on our upcoming tour, we are actually getting the chance to play a couple of shows in Newfoundland which we are really looking forward to.”

Asked why his band tends to favour playing shows in the Maritimes, McLennan chalks it up to the region being a relatively easy landscape to tour, especially when compared to Western Canada.

“When you’re touring through Canada, there are some huge distances between some of the cities bands tend to play. In the east though, the drives are a little more feasible.

“We had the opportunity to play some shows on the Iles de la Madeleine and it has been our experience that if you play shows in places that might not normally see bands, people are just stoked you came to play music for them. It is really nice to be appreciated where ever we play.”

Article published in October 29, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript