ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Man Random, Clementine
Linneman’s hosted a powerhouse night of power pop and pop punk Friday night with an all-local bill featuring The Unitaskers, Man Random and Clementine.
Man Random consists of vocalist/guitarist Steven Baird, guitarist Matt Schmus, bassist Benjamin Meredith and drummer Nat Otto. Their lively power pop sound and style draws from a wide array of influences such as Weezer, The Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Rosenstock, The Thermals, They Might Be Giants and Rozwell Kid.
The band formed in 2016 although their current lineup has existed since 2018. Baird explained, “With the second EP we put out, “Brighten Up”, it was kind of the real start of the path we’re on right now. My good friend and roommate knew Matt when we were looking for a new guitarist. And then we lost our drummer…I have to give a shoutout to my friend and roommate Zach Lachman because he was the link that made me meet both Matt and Nat. The time that they both came into the band was kind of a jumbled time; that was when we were just starting to work on “Brighten Up.” We really learned how to work with each other when we made that EP.”
Otto added, “My dad and I used to live in the lower of a duplex, which is actually how I got the connection to join the band. One of Matt’s good friends was our upstairs neighbor, and he came down to do laundry when I was playing drums and he said that his friend’s band needed a drummer. He gave me Matt’s number and here I am four years later.”
Their debut full-length album “Present Tense” was released a year ago. Baird said about it, “We’ve heard people refer to it as a COVID album because it deals a lot with how the world is terrible and everything’s bad. But we conceptualized a lot of the album in 2019, like we had a band meeting that summer which was the start of the process of writing it. It’s not a concept album or a rock opera but we had this central theme of living through a historically hard and complicated moment, and that was before COVID (laughs). When COVID happened, we took like a three-month break, but when we came back from it most of the songs were written and we self-recorded it in Nat’s old Bay View apartment. Everything that happened between summer of 2019 and September 2021 when the album was released all just got captured through existing in this really weird dystopian time. The opening track “Everything Gets Worse” captures the weird feeling of knowing everything is terrible but you still have to go to work and you still get drunk with your friends sometimes.”
On their constantly evolving songwriting process, Meredith said, “We’ve been moving more into writing intuitively and playing off each other. If something feels good to play then let’s run with that.”
That said, they’ve got new stuff in the works. “We’re about 60 to 70 percent done with the writing process of what’s going to be our second album,” Baird shared. “We’re hoping to get that out next year but there’s still a lot of work to do. I feel like we’re in a really good place as a band.”
Man Random play Promises on October 8th and Bremen Cafe on November 5th.
Clementine comprises of vocalist/guitarist Joe Altamore, guitarist Bennett Gillies, bassist Mack Sima and drummer Oliver Wink. Their alternative rock sound incorporates pop punk and emo elements. Formed from the ashes of Clem, the band materialized in the last two years.
Altamore gave some backstory. “I think what really spurred it was, I had an ex-girlfriend that I was dating on and off for like eight years and she’d asked me why we didn’t go with named Clem “Clementine”, and so I’d think about it and flirt with the idea. She died in a car accident and it was horrible…I think that was what solidified us playing again but as Clementine. When shitty things like that happen to you, you have no choice. You can either implode or you can do something constructive, and this is what made sense to us.”
Gillies added, “It’s dumb not being together making music. Nothing else really matters. What happened kind of brought us back together.”
Sima said, “With the pandemic happening on top of it, you have a couple hypochondriacs in this band. Joe and I were really going through a rough time and I’d been out of the band for a few years. In May of 2020, Joe and I had a phone call and we talked about how all this crazy stuff was happening and that we should do the band again and just go for it. Oliver joined maybe a year or so after that.”
Their debut single “Lucinda” dropped in July. Altamore said about the song, “It’s kind of about the old band falling apart, but it’s also about my friend Lucy Sponholz; she’s a wonderful person and I was spending a lot of time at her place because things were weird and I didn’t know where else to go. That song honors her and how much I appreciate her as a friend.”
On his lyrics, Altamore said, “They’re the last part of the songwriting process for me. I got really into poetry when I was 18…I’d gotten really into Charles Bukowski but then I found out that he really sucks. So then I went from that to getting into this poet Dean Young – and he might suck too – but at the time I got into his poetry and I started writing a chapbook which actually got published by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. I incorporate a lot of what I learn from poetry into my lyrics; I was horrendous at lyrics for I’d say the first few releases, and through “This Will Hurt” I was clenching my teeth a lot because I hoped that the songs wouldn’t suck five years later. But I think I ended up pulling it out for that particular EP. I’m developing now as a lyricist and I’m finding that poetry’s a really amazing avenue for new songs.”
Clementine toured to the East Coast and back from late July to mid-August. “It’s the best thing in the world,” Gillies said about touring. “But you can’t avoid sodium and it sucks. We were in a Walmart trying to find the healthiest things we could and I picked up a sandwich, and Joe was like “nope!” because it had like 200 percent of your daily sodium…goddamn it! But there’s so many good bands out there and we made so many friends like Bouquet, Year Twins…and they’re in places we would’ve never played if we didn’t tour…that’s the beauty of tour.”
Altamore said, “Tour is awesome even when it’s horrible. It was us really solidifying that we should actually do this. We did two weeks and made it all the way out to New York…which is actually kind of funny…we got there and the place we were supposed to play was closed and they didn’t tell us.”
“But we put together our own show – shoutout to Jesse from Albany, New York,” Sima added.
“My favorite part about playing in a new city is how whenever it’s nerve-wracking and you don’t know how it’ll be received, every single place we play – regardless of whether there’s one person or 50 people or a hundred – is well-received every time,” Wink said. “It makes us just want to keep playing and keep putting out music. We have so much grace in this band and I’m so grateful to be in it.”
Altamore shares what the band’s working on now. “We have two LPs, and one was originally going to be two EPs. We’re releasing the first one with singles and we’re excited to do that.”
Gillies added, “Our original plan when we got back together was to get our Clem album all recorded and out after we’d been working on it for so long, but then we got Oliver in the band and we started writing more, so that album had to go on the backburner while we work on this new album. It all makes sense, I swear (laughs).”
Clementine play Burlington Bar in Chicago on September 29th, X-Ray Arcade on October 27th, and then go on fall tour with Tourneforte in November.