Almost exactly a year to the day from their release of the This Means War EP, DC-based indie rockers Clones of Clones are back with a new song called “Mine.” It kicks off their campaign toward the release of a new album, and they’ll release more singles as the band works toward finding the perfect timing to grace listeners with new material in full. In the meantime, let the magnificent new track and our conversation with singer and guitarist Ben Payes tide you over ’til you undoubtedly hear more from this band on the rise.
On Tap: Start by telling us about this new song. You mentioned it’s going to be part of an upcoming album. Why did you end up choosing this as the first single?
Ben Payes: Prior to this album, if a song didn’t work in practice or in a live session, we would send it to song purgatory. I think we tried to arrange “Mine” in a practice session three or four years ago, but it wasn’t doing anything for us. Many times, if a song gets tossed to the side, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad song. In fact, we loved the melody and rhythm of this track. We just couldn’t get it to sound good in a live setting.
Occasionally, I go through my hard drive and listen to old songs or demos. When I listened to the demo again after not hearing it for years, I felt that instant rush of endorphins you get after hearing a new song you like. The playful melody, big electronic drums, strange detuned vocals and a slightly-out-of-sync arpeggiated synth pulled me back in.
OT: What was the process of bringing it back into the limelight?
BP: I brought it to the band and we decided to arrange the track in the studio instead of in practice. This was a new process for us and I think it worked really well. In fact, we liked the process so much that we arranged and wrote a handful of album tracks in the studio. We do all our recording in a home studio these days, so we have the luxury of writing and arranging while recording without incurring crazy pro studio costs.
We picked “Mine” for the first single simply because we really like the song and wanted to share it with everyone as soon as we finished it. It was fun to create, we finished it fairly quickly, so it never felt stale to us, and we think people will connect with it.
OT: Tell us more about the timing of your upcoming album.
BP: We plan on releasing one single every month until we feel like the timing is right to drop the album. Could be three singles, could be eight. We want to give every song a chance to get some ears on it. With previous large releases, a handful of songs just don’t get the same audience as the lead singles. The streaming services seem to be pushing artists toward single releases too. We’re happy to oblige because it allows us to string the marketing period out and build a bigger audience in the process.
OT: Are there any major themes, musically or lyrically?
BP: We’ve never really been into overarching themes for records. I think that requires a lot of planning, awareness and intention and that’s just not really our thing. We write songs that we’re into and make us feel good and we hope it vibes with others.
OT: Did writing or recording this album differ in any way from your past work?
BP: Every album we’ve made says a little bit about what we feel and what we’re into in the time of that record. That situation probably sets up some sonic themes. I’ve been listening to The Beatles’ White Album a lot lately and I’m really into the concept of nonconforming arrangements. We’ve always treated every song like it could be the one that propels us to the next level. In order to do that, we had to write and arrange in a box; everything had to sound and feel like a pop single. Don’t get me wrong, we really enjoy pop arrangements and I think that’s a huge reason why we stuck with them for so long and why we continue to write them.
We operated a little more outside of that box on this album. There are a couple ditties, some strange interludes and we used sounds we’ve never used before. It still sounds like us, but maybe a more liberated and fun us.
OT: How has the DC music scene supported you over the years? Do you feel it’s changed at all?
BP: Three out of four of us grew up in the DMV, so we have a lot of roots here, we definitely feel a special connection to the city. Brian and I currently live in the city. There’s too much to say about DC and the evolution of its art culture since we became involved in the local scene. I think our first show was at the Red and the Black on H street over 10 years ago. Clubs, bands and even some of our band members have come and gone since then. It’s been fun to see the scene change over the years.
OT: What is the best thing about being part of this community?
BP: The best thing about the scene is the people. If people are at a local show, whether it’s listeners, club engineers and employees, or musicians, they want to feel a part of this DC arts community, for better or for worse. It’s not the easiest scene to get into or remain a part of, especially because of how transient the city is, but I think that makes the community bonds even stronger. We’ve made great friends over the years with like-minded artists. It’s nice to have that support group when you’re going through the creative process; the lows can be as low as the highs are high, and it’s nice to have fellow musicians to share those experiences with and to help you stay centered.
OT: What do you all look forward to most with the release of new music?
BP: We’re mostly excited to see how people react to the music. For people that have heard our stuff before, we hope “Mine” will be a welcomed change. For people who have never heard of us, we hope to make new fans with the song and the upcoming releases. We’re also still trying to figure out the most effective way to release music for us in the streaming age. So I think the next few single releases and the album will give us plenty of opportunities to see what works best.
OT: Any upcoming tour dates planned?
BP: No upcoming tour dates at the moment, but stay tuned.