Meet the Clench men

The Clench - credit Paul Cantrell
The Clench - credit Paul Cantrell
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LIKE some of the best love affairs and random cherished memories, The Clench are a band who came about via something of a happy accident.

Helping out a chum’s special occasion sowed the initial seeds for one of Sheffield’s, perhaps, less likely bands.

“Initially, we came together as a bunch of mates who could conceivably play a few covers for a friend’s birthday,” recalls lead guitarist Rob Nevitt.

“After achieving that feat and realising we weren’t entirely terrible, we figured we might be able to carry on with the idea.

“At the time, I don’t think any of us thought we had an album’s worth of material in us. We all like quite different music, so it’s a strange alchemy when it comes together.”

But come together it did in a fury of venue-shaking gigs in which they stood out from the indie crowd to turn in tunes that appeared to have blown in from the rugged terrain of Mid West USA. Half-hearted Americana born of browsing too many travel brochures this is not, however.

“We were all friends, or friends of friends, before the band started,” says singer Joe Meredith. “And although varying tastes across the individual members is a point for much argument we have managed to create something that everyone adds their own thing to.

“Some major influential cross-overs do exist – Rob and I have a shared love for Ennio Morricone and Calexico and we also try to sneak some Danzig in there when we can.”

The result of this was Walking In The Devil’s Shoes, a début album from The Clench which goes some way to touching on their live impact – on display at this weekend’s Sheftival shift in Attercliffe.

“I love the fact that our individual influences are generally quite disparate, yet we manage to bring key elements of each to the band, be it a Calexico-style flourish, or a Danzigian riff,” says Joe.

“After we played our first London show some kindly gent told me we sounded like The Eagles crossed with Queens Of The Stone Age. It shouldn’t work, but it does.”

Throw in drummer Billy Stevens and Hal Walker – a six string bass player who used to be in a hip-hop/funk band – and you have a collective who defy you not to move some part of your body. The Clench are like-minded souls bonding in a common cause.

Hal says: “The common cause would have been to drink and laugh – bursting into song must have been bubbling just under the surface, though. This sort of thing can’t be forced, I’ve found.”

Yet, in spite of them living in a former steel town in northern England, these lads manage to conjure some strong imagery in the likes of songs Gotcho Disease and Disco Mariachi – more Spaghetti Western than night out in Hillsborough.

Slide guitarist Oliver Allchin sheds light on one of the influences. “Our songs tend to come together quite organically through us drinking too much and messing about at practice.

“Disco Mariachi came from a riff Rob had written, coupled with a bass line Hal started playing as a joke but which sort of worked in the end, so we kept it.

“Then Joe brings in his notebook of cowboy whimsy, we add a haunting lap steel part, a driving rhythm guitar and some thundersticks, and away we go.”

As for the band name...well it conjures all kinds of images, not necessarily fitting the musical direction.

“I guess this one’s my doing,” admits James. “We take a lot of inspiration from books, movies and comics, and The Clench comes from a Batman story.

“It was the name of an Ebola-type virus unleashed on Gotham City. Given the symptoms of the disease, I’d wager that for the infected clenching was less a matter of choice and more a necessity.

“Plus it was one of the better suggestions for a name. I recall Kids Know Dick was once bandied about. Man, I’m glad we didn’t go with that one.”

The Clench play The Buskers Barge on Sunday. See sheftival.com for times and directions.