Music News

Stop and Smell the Noises

Greg Pritchard is a consummate multi-tasker. On an early November afternoon, the Minnesota-bred musician is conducting a telephone interview with a reporter from an Oakland coffeehouse while sipping java and using his "mobile dubbing station" to make cassette copies of Shards, a release that his psychedelic prog-thrash band, Clipd Beaks, will sell on an upcoming tour and via iTunes next year. Onstage, Pritchard alternates between guitars and synthesizers in the blearily, chaotically intense jams the foursome scares up. Offstage, he works as the project manager for a Web design firm, fielding phone calls "so the designers don't have to."

Clipd Beaks is currently touring behind its debut full-length, Hoarse Lords (Lovepump United), a lumbering, sound-drowning beast as likely to latch onto a groove as it is to belly-flop into an abyss. The career paths of its members correspond equally — eerily, almost — to what each brings to the group's sound. Singer Nick Barbein just quit his job in clothing retail sales, and his blurry, eff-the-man wails are funneled through all manner of distorted filters as Pritchard churns out thick, melodic viscera. The rhythm section of drummer Ray Benjamin and bassist Scott Ecklein (both are gardeners and landscapers) valiantly struggles to keep the whole tipsy shebang from flying off the rails. Since forming in 2003, Clipd Beaks' sound and debauched performances have elicited some interesting responses from fans.

"Someone pulled down Nick's pants and poured beer down his asshole during a show," Pritchard remembers, laughing. "In Odessa, Texas, this single mother of two wouldn't stop taking pictures of us and telling us how great we were at a show where we played to two people! She invited us home with her, even though her kids were there."

The Clipd Beaks of today are relatively sedate, if still turbulent musically. Pritchard chalks this up to recognizing the importance of pacing oneself — especially over the long haul of a tour that stretches over several weeks.

"Five weeks, 40 shows on a tour?" he says. "It can definitely take a bit of a toll on you. I remember that we played a show on our last tour in Tucson at an anarchist book store. I was really sick, and the vibe was real take-it-or-leave-it. At the end, I was like, 'Why was this show so weird?' It was because that was the first show we'd played sober."

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Ray Cummings