Welcome to The Grand Tour, a regular feature where PHXmusic.com takes you inside practice spaces, tour vans and seedy apartments occupied by Phoenix-area bands. This week we give you a look inside the glamorous rehearsal space of Gospel Claws.
Smells Like: Cigar smoke. The boys were puffing away the whole time of my visit.
Most cherished piece of gear: The fortified walls, which have mostly prevented practice from being shut down. Odds n' ends: Percussion scattered about, that swinging noose, Marquard's palm tree v-neck.
Light source: Like most respectable bands, it's pretty dark in here. Christmas lights provide most illumination.
Stepping into Gospel Claws practice space, I'm taken a back by how reflective their home is of their music: a sprawling mess of guitars, discarded beer cans, keyboards, pianos, a drum-set, floor toms scattered about, microphones for every member, and... wait-a-minute, is that a noose hanging from the roof?
"Yeah," laughs Wesley Hilsabeck, who like the rest of the band, shuffles around a lot (he plays bass, bangs assorted drums, plays guitar and sings) "that's from our video shoot. We shot it in Chuckie's front yard (Duff, owner of Common Wall Media, The 'Claws label and former member of Dear in the Headlights) Sloan had it around his neck and was singing while hanging from a tree. It was awesome, but I think we weirded the neighbors out."
"Weirding the neighbors out" seems to be a theme the boys are more than familiar with. The band has had multiple run-ins with bassist John's neighbor, who converted his garage/pool house into the 'Claws' musical headquarters. "He'd call the cops every time we practiced," vocalist, drummer and guitarist Joel Marquard, chuckles. "And this is like, at three in the afternoon on a Saturday, mind you. Apparently his wife is deaf, and she claimed that when the drums and bass started vibrating, she would think that a car was going to come crashing through her living room."
"Yeah," Sloan Walters, who like everyone else shuffles between keys, percussion, guitar and vocals, continues. "The same car, every Saturday."
Marquard cuts in: "A possessed car, like Herbie."
After multiple run-ins with the police, including an unfortunate incident that found two members of the band pretending to lock lips as a cop unexpectedly barged in, the crew decided to get pro-active, fortifying the walls with foam, ply wood and whatever sound proofing they could muster up. "There's nearly six inches or so of foam in the walls," drummer Scott Hall remarks.
After the construction, the band had a cop come by and test sound levels, marking the precise notches on their amps when the noise exceeded code. "The cop even said, 'This is ridiculous,'" says Marquard. "But said we were fine."
After all the work, the guys were surprised when, once again, the neighbor notified the police during a practice. Then, things got strange. Leading me outside, the guys show me the wall that the neighbor built in his backyard. Cracking up, Mulhern tells me they haven't had any problems since the second wall was erected. "It was just the strangest thing," he laughs. "He's a really nice neighbor. He'd always tell us how awesome we were, and that we were going to be 'on the MTV,' then he would immediately go inside and call the cops on us."
The group have been hard at work, demoing songs in their practice space and recording a new album at Flying Blanket Studios, a follow up to their successful EP debut, which the Boise Weekly praised for "channeling a new-retro vibe like the Strokes without falling down the fuzzy production rabbit hole" (though their review seems to have confused the group's album cover with that of Wilco's). The group has been in hibernation for months, but will break their silence with a pair of upcoming shows, opening for Magic Kids at the Trunk Space on February 17th and playing the "This Is Flying Blanket" showcase at Martini Ranch on March 5th.