Bassist Amy Humphrey and drummer Joe Hayes have learned to deal with
the naysayers. In fact, they embrace these skeptics.
“When we were trying to get our sound together for this project, a lot
of people kept telling us that you can't play rock music without a
guitar. We were like, 'Why not?' That made us that much more
determined to make it work,” Hayes says.
So far their quest has proven victorious.
As the sole members of Clatter, Humphrey and Hayes have turned their
rhythm-section talents into a fully realized band. The married duo
benefits from the lilting vocals and nimble bass playing of Humphrey
and the thunderous-yet-tasty stick skills of Hayes.
Clatter’s latest record, “Monarch,” marks yet another creative step
for this harmonious couple. The dozen-song effort strikes a sonic
balance between the aggressive and the emotional, the restrained and
"Everything has been an evolution with our sound," Humphrey admits.
"Our biggest strength is we're not easily pigeonholed."
Humphrey and Hayes first met while students at Kansas University when
a mutual guitarist friend invited the pair to form a trio. Although
the band went nowhere, the couple's relationship flourished.
They got married and graduated KU the same year – Hayes earning a
degree in English literature, and Humphrey netting two, one in French
and one in Russian (a skill that allowed her to pen a tune called
"Nevsky Prospekt," which she sings entirely in Russian).
In the early '90s when the grunge scene was in full swing, the couple
decided to pull up stakes and move to Seattle.
The two formed the quartet Clatter Bean and recorded an EP with
producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), which led to a few
months of touring. Yet soon the allure of the West Coast wore thin,
and the pair stumbled upon a great opportunity to return to the Midwest.
Hayes' grandparents' farm outside of rural Bunceton, Mo. (population
300), had fallen into disrepair subsequent to the elders’ decision to
move into town. The young couple chose to adopt the 125-acre
homestead, taking a career gamble that the relocation could actually
benefit the band.
"When we wanted to go on tour, we had to drive and drive just to get
to the next town – there's not a whole lot up in the Northwest when
you leave the Seattle/Portland area," Humphrey recalls. "Whereas in
Missouri, you're in the middle of everything. From a touring
standpoint, living in the central U.S. is nice."
At this point the ensemble had dropped both the singer and the Bean,
now performing as a trio named Clatter. The act issued its first full-
length disc, "Brood," before parting ways with the guitarist.
Humphrey and Hayes then decided to approach hard rock music from an
entirely different vantage point. They chose to incorporate the
dynamic rhythmic foundation that was always a cornerstone of their
sound with something altogether unique.
"We got the idea of adding distortion and other tones to the bass to
make it sound more guitar-like. We worked and worked on it and tried
different equipment and effects pedals and everything else. And we
finally hit upon something that sounds really cool," Humphrey recalls.
That led to Clatter's first record as a duo, 2003's "Blinded By
Vision." The pair logged 50,000 miles on the ensuing tour.
"Our first album appealed to the bass fans," Humphrey says. "And for
the second album we thought, 'How can we expand on this next album?
How can we make it more broadly accessible?' One of the big things I
worked on a lot was singing, because I always thought of myself as a
bass player first."
The result was the more melodic 2007 release "Monarch," which included
the hammering single (and spacey retro video for) "House of Trouble,"
as well as a cover of the Rush classic "Limelight."
In addition to touring, Clatter has discovered with its recent records
how valuable a tool the Internet is for getting its music out to the
"I've been really active in bass forums online. A lot of our CD sales
have been online; there are people from all over the world we've sold
CDs to," says Humphrey of the reach www.clatter.com has achieved.
In addition, a 12-string bass demonstration Humphrey posted on YouTube
has been viewed almost 25,000 times.
"It's been really exciting that other bass players out there find
inspiration in what I'm doing," she says. "Because that's what it's
all about–trying to show that the bass can stand on its own as an
Standing on its own seems to be the common thread when discussing
Clatter. It's a band where unity and individuality always walk hand in
hand. And that spirit can't help but connect with people.
"We appeal to punk rock kids or old classic rock dudes or people who
like thrash metal – just people who want something different than
mainstream top 40," Hayes says.
"We have this broad appeal for people who are on the fringe."
When Joe and Amy aren't on the road, they seek refuge on their farm
that they converted into a wildlife preserve, having planted native
warm-season prairie grasses and over 7,000 trees. They write and
rehearse music in the studio they built out of a dilapidated chicken
house, using reclaimed and recycled materials.
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