The Gay Blades get lots of attention, mostly for their name and often for their off-kilter two member "nefarious trash-pop", but there's tons more steaming beneath the surface. Clark Westfield, the band's frontman and guitarist, gets in-depth in this interview, especially when he brings in "periodical relevance" and even Lou Reed. Maybe you didn't know that Westfield was an industry folk before he retired his company email to marry the road. Maybe you didn't know that Puppy Mills listened to E. Town Concrete. You probably didn't.
The Gay Blades will take to the road with Kiss Kiss in January of 2009 and then Craig Owens and Ace Enders in March and April. The band is currently supporting their full-length, Ghosts, off Triple Crown Records. (Buy here or here.)
Clark Westfield: What's up, Julia Conny?
A lot of people don't really know too much about The Gay Blades, other than you play crazy music, and they don't understand the name. Can you give us an idea of what The Gay Blades are about?
Clark Westfield: What The Gay Blades are about? The Gay Blades are two men fast and furiously winding through the cosmos, swallowing up as much blazing speed as possible. We play music fast. We play loud and we try to have as good of a time doing it. We try to make sure everyone does it well. We listen to great music and we try to emulate such great artists by producing music of the highest caliber from our small little brains. We don't take too much care in how we dress or how we look, we just happen to look great all the time. It's not our fault that we were born this way.
We're a two piece rock-n-roll band, ultimately. We've known each other for a long time. I know the AbsolutePunk folk don't really like band name though, which I don't really understand.
Can you explain to us the band name? Where did it come from?
Clark Westfield: Well, there's a couple of answers to that question. The more detailed one is that we didn't even choose the band name - we inherited the band name. It was a mortal enemy, as bands often have rivals in the "scene". Mortal enemies, we then buried the hatchet on the Lower East Side of New York City. We said, if anything happens to us, you take our name, and we'll take your name. And it just so happened that they were in an automobile accident, and they stopped playing music. So we took up the band name The Gay Blades.
That's the more detailed version of the story, but there are some other instances that you should know. There's an idiom that's been used throughout history. First and foremost, it's a reference to an earlier time in American society when it used to mean a "Gay Blade", a happy, free-spirit, etc., etc. Lou Reed once wrote in a song, "Vicious", hey, why don't you swallow razorblades / you must think I'm some sort of gay blade. And Lou Reed is the father or New York rock-n-roll. And then there was this gang in Harlem, one of four most feared in Harlem, The Gay Blades, and we just thought we'd bring some periodical relevance to the whole situation.
That was quite an answer.
Clark Westfield: Well, there's a lot to say.
I suppose the best way to describe your music, and as you've said yourself, is "trash pop". But what is "trash pop"?
Clark Westfield: So, pop music is music that is structured and melodic. Attention to detail as far as lyrics and staying on point, on topic. Trash is just noisy and grimy and fast and fun. So you just put those two together. We like messy, you know. We like sloppy.
How long have you guys been doing this?
Clark Westfield: Well, let's see. Today is my 27th birthday. Puppy Mills and myself have been playing together for, oh, I don't know, seven years? The band's about two and a half years old. We've been in numerous bands together, but we stopped thinking about what everyone else was doing and just did what we felt what we should be doing. And it's in those moments that you have attraction and success.
Success is not a disease we have fully acquired just yet, but we do feel as though we're making moves in the right directions.
How did you meet Puppy Mills?
Clark Westfield: Puppy Mills and I met when I was 20 years old. I was going to school at University of Connecticut and was just having a bored existence. Just staying in one place. I hooked up with this flea circus/flea market, if you will. Sideshows, rides for the kids, you know. In the summer, I would just walk around and sell people tickets to rides and sell people passes to the sideshows. And then I met Puppy Mills, who was taking tickets for numerous little shitty kiddy rides. We both played music. I ended up transferring schools to Rutgers University in New Jersey, and we started making music together.
Let's talk about what's going with you guys now, because you just recently signed to Triple Crown Records, and in part signed yourself to your imprint label, 4Never Records. Talk to me about that - how did it all happen?
Clark Westfield: We've made a lot of friends over the past couple years. We knew the folks at Triple Crown and admire their roster, historic and their current roster. Puppy Mills and I both love that Brand New. Love the Kevin Devine. I think back in the day, Puppy Mills listened to E. Town Concrete. We all have our embarrassing stories. I'm sure Triple Crown was an old punk and hardcore label that has grown and changed over the years. So have we. Fred Feldman is a beautiful person, and we've been friendly with him through the years. When it came time to grow and expand, he was right there to help us. We did have to tie him to a chair in our basement and force him to watch busloads of Britney Spears while our record played, but I think he got it after awhile. Now we are with him to make sure our record is moving in the right direction, met by the right people in the right way.
What a lot of people don't know is that you've been around the music business for a really long time. So I'm curious to know how that's changed your perception of writing music, being in a band, especially with The Gay Blades.
Clark Westfield: You know, when I was a kid, I was like, I'm gonna play in a band until I'm 30 years old. I'll have met enough people that I'll work in the music industry. And it kinda ended up being the opposite. I was playing in a band and I ended up working in the music industry early, and then I started meeting people in the music industry and learning through the music industry. I've learned how to foster and grow a band, and I was lucky enough to pick up some skills that I could use towards my own band. Ultimately, the key to a band's success is just to get on the road. I think you guys [AbsolutePunk] are smart and are fostering a sense of community on a national level. When you guys starting supporting us, we instantly saw a national community get on board and support us. All I've learned in the music industry, the marketing side and the promotion side, and meeting people that can help, getting the wheels in motion is the most difficult part.
You know, it's hard. Sometimes you over think stuff. But I'm excited to be fully on the band side now. I work very hard on my own band, and I use the tools I learned while in the music industry to my advantage. As I learn and grow more, I'll take another step on the other side and do both, who knows?
If you could only choose one, would you prefer to be in a band and tour the country?
Clark Westfield: Well, Julia, you know me pretty well, and we've worked on both sides of the table. I need both, to be honest. I am a performer, first of all. It's the only thing I've ever really been good at. Everything else, I can just bullshit really well. I guess I would have to be a performer.
Well, I think you're a great performer. There's only been one time that I've seen They Gay Blades, but it was a night to remember.
Clark Westfield: What about new material? Do you have plans to record more in the near future?
Well, we released Ghosts last year, but it was just re-released on Triple Crown this year so we have to work the record a little bit. There's no plans to jump back in the studio just yet, but we certainly have more than enough material to do so. We're trying to get as much as we can out of the record, you know? We really believe in it. So, the short: no. Haha. But there's certainly some new music floating around that we've hidden in places for people to get their hands on.
So, this tour coming up. Tell me about it. How pumped are you for it?
Clark Westfield: Very, very excited. I don't know if you're familiar with the Young Coyotes, but we're super excited. They're a two piece, and they're from the opposite side of the planet. They're good people. It's gonna be a great tour and I feel like we've got some good stuff going on. We toured all summer with Envy On The Coast and The Sleeping and we made some good friends out there, and we hope to see them again. We like to smash their faces with our lips.
The Gay Blades are awesome, def one of the best records i've bought in the last year (twice actually, once on itunes and once on the physical cd). I'd buy it again on vinyl if it were to come out on such!
Great interview. It's nice to know a bit more about the band.
clark is honestly one of the most eclectic people i have ever met, but i thoroughly enjoying reading what he has to say. he's "out there," so to speak, but i like knowing that there's much more to him than meets the eye. i heard about the gay blades just a few weeks before the envy on the coast show in pittsburgh. i was hooked and i was so excited going to the show. i came out a huge fan because they were something completely unexpected and new to me. i also love that they keep in touch with the fans and have been responding to a few messages i've sent them. i love finally knowing the origin of the name, however.