I spoke to Claire of Hope For Agoldensummer, a three-piece band led by sisters Claire and Page Campbell from Athens, Georgia.
After The Show: Starting mid-September, you’ll not only open for Patterson Hood but you’ll also sit in with his band during their sets. How are you preparing for that?
Claire Campbell: I actually just texted Patterson yesterday because we haven’t had any rehearsals since last time we played a show together, so as of now we haven’t started preparing yet. What happens is we have marathon rehearsals at Drive-By Truckers practice space. Sometime after dinner we’ll rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until we can rehearse no more.
With his sets, there is no set list – he just works off a giant list of songs we know, so we have a huge catalogue of songs that have to be ready at all times for whatever he decides he wants to play. The other thing about Patterson is that he doesn’t always call out songs, so sometimes he’ll just start a song and we’ll have to figure out which song it is in the first few bars. I’ll be playing banjo and realize I have to quickly change instruments!
When you’re playing shows in the south or in cities in the northeast, have you noticed differences in how audiences react to your music?
At first it seems like more of a novelty thing to people who aren’t from the south or from the southeast. But we win them over with our terrible jokes and stage banter. I feel like we get a pretty good reception across the board. Some places take longer to warm up.
What was your experience using Indiegogo to fund your fourth album, and why did you choose it over KickStarter?
We chose Indiegogo because we had a rather lofty financial goal of what we wanted to raise. If you don’t meet your goal with Kickstarter, you lose everything. In our case, the album was mostly in the can when we started fundraising. We were raising to cover the material cost of making the physical album and then to hire a publicist for the album – those things are the expensive things, and why we wanted to pre-sell it and do the fundraising campaign.
Even if we didn’t meet our goal we’d still get to keep the money we raised on IndieGoGo. The album was going to come out regardless of how much money we raised.
You play with some really interesting, unusual instruments like banjo, singing saw, and even a cheese grater. What’s your favorite and/or most unusual instrument you play?
My favorite is just the guitar; it’s the most fun. That’s what I write most of my songs on. I don’t tour with it, but I have a tiny old nylon string guitar from Vietnam and that’s what I mainly just sit at home & play – it’s effortless.
The weirdest thing I play is the singing saw. It’s a beautiful sound, in small amounts…it can definitely be overused. I can get tired of hearing it sometimes. We try to use it very sparingly, whenever we do use it. I don’t release a lot of raging singing saw solos in our folk songs. For Page, her current favorite weird thing is probably an Echoplex tape machine. We don’t tour with it and rarely use it.
I love the line “Mr. Bloom / I’ve made some room / in my mind / for thoughts of you.” Do you want to discuss the meaning and evolution of the song “Daniel Bloom”?
It’s kind of a long story. Daniel Bloom is a really good friend of mine who lives in Athens. When I first moved to Athens in ‘98, he was the first or second person I met. I was studying religion and he was studying philosophy so we had a lot to talk about. We had been talking about bugs…I said you can eat cockroaches – they would be protein & safe to eat, but it turns out after research that you can’t eat them because they carry terrible diseases. We made a bet that whoever was wrong had to write a song about the other person & perform it in public. The song slowly evolved to involve what I had written about him for that bet, but also parts of a love letter from someone else.
Hopefully that song will have a music video to go along with it – our plan is to do a motorcycling music video where I drive and Page stands on the foot peg mouthing the words to the song. We’d then have different members of a motorcycle gang chase us…we’ll see what happens.
What aspects of the business of music do you like and not like?
I don’t like hardly any aspects of it. I’ve been in it for so long that I’ve gotten really weary of it. I don’t really like booking shows anymore, and I don’t really like publicizing my shows. We hired a publicist for this album and tour, but I honestly feel like we could have probably pulled most of it off ourselves & gotten the same results, for the most part.
I got sort of disenchanted with the whole rat race and competition, and my ideas and priorities changed as far as how much time I wanted to devote to music & how much time I wanted to devote to all the other things in my life. At this point, I try to keep my nose out of the business of music as much as possible, and it’s probably to the detriment of our band.
Page is a graphic designer now & I’m a doula – we have other passions that have come to the surface. They haven’t overtaken music at all but are definitely of equal importance as music.
You’ve said that music isn’t how you make money; it’s how you spend money. That’s such a powerful, succinct statement about the current state of music and the struggle of the majority of bands.
Yes. For most people it’s an expensive hobby…I hate to say the word hobby, but is money the determining factor? Probably not. Our band breaks even, although we have massive amounts of credit card debt after the last tour. Except if you started actually figuring in the man and woman hours, we definitely would be in the red. None of us are pulling remotely a fair wage from being in this band, but we love it & we do get fulfillment from the other ways we make a living, so I think that’s okay.
I am happy where we are, for sure, right now. I’m not unsatisfied & I don’t look back at decisions we’ve made & have massive amounts of regret. I feel like we are successful whether or not we earn our living from music. I waver back and forth – on the business of music. I know it’s frustrating for everybody. This town [Athens] is great for being a musician because people are used to hiring people who go on tour, but most people here are not making a living wage.
You do great covers like “Time After Time” and even an Aaliyah song. Are there any covers people can expect on your upcoming tour?
Well actually I was just thinking of pitching some Elvis songs to Page. We do a lot of old R&B from Georgia like James Brown and Little Richard, but I was thinking like an Elvis song maybe…and Chuck Berry. Then there’s this really weird song about “why would you wanna break up.” Do you know that song?
It has really strange timing – the rhythm is weird and the chorus is amazing – sorry I don’t know who it’s by. Patterson’s band is going to be our backup band so we’re trying to keep things simple, and we’ll probably be playing the exact same set every night because we’ll have to teach people our songs. I have pieces of songs but nothing new. We might do a new song of Page’s. But Page is insanely prolific, which is good when I have writer’s block.