Jam, funk and CLIVE

Allison Bischoff | Scene Reporter

Most often, Washington University parties, charity events and student activities are set to the beats of industry titans like Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne. Luckily for us, a more free-spirited theme has permeated Wash. U.’s very own band, Clive. At its genesis, Clive’s figurative Garden of Eden was Park Hall’s music room in the fall of 2007. Original members Alex Greenberg and Jeff Rauch of Park 3 (both juniors) discovered this oasis, complete with a drum set and sound equipment, during their freshman year.

Later, the bassist and saxophone player met up with fellow juniors and former Park 3 residents Ethan Solove, a drummer, and guitarist Nigel Solomon. Though they all shared a love for music, they at first lacked focus, commitment and their own style—performing mostly stereotypical rock band covers. The only thing that was distinctive to the band was its name; Clive is the namesake of a Mr. Clive Butters, Jeff and Alex’s former overweight, hairy and flamboyant camp counselor. Their first and only performance of their freshman year was at Ursa’s during a “Guitar Hero” battle.

Fast-forwarding to fall 2008, Clive still did not gel, constantly bringing different people in to fill various roles, while still maintaining the original foursome. Scheduling conflicts and fraternity life distanced the core members.

“This is the point when we realized our unifying ethic was our love of partying and merry-making,”Solomon said.

The group really found its sound in the spring of 2009, according to Solove. This came with the advent of rhythm guitarist and singer Andrew “The Rose” Rosenberg and the addition of a keyboardist, Crawford King. “The Rose” solidified the festival style that the band revered, echoing their heroes, The Grateful Dead.

That spring, Clive played at “Drop Knowledge,” where the members confess to becoming the band they are today. This show was the first time the band played as a collective unit, growing into their funk and jam band aesthetic. Clive went on to play at WuSTOCK and began writing original songs and covering artists like The Grateful Dead, James Brown and The Beatles.

Clive hit its stride in the fall of 2009 at W.I.L.D. Second Stage with its biggest audience to date. Though original member Solove went abroad, the band performed well. After Second Stage, the band started to play more gigs at sorority charity events and at local bars like Cicero’s. The band became serious about practicing, even organizing “jamming exercises,” in which members used their instruments to facilitate a musical language and communicate with one another; this allowed them more fluidity and spontaneity on stage. Upon Solove’s return, Rauch and Solove practiced reacting to each other’s sounds intuitively.

All members agree that they are currently at their highest point and ready to take Clive even further. Instead of merely covering the greats, they are able to improvise and synthesize their own rhythms, and write their own music and lyrics. The band is also looking forward to incorporating new aspects into their music, like audience participation.

Anyone who has seen them perform can testify that Clive brings back the classic college band philosophy of early generations. Instead of having a front man who overpowers the other members, Clive favors more of a drum-circle style or single-line stage set-up, similar to Lynard Skynard or The Allman Brothers; each member is one-sixth of the collective unit on stage. The band’s method of songwriting is unique as well. Whereas most songs are born out of a guitar-lick, Clive begins from a drum line or saxophone cord and builds up from there. Though all members contribute to the end product, Solove and “The Rose” are the primary figures in the original lyrics. “The Rose,” described as “both the most enlightened, yet socially awkward” of the group, writes absurd and shameless funk, often caricatures of artists like James Brown. Solove begins his process with an acoustic guitar, somewhat the antithesis of Clive’s funky sound, and writes introspective, bareboned, confessional ballads, which are then manipulated by the other members and transformed into Clive’s style. Solomon described this vibe as “the soul of James Brown, the rock of The Dead, the attitude of The Beastie Boys” and, of course, “jam and funk.”

Though Clive is the salt of Wash. U., the members agree that most Wash. U. students do not seem to appreciate their style, brainwashed by catchy words and not embracing “the party.” The band feeds off the energy of the audience rocking, however, and wants to bring the party back to Wash. U. Keep your eyes open for Clive’s upcoming debut album. Or you can watch them perform on Monday at the Co-op Café.

Editor’s note: Ethan Solove is a Cadenza reporter, and Alex Greenberg is a Forum staff columnist.