Upon reaching out to Emmett for an interview, he suggested we meet in his studio located in the basement of the Lecture Center. If you’ve ever been to the basement of the Lecture Center, you know it is basically a dungeon; it is the darkest place I have ever been to. If it weren’t for the faint tapping of a drum set behind a door, I might never have found Emmett and his wonderful studio, plastered with an assortment of posters, notably one with a crocodile screaming, “You can go to hell!”
If you don’t know already, Emmett Clarendon is a senior at Simon’s Rock known for his absolute and total love of music. You might have seen him performing in one of his many bands or dancing around at parties. As of recent, he has announced the release of his new album, sayings, clouds, and it has peaked the interest of many students.
As most interviews begin, the interviewer asks the interviewee to state and spell their name. Typically, this is omitted in the published article, but Emmett had a unique response.
Please state your first and last name, then spell them out.
Um… M-O-O-N-S-H-O-O-T-S, all capital.
Yeah, I’ve heard people call you MOONSHOOTS. What’s up with that?
I just like introducing myself with a stupid, dumb, fake name when I meet people. I should’ve grown out of it by now. You know when you order food, and they ask you for your name and you’re like “Rif Raf!”? Then you’re like, nineteen years old and you look inside yourself and ask, “Why is that an instinct?” I should train myself out of that.
My name’s Emmett. My last name is Clarendon.
Let’s start at the beginning. What got you into music? Have you always been writing?
Writing is an interesting term, maybe a little bit loaded. I think I’ve always been making music. My relationship with music has never been reading it and playing someone else’s stuff, but instead, “Oh, this is a thing and I get to make it and I get to make the noises and this is me.” But “writing” is kind of a strange term in some ways.
How did I get into music? Good question. I think when I was 14 or 15 I wanted to be in a rock band or something and my dad was like, “Oh, I’ll buy you a bass,” which was very out of character for him. I think he wanted someone to play bass with him because he used to play drums in the 70s--he hasn’t really played much drums since then--but he has lugged a drum set along with him.
So he got me a bass, and that was really sweet, and in my freshman year of high school, me and all my annoying friends got really into the first Rage Against the Machine album. We were like, “Dude, we should play this!” It has a bunch of great bass parts, so I got into that. My brother had an electric guitar that he had a brief relationship with then dropped as the teenager/pre-teen boys tend to do, so I thought, “Well this is here… I could get into it.” Shortly after, I got into making music electronically, and that was what really set it off pretty much immediately. I was just like, “This is my whole life now. Just do it, yeah!”
That’s super exciting. You’re kind of notorious around campus for doing absolutely everything you can that’s remotely related to music. What has taught you the most about it?
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, theory with Larry Wallach. I didn’t realize I was learning a lot of meaningful stuff until Theory III, or a semester or two afterwards. He was teaching me not just how to make a chord or how to write counterpoint. I feel like I gained the tools to say, “This is what music is,” “These are the ways in which it moves,” and “These are the ways in which we can take advantage of or direct that music.”
Also, Music History with Larry really opened me up aesthetically to be like, “Oh, this shit is a big deal.” You can do a whole lot with it. I can talk about my life or I can talk about the world or I can talk about shit that there’s no words to, well, talk about. I feel a thing and there’s a way I can put that into something and say it to other people.
In terms of extracurricular stuff, I think organizing shows on my own was a good thing to do. I learned a lot--maybe not quite so much philosophically or aesthetically, but things like, “What do people want from a show?” “What do you have to do to make something happen?” and “How committed do you have to be?” Also, realizing whatever you have you can ball out with.
Though [sayings, clouds] is just you, you’re also in a few bands. How is producing with other people different than working alone?
Playing with other people--this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot--is really amazing because it allows you to be so immediate. That’s really the deal with instruments versus producing something. As you build more of a relationship with your instrument you get better at it and you can do more. The process is immediate. The translation is immediate. You’re able to just have an idea and actualize it immediately… You get to have a conversation with these people and you get to say, “Here, I have something to say,” and then they say, “Wow, that’s a cool thing to say. This is what it makes me think of.” I love being able to chase that immediacy and chase ideas like *crawls hands across the table* the instant they happen.
Whereas producing, which has been the majority of my musical life, has been solo and me in my room, here, and a little microphone like this one, plus a really shitty interface I had before this one, and maybe my guitar. I’ve had to figure out, “If I have this thing, what is compatible with that? How can I build this? How can I dig deep into this?” It happens very gradually, layer by layer. It’s a more gradual process because you can’t play all the instruments at once and you can’t write all the parts at once. It’s really cool because it lets you be very exploratory and very deliberate, but also very minute. With producing, every single sound you hear you spend hours mixing and it’s all very very specified, whereas when you’re playing with other people it’s less specified. It’s great.
What inspired you to start this enormous project?
It’s kind of just… what I’ve gotta do. I guess my thesis was a cool excuse to devote a lot of time to this and make it a big project that’s sort of rounded and has a form on its own rather than just making stuff piecemeal. I feel like making music is just a byproduct of being alive, so it’s what I’m definitely gonna do. I guess thesis was just an opportunity to say, “This is what I want to do with every second of my life, so great! Let’s do it!” It gives me the opportunity to really devote a lot of time and a lot of care to something that’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done before.
Is there something specific you’re trying to say with the album?
There’s a lot. Here’s a lot of it, on these different sheets [keep your eye out for them, they’ll be posted about campus]. I don’t know if any of it’s specific. I feel like a lot of what I’m trying to express is only catching one little glimpse of it, filtered through this certain type of language. We use a written or a spoken language, but I feel like I’m able to be way more immediate and true to the actual thing that’s here through the language of music or the language of sounds that we sort of inherently get.
Yeah, but big themes are this relationship between language and music, music being language. Sort of coming away from being grounded to untethered. To be shifting and kaleidoscoping through our emotional worlds and really our experiences. I’ve just realized in the past year and a half that my whole experience is way more complicated and shifting from second to second than I ever gave it credit. I want to be like, “Yeah, we’re all just out here floating through clouds. It’s all a mist of feelings.”
Yeah, so: language and music, moment to moment shifting emotional landscapes, this question of communication and how we’re able to communicate to each other and to ourselves, how we’re able to examine ourselves and also examine our relationships to other people and other living things. I would say that’s sort of where my head’s been at.
Do you have a favorite line in the album?
I like a lot of the songs, but I like them all in different ways for different reasons. There’s this line that’s kind of essential. It becomes this motive throughout the whole record. It’s the very first thing: “Words escape me.” Really, those words only appear once, but they’re accompanied by this melody, and I’ve tried to bury those four notes everywhere—in as many different places as possible. In some way, that melody has an association with this thought, “Words escape me,” but, you know, the words and the melody are both kind of an angle on this thought, or this concept. That’s definitely something that’s very important.
What are some other lines that I really like? Hmm… I like saying, “Leaves drop down.” I like when I say that. “Leaves drop down.” And they do, sometimes.
You have a concert in the DAC coming up (March 1-2, 9:00 PM). What can we expect? Will it be the same stuff from your album or something entirely different?
The idea is that it’s a show for the album, so the majority of it is gonna be stuff off the album. I don’t think we’re gonna play every song, but we’ll play most of them. We’re also gonna do some covers and possibly some songs from other people in the band.
My dear friend, Matthew Stebile, is playing keys in this group, Olivia Davis is playing drums, and Sylvie Nolf is on bass. They write some fabulous songs so maybe we’ll play some of those. It’s really exciting because it’s with this band, and they’re incredible musicians that take my ideas and my playing to another level. We’re also able to be super hands-on and immediate. The song on the record was specified and concrete; now it’s a vehicle. It’s a lump of clay and we get to mess with it. That’s really exciting, to just be able to play all of those songs out and go buck-wild on it.
Finally, where and when can we buy this thing???
Oh boy, oh boy! Actually, that answer just got a little bit more complicated very recently, which sucks. It’s going to be out on all the major platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Music, Bandcamp, all the other random ones that nobody cares about). The release day is February 14th: Valentine’s Day, ‘cause that’s cute as f*ck. However, there might be a tiny bit of an issue with that. As it turns out, Spotify and some of the other big distribution services might take longer to process the album than originally anticipated… For sure there are going to be two singles coming out on February 14th, and that’s good at least. I hope the rest of the album can come out because that’s what I’ve been telling everybody.
After this, Emmett went off the record to share snippets from three of his tracks, which were, to say the least, mind-blowing. I am so incredibly impressed with the level of professionalism and originality that are so densely packed into the music. Needless to say, I am anxiously awaiting sayings, clouds. You probably should be too.
Elise is the Director of Creative Publications and Vice President of The Weekly Cad.