Clubhouse Is Making Their Way Through Life, Curveballs and All [Q&A]

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Photo: Dillon Matthew

Feel-good indie-pop outfit Clubhouse continue to entrance listeners with their happy-go-lucky arrangements and introspective lyrics with their latest single, "No Way." Following the success of their previous release, "Flipside," the track, which frontman Max Reichert expressed was about a toxic relationship, is yet another example of the band’s ability to sonically and visually create emotional and provocative storytelling that makes listeners want to dance.

The band is comprised of five best friends forged from a middle school garage band in Columbus, Ohio, made up of Max Reichert, twin brothers Ari and Zak Blumer, and Michael Berthold and Forrest Taylor, who they met in college. The five-piece have gone through the ups and downs of life together, especially while their frontman dealt with cancer. Now, with an EP and a national tour on the way, the band is eager to tell their story with the hope that they’ll be able to help someone else who is dealing with a similar bump in the road.

We had the chance to talk with the band about “No Way,” their upcoming tour, and the curveballs of life.

Ones to Watch: Can you walk me through the creative process behind “No Way?"

Max: We wrote it with this producer named Cooper, and this songwriter/pop star named Claire, who goes by spill tab. We wrote it with them at their house. It was our first session writing with them, our first time meeting them, and we wrote pretty much the whole song with them in a few hours. So it just came together really, really quickly. In terms of juxtaposing the lyrical content, which talks about a toxic relationship and how two people just don’t fit for each other, I think we just love juxtaposing more profound lyrics or lyrics that are not necessarily crazy deep but aren’t about having a good time with dancy beats. I think it kind of goes along with our mantra for what this EP is about.

Zak: Which is about not taking ourselves too seriously.

Max: Yeah, like rolling with the punches and going through hard things in life but not getting too bogged down on matters and still being able to have fun even when you’re going through hard things. I think that’s kind of a common theme throughout the EP. We talk about heavy things but try not to put too much weight on them.

How has your songwriting process evolved?

Max: I think it’s certainly changed. I went through cancer a few years ago in 2018. I had bone cancer in my left leg, which was honestly a turning point for us as a band. We took a step back when I was going through all that, and we refined our craft from a songwriting standpoint and just our general outlook. We’ve always taken music really seriously, but when we went into writing, I think we took the pressure off ourselves. I think we used to be like, "okay, this next song has to sound like this and has to sound like our favorite band, and we have to be like the next biggest band ever." I think for years, we did that, and it would confine us in this box. As soon as we just went to the session and were like, "Hey, let’s just enjoy each other’s company and let’s just have fun together and be friends and write music that feels good to us and not think anything more about it," I think that was when we had this significant turning point. The songs started sounding better, and the storytelling got better because it was just more honest. We weren’t trying to emulate. We were just writing from our gut.

What are some of your inspirations on a larger scale outside of music?

Zak: I think one we can sort of all agree on is, we all sort of shared partially in Max’s struggle while he went through this crazy shit. People our age, or at least us, and we think our friends as well, have been going through a quarter-life crisis. So you start to ask yourself, "Am I achieving my goals? What are my goals? Am I getting there fast enough?" So skipping ahead to the title of our EP, these are questions we have and still always ask ourselves. But through partially having gone through what Max went through and being there alongside him, I feel we can now see the question as what it is and accept that we may not always know the answer, but we can try to remind ourselves to enjoy every day. I think many people relate to that over the past couple of years, and I think the meaning of life has shifted for a lot of people and we just kind of wanted to share our two cents.

The music video for this single is overall lowkey and seemed super fun to shoot. How did you come up with this concept and execute it? Did y'all originally have other ideas?

Zak: We had tossed around a couple of other ideas. Some were more narrative-driven and focused more on the actual lyrical content. We could have taken it more of an expected route, like maybe following an argument between two people and becoming more intense that way. But we were thinking about this sort of single frame, elevator-style, elevator shot video kind of thing where the frame doesn’t really change much, but everything inside of it’s changing all the time. So we were pulling references from the opening credit scene of That '70s Show where they’re all singing in the car and the Wayne’s World scene where they’re singing "Bohemian Rhapsody," and the guy in the middle is hammered drunk. Once we kind of were thinking along those lines, it came together really fast. I think we shot everything for this video in like one afternoon evening.

That’s super-efficient.

Zak: I mean the team that we had, our manager Cole together with Justin [Kaminuma], the director, and Carlos [Ramos], the DP. Those guys killed it. Kind of like creating the song; once we got that idea, there wasn’t much like back and forth. It was kind of like, "Okay, what if we just kind of have a good time with this track?" The track is fun and energetic, so we thought to just give them that in the video. So we just goofed off and had a good time and jammed, and I think it turned out pretty well.

Max: Yeah, and it kind of matches with the lyrical content because, as I said before, the song is really about a toxic, chaotic relationship, and I think in chaotic relationships, there’s good and bad. There’s craziness, and there are good times, so I think we kind of wanted to lay that out and in front of the video where there are shots where we’re all just like sitting around, and there are shots of us going crazy in the car having fun. So I think we wanted to match those moods together with the visuals.

Michael: From start to finish, everything happened so easily and quickly. After the first writing session, I remember we played the track in the car, and we were bumping it, and it was pretty much like the video. We were all just like damn.

Max: I think we actually drove that car to the session too. I remember after the session, all five of us drove back in that car, and we were all like bumping the demo. It was hard. It’s my dad’s car. He got it back in 2008, but he had it in Ohio forever. The thing is, in Ohio, with how the seasons are, you can’t really drive that car that much because it just won’t run in the winter. So when I moved out here, it had just been sitting in his garage forever, so eventually, he said I should take it out there.

Michael: I just want one thing to be known about the whole video. All of that hype and headbanging and everything is the most authentic thing in the world because we were doing it for so long. At one point, we had been just head bopping for like two hours straight we had to sit back.

Forrest: Yeah, it was as much fun to do it as it looks. We were having a blast.

What makes for an excellent creative collaborator when it comes to crossing over mediums?

Zak: One of the biggest things I noticed was that there was a moment when the plans we originally made weren’t working out. So a lot of us were just not really seeing them and just trying to keep pushing forward and try to make it work. So one night, basically, Cole, our manager, Justin, and Carlos, the three of them had a meeting, and they were like, "Look, we got to make a hard pivot, and we need you guys to trust us right now." So we were just like, alright, you know you guys are the bosses here. We trust you. Let’s make this work, and it ended up turning out beautifully, so I think one of the one things that we really, or I really admired from this team, was how quickly they were just able to just shift.

Yeah, you for sure got to have that trust there.

Zak: I’ll add one thing to that, which is that both Justin and Carlos are really young guys in the scene, and part of that is - we also view ourselves as up-and-coming, young people in the scene, and we kind of want to bring in people that sort of are not necessarily - I mean obviously sometimes when you work with like more established people, it comes with an ego, but it’s not so much that we wanted to avoid that as much as it was to bring in the eagerness and the excitement. I mean, they were so stoked as soon as they landed to just get working on things and to start brainstorming ideas and that kind of energy we just feed off of. So for "No Way," it was literally all of us just feeding off of each other’s energy. I remember in the scene where we were in the car, parked, Carlos and Justin were outside filming and just jumping up and down with us. So, yeah, they were as excited as we were. It was fun.

So now walk me through the day you found out that you were going on tour with The Wombats? How are you feeling about the upcoming tour?

Max: It felt very surreal. We’ve been fans of them for so long. I grew up listening to them and still listen to them. I guess it was just this crazy full-circle moment of, I don’t know, I think I might have teared up. Growing up and being such a massive fan of them and wanting to do music, not really knowing how to play an instrument in high school, learning how to play an instrument in high school, going through college, into the cancer thing, and then to come out on the other side of it and to get to tour with a band that I’m a genuine giant fan of. I mean, it’s just like a real-life childhood dream coming true. So it’s like, it’s… I don’t know. I can’t really describe it other than that. Our dream realization moment, and we’re so excited.

Zak: Yeah, we’re grateful to them for giving us the opportunity, and we’re gonna work our asses off to make it the best shows we’ve ever played.

Be sure to catch Clubhouse on tour with The Wombats, starting January 2022.

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