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Charlie Clark Chats Yama Rama, Collaborations And What Lies Ahead



1. Can you tell us about the evolution of your music career, from your early days as a founding member of Astrid to your solo work and now your latest band project, Yama Rama? 


I was 17 when I started Astrid in Glasgow, and it was after our first tour supporting Belle & Sebastian (If You’re Feeling Sinister Tour) we signed to Fantastic Plastic in 1998. Astrid was mainly made up of a bunch of young pals from a small Island in Scotland that moved to Glasgow to play music. We loved West Coast 60’s pop and laurel canyon rock which has been a constant in my own influences. 


Playing in Astrid introduced us to the Snow Patrol lads and that eventually ended up in a strong friendship and a supergroup 27 members strong called The Reindeer Section who did two albums back to back. That experience really opened me up to collaborating outside of a band and I’m really proud of both those albums. It’s some of Gary’s best songwriting. I got to play with some incredible Scottish musicians from Arab Strap, The Vaselines, Idlewild, Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai and B&S. We also went to Japan for Summer Sonic which was something else. It also saw myself and Willie from astrid doing vocals on ‘Monday Morning At The Hug and Pint’ by Arab Strap and ‘Rock Action' by Mogwai. I ended up singing a bunch of songs on ‘Eye’s Open’ by Snow Patrol too. 


At the end of The Section (2003) Astrid released our 3rd and final album and at that point I think we were all frazzled in every way you can imagine but ultimately decided to call it a day. At that point in time I was listening to a lot of american alt folk like Bonnie Prince Billy, Sun Kil Moon, Iron & Wine, Elliot Smith and Low so I wanted to do something a little more stripped down so I started a project called Cold Night Song who won The Danny Kyle award for songwriting at Celtic Connections in 2005. 


I joined The Zephyrs from Edinburgh in 2006 for an album and a year of touring Spain and Italy then started another project called Our Lunar Activities.  OLA released a single through Fiction produced by Barry Burns from Mogwai, so it started well but somehow we ended up doing our debut album with Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 in his over priced studio in North Hollywood. That album was horrible, cost a fortune, never got released and rumor has it was funded by dodgy dealings with Russian oligarchs and a shady manager. That’s a whole story in itself. 


I married Angeleno and moved to Los Angeles in 2010 and took time out to write what eventually would become my first official solo EP ‘Feel Something’ which Edwyn Collins released on his AED label in 2013. My songwriting took a more melancholy tone at that point. I was newly sober and feeling reflective about life.  When I wasn’t on tour I’d only ever made money as a gig promoter so I started a night in LA in Echo Park at TAIX French restaurant. The night was called Mad For Sadness (after an Arab Strap album) and it ran for a couple of years but connected me with so many artists I’d eventually collaborate with writing songs or singing and playing on records with Sugarplum Fairies (originally from Austria but based in LA), Matt Van Winkle and Helene Renault. In 2015 I signed to Manimal Vinyl (Warpaint, Bat For Lashes) and started a couple of projects that Manimal released through my own imprint `Indiscretion Records. I put out records byCharlie Clark and the Majestic 12 , Manhattan Murder Mystery (My favorite band on earth) and a project called Broken Arrow which I started with Brandi Emma and Eric McCann from my solo record and Paul Wilson from Snow Patrol. 


In 2016 astrid reformed to record our fourth album which we did in Alice Cooper's old house in Laurel Canyon. It was our first record in 15 years so we we’re really busy in the UK when that came out with tours, festivals and promo which was great. Edwyn also put that album out on his AED label. He and his wife Grace are as good as family to me. 


My marriage fell apart around 2018 and my father was terminally ill. I think it all became a bit too much for me and I ended up drinking again after nearly 12 years. It was when I got my shit together and moved back to the Isle Of Lewis I wrote an album's worth of material and recorded it with Jason Shaw right before lockdown and Mark Gardener from RIDE mastered the record. It was during the lockdown that Alan McGee released the first single on his Creation label at the time and I released the album on my own label NO BIG DEAL MUSIC in 2021. That album is my only solo album and is called Late Night Drinking. I’m really happy with how that came out. After a pretty awful year in my own personal and professional life, 2023 saw me pretty much throw myself into songwriting as a complete therapy. Yama Rama started in August of this year and pulls from all the experiences, people and music from my life as well as becoming a vehicle for my solo music and collaborating with other people. I feel like it will constantly evolve but ultimately become the final home for my songwriting. 


2. Yama Rama's debut single, "Influencers Must Die," seems to take a critical look at the impact of social media and influencers on society. What inspired the lyrics and the overall theme of the song? 


I was working an event at the time and one of the parts of the job I was doing involved sorting out comp tickets, hotel rooms and all the bells and whistles for talentless, entitled brats who contribute absolutely nothing to society and expect a lot in return. 


It got me thinking about what social media would look like if The Doors or The Velvets ever had it. With bands these days, they spend more time with socials than writing, touring and just being punk rock about it all. 


It completely kills any mystique and it’s personality overload. Thing is, 90% of being a musician or being in a band is not for everyone. It’s definitely not that interesting being in the back of a van for 8 hours. It’s more Alan Partridge/Spinal Tap rather than Hammer Of The Gods! It was really good fun to write as I wanted it to be quite tongue and cheek also. 


3. You've been an active presence in the underground music scene for over two decades, collaborating with various artists and projects. How has your diverse musical background influenced the sound and direction of Yama Rama? 


I think I'm pulling at elements from it all with YAMA RAMA but I think my time in the US has informed this band more than anything as will the people who come into the fold too.



4. "Influencers Must Die" explores the balance between social media personas and the essence of music. How do you navigate this landscape as an artist, and what role do you think social media plays in the music industry today?

 

It’s all smoke n mirrors really isn’t it? Truly talented artists constantly get overlooked because they don’t have enough plays or followers yet these artists write some of the most life affirming, original music you will ever hear. 

YAMA RAMA explores more the internal than the external as well as themes I hope people can identify with. Real life, real problems and real stories. I’d rather connect with people over something important rather than tell the world about how the barista at Starbucks just fucked up my coffee and ruined my day. We’re simply selling the music. 



5. Yama Rama consists of talented musicians, including yourself on lead vocals and guitar. Can you share more about the band's dynamic and how each member contributes to the distinctive sound of the group? 


Billy Hudson who played drums used to play with The Complete Stone Roses and has a really great sense of rhythm and percussion that absolutely made the first single. I met Christopher Johnston and Shuggy McKay, from an existing band called Stone Dead John. I checked them out and they are an incredible psychedelic blues band, with fuzz and space and that’s exactly what I needed. We had one rehearsal and that was that, and it’s kind of ever expanding now because we’re really excited about recording the next single, and there are other people that I want to bring in eventually. 


6. The upcoming debut single was recorded and produced by Jason Shaw. How did this collaboration come about, and what was the creative process like in the studio? 


I’ve worked with Jason on my solo album, astrid recordings and now YAMA RAMA. Jason is always the unofficial member of the band. Jason and I met on Facebook when I was posting the demos for Late Night Drinking and we had similar taste and knew a lot of the same bands. I’ve never looked back. I’ve been lucky enough to work with amazing producers but I can honestly say no one can pick the sounds I hear in my head like Jason. He just instinctively knows what I want and I’ve never had to communicate it to him. We literally go into the studio and don’t stop till we’re done but it’s easy and almost psychic. 


7. With Yama Rama's recent signing to Bubblebrain Records and the release of "Influencers Must Die," what can fans expect from the band in the near future, and how do you envision the band's journey moving forward?


We are releasing our second single in the new year and looking to tour as much as we can in 2024. Lots of gigging, support slots, festivals and hopefully some European dates. Basically work as hard as we can to reach as many people as we can.


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