Of all the sludgy indie bands that sing about drinking and calling in sick to work—because you were drinking the night before—The Henry Clay People seem to be one of the most criminally overlooked of them all. Their opening set at Club DeVille during South By Southwest was played to a moderate-sized crowd, and those in the audience appeared entranced by the People’s Hold Steady-esque freewheeling take on indie rock.
Their stint opening for Silversun Pickups and Against Me! might be just the prescription they need to broaden their audience. Joey Siara talked with Red River Noise about his band’s origins, how he and drummer Eric Scott are making the same music they were making in seventh grade and how to take down his brother and bandmate, Andy.
So you guys are from L.A., yeah? Did you grow up in the city?
Joey: Not L.A. proper. Suburban L.A. It pretty much could have been anywhere. I grew up in a suburb called Whittier, which is like a suburb of L.A. My family moved to Orange County and that’s where me and Eric, the drummer, started playing in bands back in the day.
How different were those bands you started playing together in compared to The Henry Clay People?
Joey: It was definitely punkier and snottier, but it’s not that different. Our musical taste has grown and our palette of what we listen to has broadened now compared to what it was back then when we were 14 and 15 years old, but at the same time I don’t feel like it’s that much of a stretch from what we were doing. Actually, there’s songs that we’re bringing back into the fold that kind of got their start a long time ago. It’s cool because that’s where we got our start. Playing backyard parties. And this is just a bigger backyard party.
So Eric got brought back in after he got laid off. What was your initial reaction after you heard he lost his job?
Joey: It was kind of weird because he had to quit the band—we got offered a pretty decent tour opening for another band and at that point Eric was like “I’m really sorry, I just can’t do it.” He had been in Henry Clay People for about four years. He was in the band since the beginning and then it really actually broke my heart. I was sad. Then we go on the tour and I find out at the end of that first tour that we did, which was a while ago that he got laid off within weeks of us getting another drummer. So it was really just awful timing. So we toured with another drummer for about a year and it just got to the point where I was like “Maybe I’ll just ask Eric because I feel like he belongs in this band.” So we were like “Hey, Eric, we got these tours coming up and we’re ready to offer you your position back.”
Was he with you at South By Southwest?
Joey: He wasn’t actually. We were with our other drummer then.
[At this point, Brian from Silversun Pickups walks up and begins talking to Joey]
Is there anything you want to say about Henry Clay People?
Brian: They’re good kissers.
Where were we? Oh, yeah, South By…
Joey: Yeah, that was with our old drummer. So that was recent. Eric just joined us. We went on tour with Drive-By Truckers and that’s when Eric re-joined the band.
So being in a band with your brother, are there any Noel and Liam Gallagher moments?
Joey: Absolutely. In Orlando, we had a fist fight. It was like basically—it wasn’t a fistfight. It was more of a wrestling match. We got it on video tape. I’m surprised it’s not on YouTube right now.
So the two of you were having an argument and things escalated or what?
Joey: It was a joke argument and we were both a little on the drunk side from having our rider filled. We started arguing about the set list. Orlando was our first show so we drove four days straight to get to Orlando. So no shows for four days just driving straight for 12-hour days so we were a little like stir crazy. The timing was right and I said “You really want to do this?” And we just went at it. [At this point he covered the microphone and pointed at himself as the victor]
You can say it. Be proud.
Joey: I won for the first time in about six years though. He got bigger and stronger than me but I know his weakness. You get him in a headlock and he can’t do anything.
Ahh that’s where he gets his powers. His head.
Joey: Right. Well the thing is both of us have giant heads so if you get him in a headlock, he’s useless.
I’ll keep this in mind when I fight your brother. So how was your SXSW?
Joey: It was fun. We played I think 11 shows in 4 days.
Yeah, I saw the Club DeVille show.
Joey: Oh, awesome. That was actually one of my favorite ones. It was loud and the sound was—it was an endurance competition I feel like. You play that many shows in that short amount of time, not all of them were amazing but most of them were fun.
That’s kind of inevitable at SXSW.
Joey: Right. That’s kind of how we felt because we played SXSW enough times to know that for a band at our level, not every show is going to be amazing. We’re just going to play as many shows as we can. I saw some bands that came out for the first time from L.A., you know friends, and at the end of it they were just…starry-eyed.
You guys have been around for like five years now so are there any bands that you used to play with in L.A. that are now hitting it big?
Joey: The Airborne Toxic Event, they’ve done well for themselves. Silversun, obviously. We played a couple of shows with them before.
What else was I going to ask…Hmmm…is there anything you want to ask ME? What do YOU want to know?
Joey: What’s it like living in Austin? I’ve contemplated moving here and I have friends here.
You can catch The Henry Clay People at this year’s Austin City Limits Festival happening October 8-10 at Zilker Park.