Persian Claws – By: Keith Martin
Half way through the weekly ritual of repairing the damage inflicted by WMG on my YouTube playlists, I noticed a black-and-white image of a beautiful woman in the sidebar. “Persian Claws: You’re Gonna Leave” read the legend. I clicked it and this happened:
The YouTube sidebar now had more Persian Claws offerings interspersed with other artists. Suddenly everything had become stylishly sixties, black-and-white and feline. Given my fondness for cats, the sixties, and whatever we’re calling garage rock these days, a clicking frenzy was inevitable.
After about thirty minutes I reached the conclusion that I really liked Persian Claws, but many other questions remained unanswered. Their videos had all been uploaded by Candy Christian who was responsible for similarly-crafted and visually-delightful videos for several other bands. Googling failed to unveil the true identity of Candy Christian, but succeeded in returning a captivating picture of Ewa Aulin in her nightie.
I had more luck with a search on “Persian Claws” that led me to the band’s Facebook page and the following brief bio:
“Persian Claws are from a small, largely forgotten town in Northern New England. Raised on a diet of Surfnik guitars and the Feline musings of yesteryear, they are now fully-grown and fancy-free. Despite the lukewarm reception of the local villagers, they carry on clawing.”
I listened to a couple more tracks as I fired off an e-mail to Persian Claws demanding that they explain why I hadn’t previously heard of them.
After a brief exchange of e-mails in which I convinced lead singer Dee Claw that I wasn’t trying to sell her anything, she and Billy the Claw kindly spilled the beans on the past, present and future of Persian Claws.
Dee: “It was around 1997 when I first heard about a great instrumental rock ‘n’ roll band called Barbacoa. They were playing weekly down the street from the candy shop I worked at. Every Thursday night, I locked up the shop and headed down the street to dance. Barbacoa quickly became my favorite local band, combining amazing originals by Billy [Mullins] and many of my favorite Rock ‘n’ Roll covers, like “Out of Limits” and “Beat Girl”. Billy and I began chatting and found that we liked a lot of the same music, Punk, 1960s soundtracks and garage and so on. We would make mix tapes for each other and just talk about music. Many years later we started singing some of our favorite garage tunes just for fun. Winter descended up on us and we decided to try writing some of our own songs. Billy suggested the name Persian Claws for what we were doing and I loved it. Billy writes the music and plays all of the instruments on both Persian Claws and Barbacoa recordings, but they are two different bands with different songs. When Persian Claws play live, we have a rhythm section consisting of Kirk on bass and Jeremy on drums.”
Although it was the stunning YouTube visuals that first sucked me in to the world of Persian Claws, it was their sound that kept me there. The compositions are compelling in themselves, but the production also amazed me with its sixties authenticity. I requested an explanation.
Billy: “Dee and I record our songs in my living room using Garage Band on a Mac. Early on, the lyrics were both mine and Dee’s, ideas from notebooks we scribble in, but the last several tracks have been Dee’s words. I play all of the instruments and do the recording and Dee chimes in ideas during the creative process. I start with the drums which is a 1970′s Gretsch kit, using two dynamic mics. Next I add Bass (Fender Precision) and guitar (Fender Stratocaster). We also used a harmony 12-string for “You’re Gonna Leave”. Some of the tracks feature a keyboard (Farfisa combo). We add the vocals last, with a Shure SM57. Finally it is mixed using T-Racks plug-ins for compression and EQ.”
So there’s the secret, kittens! If you want to get a garage feel, the best approach is not to spend a fortune in a 32-track recording studio with a bunch of gizmos that promise authentic sixties sound. (And, yeah, I know it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how this sort of thing can get overlooked. I’ve got an unreleased album that proves it.)
One of the delights of Persian Claws, and something that for me underlines their DIY authenticity, is their approach to unveiling their latest work. During the period of back-and-forth with the band as I was preparing this article, my weekly YouTube digest alerted me to a new Persian Claws offering, “Weeping Willow.”
As Dee explained, devotees of Persian Claws get the latest song from the band soon after it rolls out of Billy’s living room, thanks in large part to Candy Christian.
Dee: “After we finish a song, the lovely-but-shy Candy makes a YouTube video. She really enjoys the process of looking for photos that compliment the mood of our music and we find it’s a fun way to share our music with a lot of different people. She has also made videos for Billy’s solo work, Barbacoa, The Bordellos, The Fallen Leaves and The Broken Jugs.”
Persian Claws are currently unsigned, but you can download their digital album Caged and Unreleased at persianclaws.bandcamp.com. You can also give them your click of approval at Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Persian-Claws/93905837120
For those of you who like to get your paws on hard copies, check out the following compilations:
Whiskey, Girls and Pasta features “Ghostified” and 9 other songs by female-fronted bands from all over the world. Dee adds that “it has a lovely cover.” Label: Musica Para Locos, Mexico; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
No Way Out on the U.K. label Dead By Mono Records is another international compilation that kicks off with “Clever Way to Crawl.” www.deadbymono.com
Mongrel Zine #9 includes a Persian Claws interview and a CD compilation featuring “You’re Gonna Leave”. www.mongrelzine.ca
Hidden Tracks: the Best of The GaragePunk Hideout, vol. 5, includes “Clever Way to Crawl.” Free download for active members of the GaragePunk Hideout, or you can buy it on Amazon and iTunes. garagepunk.ning.com/page/hidden-tracks