Interview With The James Clark Institute & New Album “The Colour of Happy”
Whether he’s in the institute or not James Clark is a doctor of pop. His prescription is simple, three minute blasts of medicinal music and he’s just prescribed a new dose. The James Clark Institute has recently released a new album “The Colour of Happy”, it won’t cure covid but this 10 track LP will help you get through this pandemic. The album has a cool retro pop/rock vibe with a modern twist to it. James Clark is a wonderful songwriter and his ability to paint a picture in your mind shines through, from the first track “Little Powder Keg” to the instantly memorable single “Should I Tell Her” where Clark muses “my mind has a mind of its own I think” to album closer and second single “Next Best Thing”, which you can watch below.
For his new ten song album “The Colour Of Happy” James once again called upon the talents of producer/musician Moe Berg (The Pursuit Of Happiness) a man who knows his way around a hook. As well as being a fan, Moe also added his unique guitar sound and vocals to the new record
“James takes the power pop traditions of The Beatles, Jellyfish and Split Enz and combines them with the high IQ lyrics of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. The result makes him one of Canada’s greatest unsung songwriters” says Moe Berg.
We had the opportunity to interview James Clark about the new album, the lockdown, what he’s been listening to, what’s coming up next and more! Click below to listen to “The Colour of Happy” and keep scrolling for our interview with James Clark!
INTERVIEW WITH JAMES CLARK OF THE JAMES CLARK INSTITUTE
You’ve recently released your latest album “The Colour Of Happy”, what has the reaction to the new music been so far?
It’s still early but the reaction has been overwhelmingly good so far. It’s had a couple of really stellar reviews and sales have been keeping me busy with trips to the post office to mail out vinyl and CD copies. That’s one thing that has surprised me, the physical sales verses digital. The physical sales are winning thus far.
For The Colour of Happy you worked with producer/musician Moe Berg (The Pursuit Of Happiness), how was the experience of creating the album?
I absolutely love working with Moe. He produced the majority of the last album, Yesterday’s
Misadventures so I already knew that I felt comfortable working with him. He’s a genuine guy and a total pro. He understands where I’m coming from musically and so I knew there was no better man for the job. It was an extreme pleasure making this album.
How much did the current global pandemic affect the recording and release of the album?
Luckily, almost all of the tracking was finished before the pandemic hit. But it did end up affecting us. We had one last tracking session booked for the week that the city shut down. We had to wait about 6 months before we could get back into the studio.
You’ve noted inspiration from Lennon & McCartney, Ray Davies and Elvis Costello. What about thesesongwriters inspires you and how does that inspiration seep into your own music?
I’ve been a big fan of all of these artists for many years. I would say that all four of these writers make up the essence of my own writing. From John & Paul I learned about strong pop melodies and interesting chord progressions in the pop genre. Because of Ray I was inspired to write from a personal point of view and focus on what I know about. Through Elvis I fell in love with unconventional, brilliant lyrics and developed my love for wordplay.
What is one of your favourite memories from creating The Colour of Happy?
Hmmmm….So many to choose from. We were recording the second set of bed tracks in December 2019, just a few days before Christmas. It was myself on drums, Greg Condie on keys and Moe was subbing in for Jeff Dunk on bass. It truly had a feeling of magic and fun, as if we were on Christmas holidays from school, just hanging out making music.
Can you tell us about the second single “Next Best Thing” and the music video that came alongside it?
It’s probably the poppiest and catchiest song I’ve written to date. As always, it’s based on a personal
experience and it started out as a bit of a slag towards someone I know personally. But somewhere
along the line it grew into a finger snapping, toe tapping, almost happy song. The video was conceived and directed by my friend Sean Ryan. Sean’s directed 5 JCI videos so far as well as others for many Toronto artists. We had to scrap the original concept of the video due to the pandemic. In the end we used the pandemic to our advantage and captured the feelings of being isolated. What I really enjoyed about it is that everyone who performed on the song makes a cameo in the video. We shot them from a socially acceptable distance all on one day driving from Toronto to Cambridge.
If a fan was only going to check out three songs from the album, which ones would you recommend?
It’s hard to narrow it down to 3 because they’re all my babies. We worked hard to nurture all of them. But since you asked, I’m going with Next Best Thing, Broken Boy and Selfish Portrait. There’s enough variety in those 3 to keep people intrigued enough that they might be curious to check out the rest of the album.
Asides for music, how have you created happiness in your life during the lockdown?
I renewed my love for cartooning. As a kid, before the music bug really got a hold of me I was planning on being a cartoonist. I haven’t had a lot of time or inspiration in recent years to draw much at all but I spent much of the last year or so re-creating classic, iconic album covers in my “Clartoon” style. There’s now a page on my website, clarkinstitute.com which is solely for my artwork.
How have you grown as an artist since your last album, Yesterday’s Misadventures?
I’d say I’ve definitely grown as a writer. I’m also more focused than I’ve been in years. At times in the past it seemed as if I would focus on making my own music when I wasn’t involved in somebody else’s project. That has totally been reversed.
What Canadian artists have you listened to the most over the course of the pandemic?
I’ve always been a big fan of New Pornographers and so I’ve been delving back into their entire
catalogue. The same with Sloan. I’ve also been listening to a lot of local independent artists/friends of mine such as Stephen Stanley, Craig Robertson, TC Folkpunk, Chris Bennett.
What can fans expect next from The James Clark Institute?
We have a live online launch of The Colour Of Happy slated for Saturday June 26th. We’ve had to
reschedule it a couple of times due to the continuing lock down but it looks like it’s actually going to
happen on this date. The exciting details will be announced as the date gets closer.
Do you have any last words for our readers during these crazy times?
It’s a perfect time to support independent artists. It’s been a very fruitful time for new music. Artists have bunkered down during these wacky times and set about to create. With live shows still not happening, purchasing their music is the perfect way to help support them.