Henry's Funeral Shoe on the Charlie Sheen Fiat ad and Deep Blues Festival
Henry's Funeral Shoe is a duo from Ystrad Mynach, South Wales. Brothers Aled and Brennig Clifford perform raw, heavy guitar and drums fueled blues/punk rock inspired by records they grew up with, from classic rock to early Delta blues. They're the first U.K. band on Alive Naturalsound label, also the label of James Leg, one-half of the former Black Diamond Heavies, who is a friend they consider influential. You may have heard their song "Dog Scratched Ear" in a Fiat ad starring Charlie Sheen.
Henry's Funeral Shoe's debut U.S. show was at Bayport BBQ this past Sunday, and they return to the venue on Friday as part of the sold-out Deep Blues Festival -- including acts like Left Lane Cruiser, Buffalo Killers, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, and Radio Moscow, as well as renowned deep blues artists such as Mark Porkchop Holder and Molly Gene One Whoaman Band -- which runs until July 1. Gimme Noise's conversation with the Cliffords follows.
Gimme Noise: Who do you look forward to playing with the most during the festival?
Aled Clifford: There are so many bands from our label, Alive Naturalsounds who are playing the festival. We're looking forward to seeing those guys. We've only talked with them on the internet. We've played with them on festival bills in Europe but didn't see them because we would be playing on a different stage. But this time we'll be able to watch each other play, so that's really exciting.
James Legg is on your label, from Black Diamond Heavies?
AC: Yeah! Unfortunately he's ill from his throat. He just finished a four-month tour, so he had to pull out, which is a shame. Out of everyone on the Alive label, James is the one we've played with most in Europe. We've done a lot of shows with Jim, and a lot of parties. Its really disappointing, because he's a good friend. But his last tour was a long time, so he needs to rest his throat now.
Please tell me about your approach to playing duo blues with your brother, and how you came to that style?
AC: I'm a lot older than my brother -- I'm 33 and he's 23. I've been playing for longer in other bands. My band was ending and his was ending, and so we decided it was time to get together and just scratch out some stuff. We decided not to get a bass player, because we learned, with more members, there's more hassle. It's like having three girlfriends. So we decided to start with one. It's easy and its more fun, to be honest.
We didn't chase any sort of style. We always came influenced by blues and rock 'n' roll and the classic bands. Its funny what happens when you're not chasing something. It found its own path.
Are you more inspired by '60s and '70s classic rock or '20s and '30s Delta blues?
AC: When I started my heroes were Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton and Son House also Credence Clearwater Revival, Little Feat and the Who -- its just everything, really. There's so much good music. I even listen to dance music and everything's good in its context, you know, everything's right in its place. There's even good pop music today, believe it or not, you know. (laughs).
What types of venues do you like to play in?
AC: Our favorite places to play are the really swacky clubs, small places where you're playing really close to the audience. We've also played a 1,000-people space in Belgium as a support act. As long as the vibe is good, we love it. We've played unusual places like a library in Paris, believe it or not! We played a nightclub in Holland where we fight them, to get off-stage so the DJ can play terrible dance music. (laughs) That's the fun thing about being a musician. You never really know. I've been electrocuted in Europe more times than anywhere else. The electricity is a bit strange there believe it or not. I've had to play a few times with a sock over my microphone to save my life.
I love the name of your band, and the name of your record, Donkey Jacket. Can you say more about how you came up with these names?
AC: I was writing a play back home and I couldn't really put it all in a play quick enough, so I just wrote two verses and made it into a song. It's about a man who killed his wife and hides all her friends' best shoes, so they showed up at the funeral without their best shoes. Whenever I introduced this song, people would laugh, and so we called ourselves that, because people would remember it, and it was fun and not too serious, you know?
Donkey Jacket -- back home, there are miners. Our father is a coal miner. There's no work, the economy is poor, as it was in the '80s. When I was young my father had no jobs and we had to jump up and chop up tables to burn wood to keep your house warm. It was a really bad time. Everyone wore a donkey jacket because they were indestructible and you could wear them in any sort of climate -- back home it's so really cold and stuff. So I thought we'd name the record that in tribute to everyone back home who is looking for a job. It's a tribute to the hard-working people with donkey jackets, indestructible.
Do you have a strong community of musicians in Wales where you live near Cardiff?
AC: Yeah, there's a lot of people who play, and lots of places to play. There's no money to play, you can't really make a living playing in bars. We live in the hills, the valley outside the city. That's where the best musicians are, and play, you know.
What's happening now since the Fiat ad?
AC: We're going to use some of the money from that to re-release some singles, with horn sections and stuff because we couldn't really afford it. we did Donkey Jacket in two days. That helped us in the U.S., raised our profile a bit. (laughs)
Please tell me about your drumming.
Brenning Clifford: I use a lot of tom work to fill out the bass end of things because we don't have a bass player. My favorite influence is Keith Moon of the Who. A lot of people kind of think I'm like "Animal" of the Muppets, and I think Animal was portrayed from Keith Moon. I take it as a compliment that they think I'm a bit crazy.
He's absolutely brilliant. I grew up listening to the Who and watching Keith Moon play and he's my idol and biggest influence, to be honest.
How does it feel to be in the U.S.?
BC: Its kind of like a dream come true! I've been waiting all my life. Its been a big ambition for me to come to the U.S., ever since I was little - you hear about all the different states. It's a dream for me. It's a little unreal for me at the moment. (laughs)
It's been a long road but it's working out good now. It's lovely to be here, seeing America. We've known the other musicians for a couple years talking on the internet. It's going to be like playing with friends, really fun. It's going to be a good laugh.
Henry's Funeral Shoe play at Deep Blues Festival, 9 p.m. Friday, June 29 at Bayport BBQ (NOTE: this festival is sold-out)
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