While recording their full-length album, Clinic tacked the name "Winchester Cathedral" onto a tune with an old-fashioned folk vibe.
Months later, bassist Brian Campbell bought a rare keyboard off eBay from a woman who happened to live in Winchester, England. When he got the instrument, it included some song books, including one for the New Vaudeville Band's 1960s novelty hit, "Winchester Cathedral."
"We took it as a sign," Campbell recalled. "It was very 'X-Files.' " And very fitting for a band whose spooky, atmospheric songs would have provided a perfect soundtrack for the supernatural TV series.
So that explains the new album's title, Winchester Cathedral. Now, how about an explanation for the band's haunting sound?
"I think it's a collection of our four personalities," Campbell explained. "We're all psychotic, really, so I think our personalities all go into one melting pot and come out in this dark, slanted sort of music. But, I mean, there is also a humorous element, a dark humor, almost like a 'Monty Python' sort of style. I think this record sounds ridiculous ... in a good way. There is definitely a scary side to it, but I think if you look a few layers below that, there is some dark humor there. I think it's a party record. If you go to some weird parties, if you put it on, I think you could find everyone jumping around."
"Party record" and "humor" are not terms often associated with Clinic, who hail from Liverpool, wear surgeons' masks onstage, and are repeatedly compared to Radiohead, but the band hopes to change that with the video for Winchester Cathedral's first single, "The Magician." Campbell describes the clip as "a very big nod" to Terry Gilliam from "Monty Python."
"A lot of people think that Clinic take ourselves too seriously — and who can blame them when you see us [performing] live, in surgical masks? — but we wanna portray the image that we definitely don't take ourselves seriously," Campbell said. "If there was no humor there, we'd all be going insane."
Clinic came up with the concept and animated the video themselves, just as the Liverpool natives created their own album artwork.
"It's not like we want to have complete control over everything, but we do enjoy doing everything ourselves," Campbell said. "If we had to deliver the records to the record stores ourselves, we would do it. We spent, like, two years writing this album, so it's just nice to channel some creative ideas into something more visual, trying a different avenue of creating."
"The Magician," which has horn and organ elements similar to the title track from Clinic's acclaimed Walking With Thee (see "Clinic: Four Lads From Liverpool Creating Quite A Buzz" ), also has humorous elements, although few would ever know it.
"We were in Israel, and we met this magician," Campbell said of the song's origins. "We were at this bar and he was trying to do some magic tricks and he was absolutely [terrible]. He was just so funny, doing all these tricks, like rabbits falling out of his sleeves and things like that, but he was trying to be so serious. He thought he was really good, but everything he was doing was going wrong. He's just an amazing character and it stuck with us. It's as simple as that."
Although Winchester Cathedral doesn't stray far from Walking with Thee, Clinic actually recorded it in a completely different fashion.
"The last album, we allowed technology to take over too much, where we'd allow computers to put the drums in time and stuff," Campbell said. "We wanted to make an honest record, where we capture the spirit rather than the musical ability. It's the sound of four guys in one room playing together, so there's glitches and mistakes on there, which I don't think many bands would allow to be put out, but we thought as long as it captured the spirit, we'd go ahead with it."
Clinic tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 10/13 - Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre Of Living Arts
- 10/14 - New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
- 10/15 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
- 10/16 - Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
- 10/17 - Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
- 10/19 - Austin, TX @ Emo's
- 10/21 - Phoenix, AZ @ Old Brickhouse Grill
- 10/22 - Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theatre
- 10/23 - San Francisco, CA @ Slim's
- 10/24 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
- 10/26 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox
- 10/29 - Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Cafe
- 10/30 - Chicago, IL @ Abbey Pub
- 10/31 - Chicago, IL @ Abbey Pub
- 11/2 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Smalls Fun House/Theatre
- 11/3 - Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
- 11/5 - Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace
- 11/6 - Northampton, MA @ Pearl Street
- 11/8 - Portland, ME @ Big Easy
- 11/9 - Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club