Tail of Lions Tour
1353 H St. NE
Washington, DC, 20002
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is all ages
London-born singer, songwriter and producer Alex Clare is one of those lucky people who will never be short of something startling to tell when the lights dim and true conversation really begins.
âWhere do you even start with a story like mine?â he laughs, down the line from his home in Jerusalem - and he makes a good point. Alex signed a major label deal with Island in 2010, released a single and an album then got unceremoniously dropped. When, in 2012, a song called âToo Closeâ was pulled from the album and placed on an Internet Explorer 9 advert it prompted millions of sales and, lo and behold, he got re-signed. Eighteen months later he made a new album that the label failed to get behind and, as you might expect, it sold, in his own words, ânothing.â He got married, toured the US, Russia and Europe and started a family.
In the summer of 2015 he removed himself to a narrow boat on the River Lea (his debut was also recorded afloat, âI love boats,â he says. âThe one thing that I miss about the UK, is that Jerusalem, is on top of a mountain. No boats!â) with his friend, bass-player and founder member of Submotion Orchestra, Chris Hargreaves and the pair began to record again. What they came up with is a remarkable work called âTail of Lionsâ. Written and recorded in a few short weeks, Alex would spend months with Chris working on exactly the right mix for this new collection, a place where soul, rock and funk meet steel-sharp electronica and iced-out drum and bass.
For production, Alex holds true to lifelong loves like Radioheadâs OK Computer and Beach Boysâ Pet Sounds. For vibe heâs all about that breezy, liquid funky blues of Donny Hathawayâs Magnificent Sanctuary Band and Stevie Wonderâs Songs in the Key of Life, in particular, the brilliant Have a Talk With God; not forgetting his beloved iconic New Orleans street singer Snooks Eaglin - âheâs the greatest cover band of all time,â Alex enthuses, âand all in the one person!â
The title comes from a Jewish expression - as Alex explains. âItâs better to be the tail of a lion than the head of a fox,â he says. âwe live in a society where the focus on success and celebrity seem too far out way the focus on ability and effort - all the money, limited talent.
The emotion behind the record is something else entirely. When Alex had his massive worldwide hit with âToo Closeâ it exposed him to millions of new fans, but, as with so many others, it threatened to overshadow and derail his career. âHappily,â he says, âa big part of my faith is acknowledging something thatâs good. So even if someone does you a kindness even for their own self-centered gains, even they deserve credit. How much more so when something comes from a place of true altruism.â
For Alex, âToo Closeâ took him to another level, it paid for his family home, elevated the attendance at his shows and increased his touring base. âIt was an amazing thing to happen,â he says, âand I still reap the benefits now. When I lived in London kids would walk down the street and sing it to me and I loved that.â
âTail of Lionsâ is a very different record from his two previous examples. Alexâs perspective has changed so much, on life and love and fatherhood - he has two young children now and much of his time is devoted to them. The realities of his own life have changed. âIâve had to step upâ he says. âSo many big things are happening in Europe and the US and, of course, just over the border from where we are in Syria.â
For all the problems, talking to Alex impresses on you a very particular kind of positivity - you can hear his smile from 3000 miles away. The first song the pair started on was âGet Realâ. Alex says he tries to understand himself as much as we can - âalthough human beings are pretty complicatedâ - and âGet Realâ is a look at trying to rectify some bad habits and traits. âWe only have a short time here, so itâs important to work on yourself.â âWhat are my bad habits?â he laughs. âWell, Iâm a human being and a man, so itâs a fairly wide field. There are always areas to grow and work onâŠâ
âTell Me What You Needâ looks at how some things in relationships are good and some things are confusing, frustrating and sometimes difficult. Alex comes from a family where you shout and scream to make your point while his wife is little more reserved. âYou have to learn to ride the bumps,â he says. âI talk with my hands, raise my voice and put all my cards on the table, while my wife tends to close up and wait for the storm to pass.â
âBring Me Downâ looks at those suffering from an attack of self-righteousness. âThereâs nothing more aggravating than someone who knows they are right,â he says. âItâs the tyranny of certitude. The height of arrogance is not to be able to see another personâs point of view.â
Basic tells the story of a friend of Alexâs who suffered a nervous breakdown. âHe lost his flat and job,â Alex says, âmeanwhile people were calling him a wasteman as he was having this psychotic episode. Basic is a tribute to him and what he went throughâŠâ
Then thereâs âTired From The Fireâ, a love song, but one thatâs decidedly esoteric. The lyrics draw on The Song of Songs, a parable describing the relationship between God and the Jewish people, where God is the husband and the Jewish people are the wife. The literal translation, Alex says, reads like a deep song of yearning for the one your heart desires. A real romantic drama. âItâs a powerful and provocative piece of writing and âTired By The Fireâ takes on that idea of doing right by love.â
On âLove Can Healâ Alex looks at different types of love. âThere is infatuation,â Alex says. âItâs passionate and intense, but itâs blown apart by insecurity and paranoia, itâs very immature. I had those relationships, all though Iâm reluctant call them relationships, before I met my wife. Itâs much more important to really feel like you can depend on each other, emotionally, intellectually and physically and then make a family together - and thatâs where I am now.
The gorgeous âYouâll Be Fineâ looks at the famous thoughts of Reb Nachman of Breslov who said, âThere is really no such thing as despairâ. But, of course, there is despair and so Alex felt very frustrated. He was thinking about people whoâve just lost someone, or just suffered some trauma and who canât feel these words. People who do despair, people who feel the world is as bad as it can possibly be. âWhen your emotions are driving you insane it can be a huge battle to develop self-control,â he says. âEspecially if, like me, youâre impulsive and emotional. So in trying to overcome my own thoughts and feelings - in my own despair - itâs been hard to see the woods from the trees. People get stuck in what they can see, if thatâs all there is. To say there is no such thing as despair means that thereâs nothing really to despair about. You will learn things from pain and trauma - terrible situations drive solutions from within. When itâs nighttime one has to be aware that thereâs just a few hours till morning.â
âOpen My Eyesâ âItâs about people wanting a change,â Alex says. âBut how we sometimes look to people who might not have our best interests in mind.â Alex says Western democracy has looked like âa farceâ in the last few years, the song is about frustration, and how whenever there is a revolution, within a couple of years everythingâs back to exactly how it was. âI was into leftist politics, as a teenagerâ he says, âbut I was very quickly disillusioned with it when I saw how the people organizing, say, the Anti-Sweatshop demos I went on, wore Nike trainers and tracksuits.â
When he tried to raise the point he was always told, âthe model for living now isnât the model for how weâll live in the future. It's ridiculous - people want to make a noise, but theyâre not actually willing to do anything.â
âTail of Lionsâ was A&Râd by the two men on their boat. âWeâre not trying to make hit records,â Alex says. âWeâre only interested in making nasty sounding music to play live.â Alex now revels in a complete creative control heâs never had before. âMy last two albums were bank-rolled and A&Râd which was great - major labels have the logistics and the admin nailed - but when it comes to creative input, A&Rs often donât know much music and they certainly donât know about my music. Iâm trying to get my craziest ideas out there and thatâs not always easy. There were songs on both my last albums that I didnât like, but the label wanted them on and that meant songs I really liked got left off - and thatâs crazy.â
Of course, the interplay between commerce and art can produce the most amazing things. âThe Renaissance happened because of private sponsorship,â Alex smiles, âbut I like having creative freedom. I want to make music that people dance to. I want to build up that energy so people can really let go and thatâs my whole focus. Ultimately, I donât need anyone to A&R that.â