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The Clementines

Album review: The Clementines - The Clementines

(Photo by Elise Del Vecchio at Lighted Stage Photography)

The Kansas City music community continues to thrive and expand, something The Deli KC is happy to support and report on, and this trend continues to build momentum with each passing year and each new album release. And by no means is this a boys-only club, of course; over the past several years there has been no shortage of great female singers in many genres: Abigail Henderson, Lauren Krum, Alicia Solombrino, Julia Haile, Danielle Schnebelen, and Shay Estes, just to name a half-dozen. These ladies can not only rock the mic—they do so fearlessly and effortlessly, providing a presence that is both captivating and unforgettable, and all are members of bands that bring great things to the stage whenever they’re on. There’s another name and another band vying for a place in your record collections, one that has been working the circuit, playing bars and clubs from Lawrence to Columbia and all points in between, and with the release of their full-length self-titled debut, The Clementines are ready for their well-earned time in the spotlight.
The Clementines started as a duo in 2011 with founding members Nicole Springer and Tim Jenkins each playing acoustic guitars and using their time to hone their singing and songwriting chops. They added the rhythm section of Stephanie Williams and Travis Earnshaw the next year, a move that gave heft and [if I may use a technical term here] oomph to support the power of Springer’s mighty pipes. And while they may have a lead singer whose voice can turn walls into rubble at any given moment, Springer doesn’t simply lean on her internal volume control switch in an effort to overpower her listeners. In The Clementines you’ll hear a great deal of control and command, as the music calls for presentation that runs from pensive to melancholy to victorious to daring to outright sassy. She’s got all the tools, and like any good carpenter or mechanic, she knows which tools to use and when to use them. No song features a delivery that seems out of place, and no mood is falsely presented.
Any band with such a commanding presence at the front runs the risk of being overshadowed by that voice, or of being seen as “hangers-on” who are only along for the ride because of the talent of the lead singer, not because of their own abilities. There is no such worry with The Clementines, as this is truly a band with quality at all positions. Jenkins has adapted and enhanced his guitar playing to accommodate both duo and quartet arrangements; his skills have progressed greatly since I first saw the two-piece version of the band on the recordBar stage a couple years ago. Earnshaw lends a stalwart bass presence, never pushing his way into the spotlight, but never fully conceding to the twin-mostly-acoustic-guitar sounds which he augments in fine fashion. His ability to set a warm, comfortable foundation to the proceedings is crucial to the cohesiveness of the music. And Williams is simply described in the band’s bio as “bad-ass drummer”; that’s about as spot-on as it gets. The Clementines features a wide array of genres and influences—rock, soul, jazz, Americana, gospel, blues—and their rhythmic timekeeper doesn’t miss a beat (literally and figuratively) throughout, keeping lock-step with her bandmates at every turn. If playing music with such a dominant frontwoman is a challenge, then Jenkins, Earnshaw, and Williams are more than up to the task throughout the album’s fourteen-track playlist.
A few CliffsNotes-sized looks at some of those tracks:
“Rough Times” – The first single released by the band; Americana-rock sounds with an underlying jazz snarl. To say that acoustic bands can’t groove is ridiculous, and this track serves as Exhibit A of that argument.
“Soul, Mind, Role, Survive” – The one electrified song on the album, with an added punch that gives it a ‘90s alt-rock vibe. A great change of pace.
“Could Have Been” – A menacing slice of backwoods swamp-pop swathed in Southern-fried goodness. Undeniably catchy and hooky.
“Say” – The most intricate playing by all four members, showing off the instrumental skill sets that make this band a quadruple threat.
“Responsibility” – This may be my favorite track on the album; Springer’s delivery goes from delicately soft to passionately earnest without breaking stride.
“Sightless” – Acoustic rock doesn’t get any better than this, pure and simple. Maybe *this* is my favorite track?
“Should I” – A delicate arrangement that made me think Western madrigal, which I can’t explain but it just sounds like it fits. If you’re a fan of Calexico (and you should be), this is a track for you.
“Moved” – A textbook closing track musically and one of the most lyrically powerful, an expression of longing and love lost; a very courageous move on the part of the band to close with a song that does not offer the listener the prototypical “happily ever after” ending. Okay, THIS might be my favorite track.
We all like to see friends and neighbors succeed, and when they’re willing to bust their asses to make good things happen for themselves, it’s all the more rewarding. Bands like Making Movies, She’s A Keeper, and The Latenight Callers are proof that constant work, abundant publicity, and outright ability will get your music heard. The Clementines fit that bill, with an increasing number of shows over the past few months which have led to their self-titled album being a reality—and a reality which you should tune in to. As Springer sings in “Bayou”, the album’s opening track: “I leave it up to you when we're at the bayou / to renew my existence, to sanctify my consciousness.”
Existence renewed, consciousness sanctified—and efforts very much appreciated.
Be sure to join The Clementines this Saturday, June 1, as they release their self-titled debut album at The Brick. They will kick off the show at 9 p.m., playing the album in its entirety. Root and Stem will perform afterwards. Facebook event page.
--Michael Byars

Michael Byars wrote most of this with one hand, as his other arm has gone numb from his editor’s constant punching—but he thinks she’s pretty cool anyway. [Editor's Note: She is. *punch*]

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New singles from Radkey, Umberto, The Clementines, Dream Wolf

(Photo above of Umberto at Replay Lounge, taken by Michael Byars)

Radkey - "N.I.G.G.A. (Not Okay)"

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding young rockers Radkey. The group's new single “N.I.G.G.A. (Not Okay)” is testament as to why that’s deserved. The song would fit very comfortably tucked away in a Misfits or Ramones playlist. Fuzzed-out guitars, a driving beat, and some impressively strong vocals make this rocker aggressive, while the infectious fist-pumping chorus allows for repeated listens.

--Travis Stull

Umberto - "The Investigation"

On its Facebook page, Umberto is listed as a four-piece electronic-rock band whose home base is Carson City, NV; recently Matt Hill took a solo turn behind the laptop as opener for Moon Duo at the Replay Lounge in Lawrence, KS. “The Investigation” starts off as homage to Nine Inch Nails with its slightly-slower “Closer” marching tempo, which gives way to the more ethereal sounds of bell-like keyboards and distant, tortured choirs about a third of the way through. The rest of the track includes 80s synthy effects given a modern heartbeat – overall, a hauntingly captivating effort.

--Michael Byars

The Clementines - "Bayou"

The Clementines have made strides since emerging as an acoustic duo in 2011. Since then, they’ve become a 4-piece, filling up a bluesy rock sound with a propelling rhythm section. "Bayou" begins with drummer Stephanie Williams’ consistent driving beat, and eventually is carried out by the soulful, blues-influenced voice of Nicole Springer.

--Michelle Bacon

Dream Wolf - "Astro Wolf"

"Astro Wolf" feels like a psychedelic excursion onto the moon. Galactic high-octave keyboards kick off and soar across the song. Elements of glam and prog rock enter in, gravitating the listener between a slow journey and a rapid ascent. A confident vocal delivery from Megan Zander and backup vocals from Katelyn Boone and Chris Tady only add to the song’s ecstatic, harmonious voyage through the cosmos.

--Michelle Bacon

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On The Beat with Stephanie Williams

This week, we sit down with Stephanie Williams, who plays in nearly every band in Kansas City, it seems. She plays with The Prolific, The Clementines, The Cave Girls, Claire and the Crowded Stage, Adam Evolving, and by the time of this posting, there's no telling who else. Catch the beat right here!

On The Beat is a weekly interview brought to you by drummer Sergio Moreno (of Hillary Watts Riot and Alacartoona), and features some of the many talented drummers in the Kansas City area.



On The Beat with Stephanie Williams


This summer… A coming of age story…One woman will give everything she has…To play the instrument she loves… A journey of passion and skill…A hero like no other…Coming to a music venue near you. Well, anyway, that was the kind of script I had imagined for a movie about this week’s featured drummer, she’s the kind of epic character that makes you think in cinematic terms. But when asked what the narrator’s deep, dramatic voice would say, she replied, “I’m guessing it would be something like, Stephanie Williams starring in Pretty Good, For A Chick.” She’s funny like that, and humble. Perhaps too humble. This week we chat with one of Kansas City’s most talented (and nicest) drummers.

The Deli: How did you get to be such a fantastic drummer?

Stephanie Williams: Thanks for the kind words! I started when I was 12, and I guess I play the way I do because of my passion for the instrument. I would spend every minute of the day drumming if I could. I've had some excellent teachers (Dave Jarman, Kent Rausch, Mike Sekelsky), but most of my playing is a result of marching bands and jazz ensembles, as well as all of the great local and touring drummers that I’ve played with. I take something from every player I hear, and I think this helps my sound reflect a lot of different styles and techniques.

The Deli: How do you approach drumming?

SW: When someone comes to me with a riff or a song, my first step is to come up with a feel that makes it groove. Later, I’ll add in fills and expand on the original idea. I have to be interested in what I’m playing, and my main goal is to create parts in a way that would allow any given performance to be recorded and released to the public. I’m all about structure and consistency, but I also like to keep things fun.

The Deli: What's going on in your head when you're playing?

SW: When I’m drumming, there's nothing else in the world I'd rather be doing. It’s hard to explain what’s happening in my head because it seems like I go somewhere else. I listen to the music, and my arms and legs pretty much take over. I’m not typically a counter. I read music and understand the theory behind rhythm and time, but my playing comes entirely from what the music makes me feel. Sometimes I’ll “wake up” and realize that I’m on stage. I guess drumming is my happy place.

The Deli: Okay, but you're also a great bassist. What's that like?

SW: I love the bass. Always have. As a bassist, I still get to work with rhythms and grooves, yet it gives me a chance to try something new and more challenging. I've found that performing on bass offers a bit of nervousness (the good kind) that I don’t experience while drumming. Joining The Cave Girls just sort of happened after a drum jam one day, and it’s one of the most exciting groups I’ve been a part of. I am a drummer though, and there is something about hitting things with sticks and driving a band that is irreplaceable.

The Deli: What are your bands and projects right now?

SW: I’m playing with The Prolific, The Cave Girls, The Clementines, Claire & the Crowded Stage, and Adam Evolving. I also play every night at Worlds of Fun, and I record and perform with a number of other artists on the side. I’m just fortunate to know a lot of talented people.

The Deli: Holy cannoli! You must really love the KC music scene. 

SW: The music crowd here feels like a big family, and everyone is very supportive of each other. I’ve made so many friends within the community, and the coolest part is that all of them are insanely talented.

The Deli:

 Does that leave you time for anything else?

SW: I spend my time away from music teaching special needs students and working toward a master’s degree in counseling. Most of my free time is spent going to friends’ shows, being with family, trying new wines, and wasting time on Netflix. Also, I have a ton of fun with special effects makeup, and I’ve spent the past 2 years creating the monsters at Worlds of Fun Halloween Haunt.

Catch Stephanie’s blockbuster skills in action Thursdays through Tuesdays at Worlds of Fun through the end of July and see her perform with The Cave Girls at Angels Rock Bar, July 25.

 -Sergio Moreno

Sergio is a drummer drone for The Hillary Watts Riot and a contraption set buffoon with Alacartoona. He wishes he could get paid to practice meditation, do yoga, and drink white tea all day long. But in the meantime he earns his keep making greeting cards in Spanish.


Stephanie Williams












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