For a band that’s usually hewed closer to uptempo, pop-punky anthems, Clones of Clones‘ new single sounds surprisingly grungy. The opening track on the D.C. ensemble’s debut LP, I Don’t Need Your Love — out Tuesday — “Monster Heart” signals an expansion into swampier territory.
In 2013, Clones of Clones arrived on the scene with its Neighborhoods EP, produced by Justin Long, who’s worked with local rockers U.S. Royalty. The EP made locals take notice, but it sounded more commercial than the band wanted in the long run. So when Clones of Clones picked up a new guitarist — Arlington’s Todd Evans — and a new producer later that year, it spent two years making its first album and finding a different sound along the way.
Lead vocalist Ben Payes, who lives in Silver Spring, says the band’s goal was to sound “less Everclear” and “more Pixies.” It certainly achieved that. With “Monster Heart,” Clones of Clones interlaces restrained verses with a menacing plod — something like the footsteps of a beast — while Evans’ wailing guitar kicks up soot. “Look at what you’ve done to me,” Payes pleads. “Give me more!”
Fans might be surprised to know that most of Payes’ songs are based loosely on a relationship that took place almost 10 years ago. The pain he felt then has a way of creeping back.
“I can still feel that emotion,” says Payes, 29. “The anxiety, frustration. But I’m also writing about a larger concept, and that’s what I want someone to take away from our music.”
It seems the musician, in his unyielding quest for clarity and evolution, has plumbed new depths in his writing — and it seems worth the search, even if he had to hazard murky waters to get there.
Clones of Clones plays DC9 May 7.