Regardless of Facing Blind Criticism, Art Will Prevail
By Nick Schwab
Despite The Dirty Clergy facing hometown ridicule in their largely religious and conservative city of Winfield, Alabama, the band hopes to start the new rock and roll transmission. Are you already receiving on their frequency?
“A lot of the people [here] ask about the name. I think they assume we are Satanists, but that is not the case,” states Clergy’s guitarist Brian Manasco. “Most of the folks here are closed-minded, but we have had a surprising amount of people get behind us.”
Manasco then goes on to talk about their band name.
“The name pretty much means: everything is not what it seems,” he maintains. “It derives from a preacher in our town telling lies about members of the band and sending them out in e-mail. It was total crap.”
Vocalist Brad White talks about the name as a type of metaphor for this blind disapproval: “To me it means acknowledging and calling to the forefront the fact that [we all] live in a world where lies and deception have become the norm. Everyone or everything is crooked and dirty.”
When will their hometown free their minds from revisionist lips? Can tradition be mere history?
“We are pretty much one of two bands that ever took their music to a regional level, and the only rock and roll band to do anything nationally from Winfield. The music [we make] is in no way reflective of the city,” explains Manasco.
White gives a similar opinion: “The music we make is completely reflective of us. Winfield barely exists. We are Winfield’s musical climate.”
The singer then adds, “A bunch don’t dig it, but I don’t care at all. If you’re not rebelling in some way, you’re just settling for what everyone else wants. Screw ‘em.”
Will the people of Winfield open their hearts to the alchemist’s freedom song, despite what the religious figures would say? Will the bird in the cage ever be let free? “It took us two years to get a show in our hometown. It takes place this June so it hasn’t happened yet,” says Manasco.
If The Dirty Clergy is like a dove in their hometown, how do they sing their song of peace and artistic freedom?
“Truth Wars had some songs that were really anti-war, Bob Dylan-esque songs,” describes Manasco. “‘End It’ was your typical ‘stop war now’ song [and] ‘Ballad of Johnny Magnum’ was about a retired vet that came back home.”
Manasco then adds some thoughts on war in general: “I’m not always against wars, I’m just against wars that are unnecessary. [This] was something [ex-member] Tyler Evans and I were dwelling on at the time.”
One may also wonder what decade of music inspired The Dirty Clergy and their freedom rebellion. White considers the best decade for music the 1950s and there are obvious parallels between that decade and his own band. “This new thing called rock ‘n’ roll was coming up and parents didn’t know what to do about it,” he says. “I would have liked to be one of those rebellious teens who sneak off to little rock shows and, hell, maybe even start a rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Manasco has a similar belief, and his most beloved decade is the 1960s.
“People started expanding their minds and discovering little things about music and life in general,” describes Manasco.
If the idea of rock and roll is to say one’s beliefs outright and proud, what tone do they prefer to use: loud and reckless or subtle and quiet?
“Each has its time and place,” states Manasco, and White agrees, saying, “Loud, yes; reckless, never. There are times to be gentle too.”
In terms of changing their sound to suit a major label’s tastes, White is not too opposed to changes that they would feel are for the better.
“If the major label’s criticisms were legit I could change a bit. Depends on what part of the sound too, I guess.”
Manasco feels the same way, but for different reasons. “We are good at not being tied to particular genre/subgenre. If I was tied to writing a particular kind of rock it would get boring,” he describes, then continues, “It wouldn’t make any difference to me, because changing our sound is something we are accustomed to.”
I ask Manasco if mainstream radio kills the artist or makes for a better a star, and he ends the interview by saying, “The artists are there before radio picks them up. It definitely doesn’t make the artist … it can help kill them though.”
(The Dirty Clergy play on Friday, May 18 at South Park Tavern at 8p.m. For more information, visit southparktavern.com.)
Reach DCP freelance writer Nick Schwab at NickSchwab@DaytonCityPaper.com.