It’s not uncommon for Liam Deakin to arrive at Birmingham Airport with a foggy head after playing in front of hundreds of adoring youngsters the night before.
That’s not because the guitarist avoids the road or the track. That’s because he works at Costa Coffee.
Alongside band members Pearce Macca, Jonny Fyffe and Niall Fennell, he is a quarter of Solihull indie outfit The Clause. It is a band that leads double lives: by day students, baristas and drum teachers, by night rock stars giving sold-out concerts.
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As we speak, the twenty-somethings are preparing for their biggest performance in their hometown yet. They just learned that Digbeth’s 650 capacity venue The Mill is sold out.
But it won’t be the biggest audience they’ve played for. They are fresh off supporting some of the biggest indie bands out there and have appeared at festivals across the country.
And they’re broke after seeing them perform consistently on the road in front of thousands late last year. Deakin explained, “One minute you go to a crazy town and you brush a case of Red Stripe at 10 a.m. and then you ask people if they want a small or a medium latte, literally the next day.”
As they embarked on a 17-date headline tour – their biggest to date – Deakin and bassist Fyffe told BirminghamLive they loved every minute of it. The pair said the homecoming performance in Birmingham felt like a round of victory and they planned to celebrate well.
The way music lives on means that those who write and perform it often seem wise beyond their years. But The Clause is a band well aware of their youth and determined not to waste it.
In February 2020, the month before the pandemic hit, the band was asked to play in Paris. It was a trip that they say nearly got them banned from the Eurostar for their raucous antics.
“It’s wild that you can bring anything from Kingshurst, Olton and Shirley to Paris,” Deakin said. “We were asked to move over and we took a load of our friends and just had a belter. We were there for three or four days and started getting a lot of mischief out of it. I think we took over the Solihull variant.”
Fyffe chimed in: “A bit too much mischief. I don’t think we can go back and be honest with you.”
The band is not a household name, but has quickly grown into a city institution with legions of young fans. To many, they seemed poised to become the next big thing before Covid hit.
Macca, Fyffe and Fennell started the band in high school and the final lineup took shape six years ago when Deakin joined them. Despite losing two years to the pandemic, the quartet has taken it upon themselves.
Where do they think they would be if it wasn’t for Covid? “You’d almost drive yourself crazy to think about it,” Fyffe said.
Deakin added: “We wouldn’t have the songs we have now. We could have played the same songs from two years ago and couldn’t have done a venue of this magnitude.”
While Deakin and Fyffe would much rather talk about music and plans for the future, I wanted to know what life is like on the road and if it really is as crazy as their social media suggests.
So far on the 17-date mid-week tour they’ve seen shows in Sheffield, Stoke and Derby, something Deakin thought was hilarious as he’d never been to Derby before. “It was a school night and everyone was playing,” Fyffe joked.
After Digbeth they would play against Leicester and Liverpool, but not before that victory round of Brum was complete. Nights of heavy indulgence are alluded to in Clause lyrics with references to “recreational” and “disco cookies”.
Deakin and Fyffe, both in their early twenties, even think they slow down in their old age.
“If you’re on 17 dates and you drink and smoke like crazy every night, Pearce’s voice won’t last and we get tired, so we’re looking at it day by day,” Deakin said.
But gas station food and weekday beers are “just part of the craic”. The Clause travels in a van that seats nine people – this usually includes the band, their driver, tour manager Ben (described as the “parent” of the group who takes them on walks), and a changing team of guitar and drum technicians.
“We’re going to have some food, we’re going to taste a boozer, we’re not really cultural,” Deakin laughed. “We’re not going to see the sights, especially if you’re in a place like Stoke-on-Trent.”
But he admitted that the band was afraid to go non-stop for a month. He said: “It’s the first time we’ve done it alone. It was an intimidating prospect, but the rewards have been shown by people coming out.
“These are tough times for everyone and to have people spend a five or ten to see you on a weeknight means a lot.”
The only thing that stood out when we spoke to one half of the band was their relentless optimism. They may not have reached that ultimate goal of quitting their jobs and taking up music full-time, but they’re in no rush either.
The pandemic has given them time to think about their image, sound and mission. They think they have two albums of songs and are in a position where the band is “sustainable”.
“We’re not a whiny band. We look for the positive in everything,” Deakin said.
“All the songs we wrote during the lockdown were focused on the future and how good life can be. We don’t want to sit there whining. Nobody wants to hear songs about how hard the past two years have been. They want to hear how good for the next two years.”
They may not know why they were chosen for The Clause (they are always asked what the name means and give a different answer each time), but they want people to remember it.
Deakin explained that “overlooked” Brum “bubbled under” with an indie scene that could explode very quickly. They would rather go about their day-to-day work and plow the band’s money into better light shows and merchandise.
“I want people to know that we are serious and I want us to be something Birmingham is proud of and Solihull is proud of,” he said.
“I think it’s pretty well known that a lot of bands miss Birmingham on tour because it’s not really a place that sells tickets, but we want to change that. There are 650 kids going crazy over an unsigned band on a Friday night in Digbeth.”
Deakin said that in a time without Marc Bolan, the band wanted to focus on experimenting with their sound and image. They have “no reason to complain” and want to have fun.
“We’re in our early twenties, if we get away with it, we’re getting away with it now,” he said. “I can’t be like 40 and bald and wearing flares? So it’s now or never.
“We have a lot to say, not in the sense that we’re unhappy or anything. I feel like we have a positive message to send.”
Fyffe jumped in: “You don’t want to listen to music and walk away wanting to cry, you want to walk away laughing.”
Deakin replied, “You say we will cry in the bath tomorrow while we listen to Adele with a raging hangover.”