Firsts can be nice, journalism–wise (scoops!), but, on occasion, somewhat double-edged. Case in point: a few minutes into a conversation with Clutch’s Tim Sult, he acknowledges this to be the first time he’s talked about the band’s yet-untitled 11th studio album—slated for a September release. Which also means he’s finding it tricky to really quantify the release-to-be.
“I’m just having a hard time placing it, trying to compare it to the rest of the catalogue,” he offers. “I would say I definitely like it.”
Which is definitely good thing, and said without snark; Sult’s genuinely trying to be helpful. You also get a sense that he’s a guy who’s happy to do—to make and record and tour music—rather than waste much time talking about it. That plays into the workmanlike charm of Clutch: a venerable mainstay of hard-rock circles, the steadfast, well-respected Maryland four-piece that—in among myriad side projects, and even the Bakerton Group, which features all of Clutch’s members as an instrumental jam band—has been powering along since 1991.
That the band’s now out on the road with Mastodon—stretching out those new songs in front of audiences—means that live is probably the best place to get a sense of what’s about to come from Clutch. But there are a few things about the record that Sult can put out there: firstly, that it’s the longest stretch between songwriting sessions the band’s ever had.
“We actually didn’t get together to jam for a full year,” Sult says, noting the gap was simply the result of busyness. “I think not writing new material for a year together brought a little bit of freshness.”
It’s also the third album the band’s put together with producer Machine. Working with him again meant detouring the group down to Texas; between 2013’s Earth Rocker and this album, Machine had relocated from New Jersey to just outside of Austin, where he’d built a studio on his property.
A few albums recorded with the same outside eye builds up a certain trust, Sult notes, between band and producer.
“Back when we first started working with him, we were kind of wary about having a fifth voice, a fifth opinion in the recording and writing process,” he recalls. “But I think, over the years, as we’ve gotten older we’ve accepted that a bit more. We’re a little bit easier to work with now, and I think he’s a little easier to work with now. Everything goes pretty smoothly.”
Sun, April 19 (6 pm)
With Mastodon, Big Business
Edmonton Expo Centre, $57