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CLARE_GIG_WESLEYANN-15Younis Clare interview by Greg Phillips

If you’re a singer/songwriter, it genuinely helps if you have a story to tell. Melbourne-based artist Younis Clare has many. The more Younis revealed to me about her life, the more intriguing she became. For instance, Younis once lived in a treehouse formerly owned by the infamous record producer Phil Spector, shared another house with the Brian Jonestown Massacre, her great uncle was Dame Nelly Melba’s accompanist, and she had to abandon work on her debut album for over a year when one of her guitar-playing arms decided to hang limply and stop working. Some of those life experiences have weaved their way into the lyrics of songs on her debut album ‘Groupies For Governesses’. Musically, the album is a mélange of pop, country and folk, with the inclusion of  a couple of full blown rock tunes, exquisitely embellished by producer Simon Moro. Lyrically, it features Younis Clare’s unique and quirky view of the world, with clever, personal and at times quite poetic lines.

Photo Credit- Joyce Van Dijk
Photo Credit- Joyce Van Dijk

The name Younis Clare is a reversal of her real name and was adopted when she returned from overseas to find that the local music press was saturated with artists possessing the christian name Clare.  Growing up in Port Campbell, Victoria, Clare Younis was surrounded by music. Her father Peter Younis is an accomplished guitarist who played in the surf guitar band Surge Whitewater and the Filthy Left. Her mother was not a musician but an enthusiastic music fan. “So dad is an excellent guitarist and mum is a huge music fan and particularly into The Beatles,” Younis recalls. “I grew up listening to The Beatles on repeat to the point that I don’t actually know if I like them or not! I liken it to someone who might have grown up in an intensely religious household. You might get to an age where you suddenly think, do I like this music or is it just because I have always been told this is the right thing to listen to? Mum comes from a very musical family. Her great uncle was Dame Nellie Melba’s accompanist.”

Apart from The Beatles overload, fortunately her parents’ record collection also contained albums by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder, Leonard Cohen, Jackson Browne and Simon and Garfunkel, which led to a lifelong love of singer/songwriters. Later, she graduated to modern day story tellers like Bright Eyes, Martha Wainright and Jarvis Cocker, artists who take a more unconventional approach to their lyrics. “I love the way Jarvis Cocker writes,” she tells me. “He can write about heartwrenchingly poignant moments in his life and then adding something out of left field to lighten it. I just appreciate writing that takes you by surprise. Nick Cave is amazing at that and Paul Simon, just little unexpected quirks … that’s what makes me interested in someone’s music.”

Travel has not only played a large part in influencing Younis Clare’s music but also in framing her life. Almost immediately after finishing school she took off to Europe and developed the travel bug. Another overseas trip found her in LA, which was where she hooked up with The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
“I lived primarily with Rob, who plays keys and guitar, although at some point they all lived there,” she explains. “I found myself at his house one night and it was the middle of the night. I could hear this music which sounded strangely familiar. I had been taken there by someone who said you need to meet this guy because he is a great producer and I think he will help you with your music. Rob wandered out and we were chatting and I  asked him what his band sounded like. And he said you mean this, pointing in the direction the music was coming from. I realised that the music I had been hearing was a live band in the next room rehearsing. It was the Brian Jonestown Massacre and they were going to Europe the next day. I hadn’t actually heard of them. I had heard their music. So I then met everyone, the circus, the characters. I went home and I  turned on the TV. I remember this so vividly.  All of a sudden, Rob is on the screen talking and all of these people I had just been talking to were in this room I had just been in. It was really strange. So I met them, then saw the documentary (Dig! is a documentary which focusses on the feud between The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols) and then I moved in with them … it was pretty fun.”

CLARE_GIG_WESLEYANN-1California and in particular the Laurel Canyon area, holds a special place in Younis’ heart. It was while staying at a Laurel Canyon house, formerly owned by a notorious record producer that the idea for the title track of her album first entered her mind.
“I lived in a house that used to belong to Phil Spector,” she recalls. “It was an amazing treehouse and to get to it you had to ride up in an inclinator but it was broken. So we had to use our neighbour’s staircase with something like 160 steps. At the time of living there I got into the whole Laurel Canyon mythology. It was a fascinating, weird and beautiful place. At the time I was there, a book was launched called Laurel Canyon. I was reading it on the roof of our house. I was reading this bit from Frank Zappa about how he raised his kids in a house  just down the road and he was talking about how there were people constantly coming through the house. There was a line in it from him saying that his kids had groupies for governesses. He’d employ his groupies to be his kids’ nannies. I loved that and I remember saying to my housemate at the time that ‘Groupies for Governesses’ was going to be my album title.”

The tracks off the album span a ten year writing period, the first written as a sixteen year old and ‘Chinese Proverb V2′ penned a decade later. The self-confessed perfectionist didn’t want to record her album until she knew she could create it with confidence. However, a major health issue set Younis back immensely, a strange palsy which effected her arm so much that she couldn’t play guitar. Her confidence took a hit as well. It wasn’t until 2013 that Younis’ health had improved to the point where she could think about recording. By this time, she had also discovered a producer, Simon Moro whom she had a great musical affinity with. Additionally, through Simon’s network of friends, Younis had acquired a group of Melbourne’s finest musicians, so all the elements were finally in place to complete her long-standing musical picture. Incredibly, soon after the recording, tragedy struck again. With the album completed, an acute back ailment  prevented her from promoting the album and playing it live.

groupiesFast forward to 2015 and Younis Clare has her fingers crossed that the year of the goat will provide much better fortune. The plan now is to relaunch the album mid-year and give it the attention it so richly deserves. Depending on the availability of her highly sought after musicians (Craig Newman, Gerry Pantazis, Brett Garsed, Phil Turcio and John Clarke), Younis hopes to string a series of gigs together to play the songs from Groupies for Governesses. In the meantime, she has been picking up a lot of work with her country music side-project Woman or Horse and has been writing new music under the Younis Clare moniker. A new song, ‘I Love you like Kanye Loves Kanye’ will be released on the 8th of May. Younis also plans to keep the momentum going this time and head back into the studio to record a new album. “The next one will be a lot stripped back and be folky, country, gentle vocal centric,” she says.

Visit Younis Clare’s website for gig information and to buy the album



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