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Feature for

January 2012

The Clams revisited



Name: The Clams

Genre: formerly listed as TV / Movie Surf, but prefer Go-Go powered Surf these days

Geographical Area: Central CT as always

Interview with: Dano Clam on 12/31/11 by email

Last Interview date: August 2005

Band formed: 2002

NESMA member since: 2003


1. What is the current line-up of your band?

Still Dano Clam (Dan Surkis) on guitar and administration. There is a fluid range of characters on bass and drums. If I were to book right now - It would probably be Christian Clam (Christian Kinne) on drums - one amazing 10-year-old kid! Bass would be either Deep C Clam (John Krawczyk) or Wu Tang Clam (Matt Noonan). I am actually looking for an additional drummer right now.


2. Has your line-up changed since your last interview? If so, how?

Yes sireee Bob. Most notably, Jimbo Clam (the Clams co-founder) moved on and started another band with go-go dancing, sax playing Wanda. Their band is Eh Steve and the Melon Farmers - one of those singing bands. Knickers Clams replaced Jimbo on bass, Wu Tang Clam replaced Knickers on bass. J Scott Clam and Don Ho Clam also stepped in occasionally for bass. Today bass is split between Deep C Clam and Wu Tang Clam. Brain Clammage was already our 3rd drummer in 2005. He was replaced by J Rok Clam who was replaced by Christian Clam and Clams Casino Royale (no cheese), with an occasional gig by Sir Tomoclamonakilis III. Mr. Royale has become unavailable, so the the search continues. Fourteen folks have called themselves Clams and counting...

Of no less importance than the musicians, are the go-go dancers. I can't overstate how important and inspirational the go-gos have been to me. I doubt The Clams would still exist without them. The Clamdiggers were the orignal go-go dancers with the Clams. That is Magic Wanda and Oceana - incredibly beautiful and talented and still doing an occasional show with us. Both Clamdiggers have their own bands and became less available, so Dano needed more go-go. I met more incredible ladies though some artsy friends in New Haven. The Nouveaux Pony Banditos go-go dance group was originally Mitzy-Lou and Polly Sonic. Mitzy-Lou was replaced by Dot Mitzvah and later joined by Kitty Katastrophe. These ladies really stoked my enthusiasm and creativity and are responsible for some of the biggest and most successful shows the Clams have ever had. Those Pony Bandito driven "Go-Go Smackdown" shows gave rise to even more go-go dancers. Veronica Vixen, Vanilla Frappe , Vivienne LaFlamme and Vanna Vroom formed Frisky-a-Go-Go. Soon Veronica teamed up with Dollie Danger while Vanilla, Vivienne and Vanna split off to form All Systems Go-Go! Both Frisky and All Systems Go-Go performed with the Clams and moved on to perform with many other bands too.


2a. If so, what process did you use to deal with the change in the line-up (ex. get a replacement, move to a smaller band, etc.)?

When Jimbo left the Clams, it stopped being an "us" band and became a "me" band. Pretty much every aspect of the band except playing bass and drums has been me. For good or bad, I know what I want The Clams to be. The core guitar / bass / drum surf instro character of the Clams never changed. I use networking and Craigslist to keep the band populated.


2b. Did the change in line-up affect your sound or the direction the band was moving in?

Not much. Every different musician that plays with The Clams leaves a different flavor and has different strengths, however I have specific bass and drum tones and styles that I want for The Clams.



3. Since your last interview has your music taken on new or different directions? If so, how?

Again, not much. We have more guest musicians (including singers) and other performers now. We have some new material that takes some slight detours into other musical styles, like Wu Tang Clam's funk version of Outer Limits or the bossa flavored Bossa Para Polly. The direction for the band is still to progress from the fun, engaging surf instrumental-based music that we are playing today to the even better, fun, engaging surf instrumental-based music that I imagine we could be playing.



4. What NESMA bands have you had an opportunity to perform with, or share a show with?

We have done many shows with 9th Wave, The Aquatudes, SPF-4, the Crustaceans and North Shore Troubadours. My apologies to all the bands I never really played with or forgot that I played with, but I think we have also done shows with Laika and Cosmonauts, The Rip Chords, Acoustic Surf Tones, Atom Bumz, Atomic Mosquitoes, Big Wipeouts, Blue Wave Theory, Bongo Surf, Bosch, Coffin Daggers, Commercial Interruption, Diamond Heads, East Coast Tremors, El Muchacho, Findicators, Gein and the Graverobbers, Howlin Thurstons, Thee Icepicks, Mr. Neutron, Mofos, Octomen, Outpatients, Preston Wayne 4, Recruders, Reverb Galaxy, Ronnie Lake, Sea Devils, Sharkskins, Shecky and the Twangtones, Simon and the Barsinisters, Squid Pussy, Strange But Surf, Surf and Turf, Surfalicious Dudes, TarantinosNYC, Tsunami of Sound, and Venice Beach Muscle Club.

5. What bands of any genre have you played with or networked with? (please list band name & genre)

We have done shows with the Nebulas (surf), Ghouls Night Out (garage / horror punk), Hollie and her Buddies, Jonny Earthquake (blues / rock), Big Fat Combo (garage / rock), The Radiation, Nasty Disaster, Thee Swank Bastards (surf / garage), Eh Steve and the Melon Farmers (classic rock and etc.), Sasquatch and the Sickabillies (psychobilly), Truckstop Playboys (rockabilly) and many, many more.

I would also like to mention some of the fabulous not-band performers we have shared shows with! DJ E-Bomb, DJ Zoloft, Burlesque Beauties, Dot Mitzvah, Kitty Katastrophe, Vivienne LaFlamme, Vanilla Frappe, Ruby Solitaire, Lily LaVamp and more!



6. What is the break down of cover vs. original material in your live shows and/or recordings? Has this changed since your last interview? If so, how?

We tend to play about 25% surf classics, 25% originals and the rest a mix of TV / movie themes, contemporary surf covers, and rock classics mutated into surf instrumentals. Although the set list has changed, the general theme has stayed the same.


7. What recording have you done since your last interview?

In 2008 we released Acting Shellfishly. Like our earlier CDs, this was all done in my living room, but this was a much bigger effort. New recording gear and techniques. New songs. New musicians. The CD has sold relatively well. There is a lot I like about it, but there is so much more I want to do in the future. Check CDBaby or Deep Eddy!



8. Where does your band typically practice?

The band practices at my house. I keep drums and amps set up all the time. When I have a regular crew, we typically do a 2 hour practice once a week.

9. What does your band typically wear for a performance?

Hawaiian shirts more often than not, but I never know what overalls, smoking jacket or luchador mask that the other musicians will show up wearing.



10. Do you ever have additional performers on stage with you?

Additional performers are so important to The Clams, I don't think The Clams would exist without them. First and foremost are the Go-Go dancers. I can lay down a great soundtrack, but its not a show for me without go-gos. They are athletic, artistic and beautiful. The audience energy goes through roof with great dancers, mine too. The Clamdiggers, Pony Banditos and more have been super important to our shows. Wanda and Sandy from the Clamdiggers, Aaron from the North Shore Troubadours and Lakin from Atom Bumz have added some great saxophone tracks to our shows. Wanda and Sandy have also added some great accent vocals and percussion that made some classic instrumental arrangements really pop! Recently, we have backed up Dot Mitzvah and Kitty Katastrophe singing some great pop songs. Amazing pipes and lots of fun! We have also played live back-up for Dot's, Kitty's, and others burlesque performances. Distracting - but very fun.


11. How do you continue to get gigs?

All the gigs lately come from people finding us and asking us. We have been at this for 10 years and are very established. Cruising Craigslist and contacting venues directly has worked for us in the past.



12. Approximately how often do you perform out?

Not much these days. When I have a full crew it is usually 2 shows a month in the winter and 2 shows a week in the summer.



13. What have you found to be the single most effective promotional tool youíve used to further your bandís musical path? (such as Facebook, website, NESMA, etc.)

Lots of work and co-operating with other bands. We have a website, a Facebook page, an email list and lots of contacts. I also like to tap Phred for cool poster art for some shows. When we are active, I spend twice as much time promoting as I spend playing music.


14. Whatís the most interesting performance experience youíve had since your last interview?

Many VERY interesting performances. We have played to live burlesque acts. We have played on the crazy art-deco Futureliner bus. My favorite has to be Bike-a-Go-Go! That is where we played live on the back of 3 tandem bicycles with go-go pilots up front. This was during a New Haven (CT) Critical Mass ride / Ideat Village art festival and people were running down the street after us with their camera-phones!


15. What have you gotten out of being a NESMA member so far?

A lot! NESMA promotes co-operation between surf bands and that is huge. Most of our shows are shared with other NESMA bands or provided by other NESMA bands. It has been an invaluable resource to The Clams.


16. Have you had opportunities to promote NESMA? If so, what have you done?

Yes, NESMA is noted on much of our promo material. More importantly, whenever someone contacts me looking for surf bands, I always refer them to the NESMA website.


17. Do you have any suggestion on how NESMA can grow?

Maybe. I think NESMA is already as big as our gracious volunteers, Mike and Sandy (of 9th Wave & NESMA founders) can manage. I think there is potential for NESMA to include more bands, become the go-to resource for finding surf music, become a promotional tool and more. However, NESMA would need more contributors to achieve this. Mike and Sandy have done an unbelievable job building and maintaining NESMA. However, they are just two people with a band and day jobs. If other people in our Surf Music community wanted to dedicate some resources to take the load off Mike and Sandy and if Mike and Sandy wanted them to, then NESMA could grow even more.


18. Anything else?

Sure. The Clams has been rewarding and sustaining at times and difficult and challenging at times (sometimes all at the same time!) I know what I want from The Clams, which is pretty much what we have been doing all along except for the much better songs, recordings, and shows that I imagine we could have. I constantly question if I am taking the right approach. The musician turnover is taxing. Keeping the band up often feels lonely to me. However, I still feel like creating music that is fun and engaging for fans and fellow performers is a joy and an honored privilege. Even after 10 years, I can't seem to give up on it for very long.


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