Clearance on leisure, pleasure & praxis

The lesser sung heroes of Chicago DIY power-slacker pop—Clearance; press photo courtesy of the band/ Topshelf Records .

The lesser sung heroes of Chicago DIY power-slacker pop—Clearance; press photo courtesy of the band/Topshelf Records.

We last caught up with Chicago's beloved underdog heroes Clearance circa Rapid Rewards in the calm before the maelstrom of civic and social cataclysms that was 2015. From here the writing was on the wall that the get rich quick schemes that permeated practically every component of culture back then would prove to be an unsustainable one. Now Mike Bellis, Kevin Fairbairn, Arthur Velez and Greg Obis observe life in the aftermath of excesses and information over-stimulation where people are working on creating and delivering at their own pace. The result is the album At Your Leisure; a record that represents our global collective hangover where creativity is celebrated in prolonged processes and growth spurts where maturation is predicated upon the passages of time gone by.

From developing the new record via their West Side rehearsal space, to working with Total Control’s Mikey Young and Dave Vettraino of The Hecks via Chicago's Jamdek Studios and Public House Recordings; Clearance gifts the world we have been waiting for since those prodigious early EPs. The guitar work is tight (more likely than not a testament to a trip to New Zealand that Mike Bellis took during 2016—soaking up the sounds, scenes and styles of the Auckland chic), glows and glistens like the way lakes reflect their corresponding compositions of the ever-shifting skies.

The arbitrary escapades of life and circumstance jingle-jangle with plenty of pep to go around on "Chances Are", to the mega-matrimony paradise locales of "Destination Wedding", to seeking the second chances and second-time-around tries to figure out life's conundrums and other miscellaneous mysterious on "Frozen Orange / No Wonder". Clearance keeps the styles of summer dreams seeking those elusive astral planes and coast lines with "Had a Fantastic", embracing the lackadaisical daze of development hell that is "Rumored Sequel", to the brilliant power pop chord-cornucopia of "Haven't You Got the Time", to the sharp shooting body-shaking action of "Another Arrow". The tone turns more sentimental on the introspective "Days Underwater", to the pretension lampooning "Gallery Glare", amping up the energy on the threshold crossing "On the Doorstep", right before leaving the audience with "Bird's-Eye View (Of the Back of the Room)" that exhibits the tenets of being both dependable and devoted. Clearance has graced 2018 with the feel good record that allows us to collectively ease into the fall season with a sense of tranquility and some spirit calming perspectives.

Clearance penned a reflective manifesto meditating on the leisure, challenges and breakthroughs that were involved with the making of At Your Leisure:

Originally, I had meant At Your Leisure as a riff on For Your Pleasure, the Roxy Music record, as a sort of absurd contrast to the urgency of the times (we wrote and recorded it in the latter half of 2016). But as we continued to round out songs for the album, I realized we were speaking more to our actual experiences and misadventures in the music industry…playing shows, meeting bands and just the whole drawn out process of releasing a record, courting labels and PR folks and middlemen and everything, all the endless emailing. It can take a while.

We found ourselves in the strange position of getting a bit of attention and opportunities to tour to places like Brazil but not getting the same momentum back home outside of the more underground DIY scene, where we were relatively comfortable working. It was reaching a point where we were weighing how much stock to put into the whole ‘hype cycle’ aspect of the industry, something I’d long been skeptical toward. So there’s a bit of irreverence to that whole side of things. At any rate, our thinking became; people will hear the record when they hear it, it will resonate with folks eventually…we opted not to stress out too much about the market response to the whole thing. Very literally, folks will listen to it at their leisure.

There was also the thought of contrasting it against the title of our last record, Rapid Rewards—we were older, wiser (maybe), more lived-in, more contemplative. Ironically enough, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy—the LPs were delayed at the pressing plant for over a month past the release date. A sign, I have come to realize, that we chose the right title after all.

Clearance’s anticipated album At Your Leisure is available now via Topshelf Records.