Eef Barzelay Goes On a Journey
Once upon a time, (ok, it was 2003), I walked into a Disc-Go-Round on Madison’s west side. Having just started a new job where I got to make more money AND listen to headphones all day, I naturally decided I wanted some new music. The clerk was nice enough to share his favorites with me, and I spent an hour listening to the bands he suggested. One of them was Clem Snide. I haven’t looked back. Through a strange twist of fate, I ended up having dinner with frontman Eef Barzelay and then-member Pete Fitzpatrick, both very sweet guys. It was a natural choice to interview Eef for this site, especially given his recent project of a Journey covers EP> (You can check out “Faithfully” in the YT video at the end of the page. He also released Black Tin Rocket: Songs of the Transmissionary Six.
ELM: You’ve made a lot of interesting choices about the covers you do. There’s the Journey EP, Black Tin Rocket, and I’m also thinking of your cover of “Beautiful.” What informs your choices about what covers to do? (Also, “Beatuiful” was included on a cd sampler that came with a bottle of Bailey’s that somebody gave my mom for Christmas one year. Did you know that?)
EB: I did not know about the baileys thing but my ass has been bought and sold enough times now so I’m not surprised.
ELM: Are there any other artists you’d like to cover?
I usually cover songs suggested by friends and loved ones, and even strangers sometimes.
ELM: Bitter Honey is back on sale. What happened that made it unavailable for so long?
EB: It not an interesting story just some legal shim sham with the label.
ELM: Based on your lyrics (I’m thinking of “Moment in the Sun,” “Made for TV Movie,” again, the cover of “Beautiful” for example), you seem to have a fascination with pop culture. Would you say that’s accurate? What fascinates you about it?
EB: I was I guess back when I started writing songs, not sure so much now. I just grew up in suburban NJ and watched a lot of TV and so it just felt right to reference pop culture because my brain was filled with it.
ELM:Tell me about making the video for “Black Tin Rocket.” Also, will there be any videos for the Journey EP?
EB: I had nothing to do with that video. The Black Tin Rocket EP was an experiment in co-creating which is what I’m all up in these days. Covering unknown and or semi-pro type artist and having my way with their songs is really strange and fun.
ELM: Will there be any more Clem Snide full-length records to come in the near future?
EB: Sure some day, clem snide will never die!
ELM: Who are your favorite writers?
EB: I don’t really have any favorites and if I name some I’ll come off as pretentious or anti-pretentious so either way I lose.
ELM: Years ago, you told me a story about selling paintings to make money. Do you still do any visual art?
EB: I don’t paint anymore now I make short little art videos. I’m actually gonna be part of a show here in Nashville next year and occasionally I will screen them at a show if I can get a hold of a projector. I make them by filming youtube clips right off the computer screen and then add some music.
ELM: One thing I’ve always loved about your lyrics (“I Wasn’t Really Drunk,” “Joan Jett of Arc,” “Something Beautiful,” to name a few) is how well you cover the gamut of fascination and true love without ever being cloying or trite. Are there other musicians that you think do that well?
Well I do focus on the words more than most, I suppose. I like Bill Callahan and Mountain goats and Heligoats and Kitty Wells and Webb Pierce and Justin Beiber.
ELM: Has being a parent affected your music?
EB: yes now I have much less time to devote to it.
ELM: Music distribution is very different now than when you first started your music career. Now, of course, fewer people actually pay for music, but you also have projects like Kickstarter to help fund recordings. Which model do you prefer? Do you think you’ll stick with Kickstarter and fan-funded releases in the future?
EB: I heartily embrace the new paradigm! the old way did not really work for me
and caused me great frustration for many years so I’m happy to see it collapse.
It’s wonderful to just go direct to fans with out all the middle men gumming up the works. I think the line between fan and artist has gotten blurry and not just in terms of distribution but also by including fans in the creative process. That’s what I’ve been trying to do by covering and also writting personal songs for people.
ELM: Did doing the Rocket Science soundtrack increase your visibility a lot?
EB: Rocket Science you mean yes. Well that was a while ago but it did help for sure.
I have a new movie coming out in October called Janie Jones for which I wrote many songs and did the score.
ELM: Are there any sociopolitical causes that are especially close to you?
EB: I anxiously await the new consciousness wherein people finally wake up from their ego based delusional perception of reality and we all join together in a joyful celebration of life.