Tramlines: Clean Cut Kid on Sheff, Fleetwood Mac, and breaking America

‘I aspire to write giant songs about tiny subjects’


Another year, another massive Tramlines. This year's sold out spectacular in Hillsborough Park saw performances from a wide range of acts, from globally renowned headliners to local talent.

Off the back of their sophomore album Painwave, which was released in March, Clean Cut Kid played a packed out and euphoric set on the Leadmill Stage. We spoke to them to get the lowdown on their love of the Steel City, what influences their songwriting, and a third record.

Day one of Tramlines, you've got a massive slot on the Leadmill Stage – how are you feeling about it all?

Mike: First of all, we love playing Sheffield anyway so the opportunity to be able to do that in a festival context is very good. I think we've done…is it Outlines? The one that's spread across the whole city. But having this collective bunch of people all in one place, it's so exciting to us, man, we love it. One of our favourite formats is this big top tent thing, we love that shit.

And what have your experiences of Sheffield been like?

Mike: Absolutely love the crowd. Going on tour, you're playing to often sold out rooms, it's hard to gauge what a city's like from the reaction. The way we gauge it is from humour, we're painfully honest talking on stage and the Sheffield sense of humour is very similar to the Liverpool one.

What has driven the changes and growth in the second album?

Mike: Taking it into our hands and recording it ourselves. We built the studio and did it all ourselves so from our point of view it was gonna be something closer to our hearts. But the way that's been received has been absolutely ridiculous, critically and from our fans. It's a big jump and traditionally what the fans love is the big songs and the big singles, and Painwave is very much a step away from that – a big piece in itself. We've been overwhelmed by the reaction to it.

You're already putting a lot on social media about the third album – again, built around a singular concept.

Mike: It is quite conceptual again. I find it really difficult to write honestly about giant subjects. Whatever our opinions on politics I don't write that much about that, because Clean Cut Kid as a project is the voice of my own feelings so they're always personal.

They're tiny subjects and small things, which always used to blow me away and it's what I've always aspired to. You know Suburbs by Arcade Fire? He'd write giant songs about tiny subjects.

Quite a bit of Arcade Fire shines through in your sound – who else has influenced your more recent stuff?

Mike: With Painwave, the big one is Fleetwood Mac. For me, that's the golden age of amazing writing, amazing performance and amazing recording and it just sounds so good. My instant thing was Fleetwood Mac – Rumours, so sonically that's where we went.

I've always been obsessed by the Beatles, and I think now with the next record, it's going to be even more Americana and a bit more soul-y. So there's some Al Green, just treading into soul a little bit now. We don't really listen to much modern stuff, do we?

Ross: Not at all. It's more of an American sound really, if I'm honest.

Finally, what is next for Clean Cut Kid?

Mike: A new record will definitely be released within six months, but other than that, I don't know whether this is good news or bad news for the UK but we're really going to try a lot of America and Europe.

Evelyn: We've got a trip to Nashville in September then hopefully a lot more shows there.

Mike: At first we're going to do a couple of big shows but not loads of them, so we can get the record right.