Clem Snide plays Café Nine on Sunday

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Clem Snide plays Café Nine on Sunday


Eef Barzelay leads an interesting life.

The guitarist and vocalist of the alt-country group Clem Snyd was born in Tel Aviv and moved with his family to New Jersey, where he grew up. He formed the band in the early 1990s in Boston before moving to Nashville.

In the late 2000s, the band broke up, he lost his house and had to rebuild his life during a decade of hard times until his life seemed to have turned a corner with the release of Clem Snide’s latest album, Forever Just Beyondin March 2020

These days, Barzelay is back in concert and touring as Clem Snide and will play a Sunday matinee at Café Nine in New Haven.

We chatted in late February, before a COVID infection forced him to reschedule, and talked about his life as a vagabond, how his latest album is a culmination, not being into live streaming, and a unique project unveiled this spring.

Rob Duguay: How would you describe this journey through these places and cities you lived in?

Eph Barzelei: I guess I’m the “Wandering Jew”. I was born in Israel and then my parents moved to New Jersey when I was six, so growing up I never really felt like I belonged and my sense of where I came from was disconnected, so it makes sense that I ended up doing what i do I like to move.

RD: I hear it naturally goes along with being a full-time musician. Forever Just Beyond it was made after a tumultuous ten years of your life, when you lost your house, were completely broke, and had to file for bankruptcy. Coming from that experience, did it change your creative process at all while making the album?

EB: Yes, I would say Forever Just Beyond is something of a climax, if that’s the right word. The band Clem Snide broke up right around 2010 and 2011 and my life hit rock bottom as well. I had two young children and I lost my house, so it was a time where I had to reinvent myself and I was also very humbled by that experience. I had to surrender to some higher power without getting too specific about anything. It was part of finding my way back and trying to survive.

I was also connecting with the fans through a lot of house shows, writing personal songs for people that went directly to the fans, and then all the Kickstarter stuff started. That’s how I worked for a few years and I like to think Forever Just Beyond as my reward, with God saying, “Here’s Scott Avett, who’s going to drop out of the sky and help you make a record and help you get back in the game.” It happened and it was a miracle, then the pandemic hit and that cut short the narrative, but I live to fight another day.

RD: What was it like working with Scott on the album?

EB: It was a delight for me. We didn’t even know each other, somehow we came together like this in this creative space. He’s a super cool and righteous dude and he pulled it all together. We did a lot of it on his farm, where we lit up his whole art studio, brought in great musicians and a wonderful engineer, and didn’t spend a lot of time with him at first. It only took a few days here, a few days there. Then it was probably four years from when we started kicking around ideas to when the record came out. It was a long, gradual process, but it was wonderful.

RD: Last year you released an extended version called Beyond Forever Just Beyond, so what made you decide to release something as a direct follow-up to the original album? Did you feel like you had more to say with a few extra songs, or did you have a bunch of B-sides left over that you wanted to include?

EB: The management people suggested something along those lines and I realized that Scott and I wrote more songs than we recorded, there were definitely a few that I thought were pretty good. I thought it would be worth it to let people hear them just as a demo in this particular form that I kind of like. It was also just to get another little jolt to the record.

RD: In January, you streamed a live performance at The Brass Rail in Fort Wayne, where people paid what they could to see the show. How did you connect with the venue to make this happen and what do you think about the live stream?

EB: Brass Rail is just a little bar where I have a few friends of mine that are connected to it, so I just played a set of songs there while a friend of mine filmed it. We were going to do it earlier last year when people couldn’t come out, so I guess we were playing that game, but honestly, I don’t really care about the live stream. We actually recorded the thing months ago, so it wasn’t really a live show, but I never cared. I’ve always been against it. I think live music has to be live, people have to be in the same room together breathing the same air or it doesn’t really work. That being said, I gotta do what I gotta do, and I gotta live in this world too, Rob.

RD: I definitely hear you and you’re right. Live music needs to have a real community around it and fuel the energy instead of people tuning in online in any way, shape or form. It’s about the exchange between musician and audience, it’s something special.

EB: Yes, exactly.

RD: After this string of shows, what are your plans for the coming months?

EB: One thing I’m excited about is this project I’ve been working on for the past few years, which was inspired by me being in quarantine and looking for things to do. I invited people to tell me their stories via social media if they had any intense experience or life-transforming experience and would be kind enough to share with me. I interviewed them through the computer and recorded it, then edited their narration of the story and put some music under it. Then I wrote them a song, their personal unique song that plays at the end, so it’s kind of like a podcast, but more in This American Life type of vein. Is called Life in song and I’m going to start releasing them in May, so I’m excited about that, I’m excited for people to hear it, and I plan to keep doing them.

It’s fun for me to interview people. I think it’s inspiring when people bare their souls and honestly reveal themselves and their lives, it makes for good music.

Clem Snyde

Cafe nine
250 State St.
A new paradise
April 28, 4:00 p.m


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