YOU EMBVRRVSS ME: Piecing together connections with MVLL CRIMES’ Jillian Clair

On Sept. 8, the evening before the official release of MVLL CRIMES 12” EP “YOU EMBVRRVSS ME,” lead singer Jillian Clair took the opportunity to avoid helping her bandmates to load in for a show at Doors Taco Joint and Metal Bar in Hamilton, Ontario, instead having a conversation with Woodstein Media.  The chat took some unexpected turns as connections through the music and zine community were discussed in a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon way, which led to as much talk about the reporter’s accomplishments as the new MVLL CRIMES release. You have been warned.

The conversation started with a query about where Clair gets her lyrical inspiration from. Songs such as “Arguing with Strvngers,” “Checking out,” “Scarin’ Karen,” or “Pay For It” hit on current events and attitudes in a satirical way that eases the pain of the aggressively explicit lyrics she hits the MVLL CRIMES listener with.

“I saw Amyl and the Sniffers earlier this year, and I bring that up because the lead vocalist said something that encapsulates this perfectly: writing a song is a way of expressing all the things you struggle talking about,” she said. “The only thing I think I must add to that is things in life seem so overwhelming and can seem hopeless, and it’s so nice to get your ideas all out on anything, be it a page, a screen, a song – be it a recorded song. I’m fortunate enough to have this platform to explore these ideas and get feedback for it, which is such a special thing.”

Clair summed her thoughts up more directly, saying, “it comes from being overwhelmed and not being sure how an individual is supposed to tackle these large systemic issues and struggling with those feelings of frustration and helplessness.”

She has been involved in the London music scene for over a dozen years since moving there when she was 18. First, she said she was a consumer, then about nine years ago, she started creating zines, and two years later, she joined her first band.

“I always saw zine-making as a way of still participating in that community even if you are not necessarily in a band or playing an instrument,” said Clair. “There are all these sorts of complementary crafts. The folks making zines, doing interviews, hosting radio shows, doing podcasts and taking photographs at shows. That goes to make a rich music scene.”

This is where degrees of connection in the arts, ala the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or, more traditionally, the Six Degrees of Separation, dropped into the conversation.

“One bleeds into the other,” said Clair. “There is this real endurance of the music community.”

In response, Woodstein Media noted that even if the venues disappear, the connections and the people in a scene remain, and new spaces are found to house the scene. It’s a fluid evolution of art, and bands like MVLL CRIMES provide the same energy many people encounter when they first heard a band like Minor Threat in the 80s.

“That’s such a huge compliment,” said Clair.

But she clarified that she couldn’t take all that praise herself. She had to throw credit for the music at the people carrying lots of heavy gear as she sat comfortably.

“I think one thing that means so much to me about this band is the high musicianship,” said Clair. “Every individual component … Evan, an insane drummer, is unbelievable in many aspects; his fills are b unmatched. Pat is an incredibly creative guitar player. We live together, so I know he works at it all the time, so shoutout to Pat and then Laurie; we could talk about her contributions to London specifically, her calibre as a bass player, just for the rest of this interview, so it helps to be surrounded by talented people.”

Clair confessed she is extremely under-travelled and has never had the chance to tour with any of the bands she has been in, and she is “hungry for it.” She wants MVLL CRIMES to tour.

“I’ve heard many road stories,” she said. “I have some folks in my life who are experienced touring musicians, and I want to do it. I have barely seen any of this country, never mind any other country, so if there was some way to be able to see more of Canada, more of the world, and also do something I love and feel so much satisfaction doing at the same time, it’s a dream come true.”

Clair is confident YOU EMBVRRVSS ME is easily MVLL CRIMES’ best studio work to date.

“We had the pleasure of recording at the Sugar Shack with Kyle Ashbourne … (and) we wound up with this incredibly generous supportive record label called Cursed Blessings Records,” she said. “We would not be putting this album out without them. Literally, from the pressing of the record to just finishing some of the songs that are on this release. One called Foods began as a jam we just sent to them to be like, this is what we sound like these days, and they fortunately really liked it despite it being pretty silly and remaining a pretty silly song.”

The conversation turned back to the satirical nature of Clair’s lyrics.

“Probably in high school, when I first learned about satire, you learn about the Horatian, the Juvenalian type of satire. One is something like A Modest Proposal, and another one is just scathing and cruel, and so a Horatian is the Modest Proposal example, and that has always clicked with me in a way. You can get across more if you are prepared to present very serious things with a bit of humour than if you are bashing someone over the head with it. Not that that doesn’t have its place. Sometimes it does.”

Clair thinks the punk scene is in the middle of an exciting boost.

“There has been a bit of a resurgence of pop punk, not that trickle-down economics is real, but I do think people need an entryway to punk music, and if you don’t have a punk in your life, then these more palatable iterations of punk music can be a great gateway to anyone interested in punk music and maybe become more involved in their local scene. The best thing to do is to show up.”

Clair said that in her experience, local music scenes have many very friendly people who will be excited that you are interested and want to be more involved.

“Participation is more than enough, but you can make zines, do interviews, take photos – it’s a place that nurtures artists from many different practices of art, and if you want to be more involved in your punk community and want to check out a MVLL CRIMES show that would be sick, we’d love to have you, please say ‘hi.’”

To coincide with YOU EMBVRRVSS ME, Clair made her first zine in about a year.

“I usually make a zine when we have something physical coming out,” she said.  “I have a pretty dull full-time job, which I am very grateful for, but it takes up much of my time.”

On top of the time her day job steals from her creative pursuits, there is also time lost to promotion.

“You must stay on top of social media and your emails,” said Clair. “This whole aspect of not just having an active social media presence but when to post and what to post. I was talking to Marcus, who does the Deep Dive Discography podcast, about the many hats you must wear if you want to make music in 2022 and beyond. I love learning new things, so it’s great for me, but it can also be all-consuming.”

With the upcoming elections and Clair’s employer being the City of London, the conversation pivoted to municipal government.

“There needs to be more punks in politics, specifically at the municipal level, because that’s where so much gets done,” she said. “More than most people realize. I say that as an employee of a municipality, that’s my gig. I am a records systems analyst. I am one of the staff handling the Freedom of Information (FOI) requests the city receives.”

The legislation regarding freedom of information that municipalities deal with is called The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).

“In my opinion, institutions get way too much latitude in what they consent to release,” said Clair. “There is a process for appealing those decisions, but there is a timeliness specifically when it comes to journalism, so not every journalist has 120 days to go through the appeal process and maybe get those records they are trying to get.”

Woodstein Media agreed that even reporters for weekly papers, let alone daily papers, don’t always have time to wait for the FOI process, even when the information is released without appeal.

“Exactly, because you have 30 days to finish it,” said Clair. “You try to do work as quickly as possible, but sometimes you need those full 30 days. It is good. I’m glad a mechanism exists because people should have access to records a municipality is creating. You can do it with (institutions such as a) a university or a hospital.”

She said she has nothing but confidence in the information and records team at the city of London but some higher-up decisions that are a bit too “COA.”

Woodstein Media betrayed a bit of confusion because, in their experience, the acronym COA stands for Chachi on Acid, which is hardly the type of music that would likely be on heavy rotation at London City Hall.

Clair says she has probably listened to Chachi on Acid songs while at work but explains that the letters stand for “cover our asses.”

“If I could elaborate on my point concerning the latitude institutions have when it comes to releasing records, I would point to how open government and open data initiatives have dropped off in recent years,” she said. “There’s a proliferation of information and not enough of it is being made accessible to the public. You’ve got me on a topic I have so many feelings about. I’m very happy with where this interview and this conversation have led so far.”

At this point, the tables turned, and the interview focused on Woodstein Media articles, with Clair taking the lead in the conversation.

“I love that Beaver Slap article you wrote,” she said. “What an interesting band too. I hope we can make it out to Barrie. We were in touch with some of the Tarantula Tapes folks not too long ago, so hopefully, we can make it out to that part of the province soon because everything I’ve heard about the music community up there, it’s very DIY, which I love and is where I come from with shows, the booking of, the playing and the promoting. Shout out to Barrie. I want to play with Angry Spells. They rule.”

Woodstein Media suggested a Chachi On Acid show with Angry Spells and MVLL CRIMES.

“I think that would be sick,” said Clair. “Do you think the world is ready?”

The punk rock connections kept the interview on a personal note when she mentioned first meeting at a concert in London almost ten years ago.

“The show I’m thinking of was a Richmond Tavern, and I remember being blown away,” said Clair. “You had a 16-year-old playing.”

My son.

“That’s your boy,” she said. “He really ripped it.”

This led to a discussion about the current lack of all-ages venues.

“I’ve talked about all-ages shows and the constant lack of all-ages shows,” said Clair. “There is this great band in London called Thunder Queens. Every member is under 18, and I know they will have situations where they will open a show and then immediately must leave because none of them are allowed to be in a bar. It sucks.”

“Thank the dark lord for house venues in that regard. It provides that space, but at the same time, house venues can be very fraught. It’s not always the best folks running a house venue. London, as far as I know, is fortunate right now. There are two house venues, and very nice people run both.”

As the conversation was wrapping up, Clair ensured the recorder was still going because she wanted to get comments about Buzzcocks: The Lasting Influence of Pete Shelley on the record.

“It was so fucking good,” she said. “I like that zine so much … I point to it as this example of information sharing that is so well done because, in addition to the Buzzcocks, you mention so many of the bands who influenced them or were coming up around them or that they, in turn, influenced and it’s so nice. No part sounds like you are being spoken down to or taking a position of ‘don’t you know about Joy Division already?’  It’s too bad that conversations or music publications often take that tone, but I can’t say enough good things about that zine. Pick it up.”

With the heavy lifting completed and the conversation done, it was time for Clair to head into the bar and prepare to perform.

“I will tend to my band and see if they left anything for me to bring inside.”

It’s not a matter of if MVLL CRIMES will come to your town; rather when, so make sure you see them when they do. They are a helluva band.

MVLL CRIMES live at the Doors Taco Joint and Metal Bar on Sept. 8.

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