Interview: clipping. talk touring with Flaming Lips, being inspired by Brian Reitzell, intricacies of their creative process and more

They don’t eat all of the weird Lay’s either.

clipping., who play Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 4, 2017. - Brian Tamborello
Brian Tamborello
clipping., who play Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida on April 4, 2017.

Los Angeles hip-hop trio clipping. may or may not be working on a follow up to their September 2016 LP, Splendor and Misery, but they’re definitely not going to be talking about it. For now, they’re content to talk about that 16 track collection of progressive, almost conceptual rap music and its baby prequel Wriggle (an EP released in June).

Read: A total mindf*** — Youth Code opens for Clipping at St. Pete’s Local 662, a little madness ensues

The group — comprised of producers William Houston and Jonathan Snipes plus rapper Daveed Diggs (yes, he was in the original cast of Hamilton, but they all met in eons before that) — is actually more open to talking about anything else whether it’s their creative process (very collaborative), the things that inspire them (Brian Reitzell’s score for Hannibal) and even the strange stuff they eat on tour (beer & brat flavored potato chips, a lot of Fernet).

Watch Clipping.'s creepy new video for "Back Up," see them at Jannus Live in April

CL got a chance to do just that with the entire crew, who checked in by phone as they made their way from Canada to Oakland. Check out our full Q&A below, and get more information on their April 4 show with the Flaming Lips via local.cltampa.com.


The Flaming Lips w/clipping.
Tues. April 4, 8 p.m. Jannus Live, 200 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $39.50 and up. More info: local.cltampa.com.


Is today a presser day, or do you always hang out with each other between shows?

We’re just driving actually, from Canada to Oakland.

You have some Whitehouse samples on Wriggle, and one of the questions our readers wanted to me ask you was some noise artist recommendations.

Ha. Uh, a duo from Los Angeles called Pedestrian Deposit.

Wriggle includes stuff that was up to two years old. Was the EP an intentional effort to clear the plate before you got to work on putting this new LP together?

Yeah, sort of. We finished a lot that stuff a long time ago. The idea was to dump it out even around the same time and CLPPNG, and then Sub Pop just kind of convinced us that it would be kind of a bad idea, and then since we weren’t touring we just kind of sat on that material for a minute and then thought it was a good way to remind people that we’re doing stuff, and that we’re around, before we put out this other record.

We had a routine for making songs, so in between the time between turning in the first record into the label and the time it takes for them to kind of ramp up, we got the songs for Wriggle, but there was just really nowhere to put them yet, so they feel like they are from the same period for us, but they are the things we finished right after finishing that record.

Does the new record have a name?

It’s called Splendor and Misery, and it came out in September.

Oh, I was under the assumption that you were working on another LP.

Maybe we are, but for now the new record is Splendor and Misery that came out in September.

Gotcha, was just under the assumption that you guys were moving kind of fast since Wriggle felt like a plate clearing mechanism, at least to me.

Yeah, it was kind of the idea, you know release Wriggle to remind people that we’re around and then when the album comes out later in the year it’ll be better.

More cohesive, more of an album without taking anything away from Wriggle.

Yeah.

For Daveed, the lyrics on the upcoming record, where are they coming from? What kinds of thoughts or events are informing them?

We’re talking about things post-Splendor and Misery?

Yeah.

Well, we’re not really gonna talk about that because as soon as we bring that stuff up, then we’re required to do it.

You’re touring with the Flaming Lips, who have a specific, but definitely open-minded, fan base. How do you plan on connecting? Are you assuming that most of them have at least heard of you and open to the idea that a noise/hip-hop group is coming to open?

I don’t think we have been thinking about their fans at all. I don’t know. I think we will make our set shorter so we can be an opener, but I don’t know that we have the material. We can’t make it more psychedelic, we just do what we already do.

I think what we’ve learned operating in this band is to treat it like the three of us are the target audience and kind of just ignore everyone else, and if we can make something that the three of us would like, then generally people respond well to that instead of trying to tailor it to who might be in front of us at the moment, you know?

One of the exciting things for us about touring with the Flaming Lips is that, you know, they put on a great show. It’s high energy and fun, and we try and do the same thing. So hopefully, if we are an example of one kind of fun show, then they are a good example of another fun show, then it’ll be a good show.

I saw you guys in St. Pete with Youth Code. Clearly there were some Hamilton fans (and Daveed called them out for missing Youth Code while trying to get a selfie with you), but so many of them knew nearly every clipping. lyric, and they are all more or less people that would’ve been into you anyway.

I feel like you might have answered the question just now, maybe you are just thinking about what you’ll like. Are you comfortable knowing that you are creating a new generation of fans who love EBM, industrial music and noise?

I think maybe it’s not quite a fair statement to say that we don’t think about other people because clearly the shows are for other people, but I do think there is, there has to be a separation and treat yourself like you were an audience member and make something that you would enjoy as an audience member. It’s a box you need to check.

Also, I don’t think any of us can control how any one person will respond to the music or what anybody takes from it or likes, so rather than try and manipulate people to be more into something that we’re doing, it’s more interesting to say, “Here’s a lot of information that can spark some kind of idea or some kind of thing.” We’re just going to pack as much of that into the conversation as we can in hopes that something comes out of it because we don’t know how you’re going to feel. We don’t know what you’re going to take away from it.

What I got from that November show in St. Pete was how crazy it was that every single one of those kids knew pretty much every lyric, every single thing Daveed was saying. Watching you put it together live, you guys obviously limit yourselves are far as sampling goes. You make a lot of the sounds you use on your records. You mentioned something being unfair, and I wanted to ask if you thought it was a little bit unfair that you guys kind of get digested within the hip-hop genre.

What I meant was that we absolutely do make shows for other people, it was a little unfair to create the idea that we don’t care about other people. I just don’t think we would do something that’s not our taste to try and appeal to a group of people that we’re guessing about when it comes to what they like.

There’s a difference between we play the music that we have fun playing versus imagining ourselves as audience members and try to please that person. Like we want the audience to have more fun that we are having onstage, definitely, but we can’t predict who’s out there. We can only do what we think we would like if we were out there.

Gotcha. Do you think people kind of lean too hard on the hip-hop aspect of your group when they write about your group or think about it?

I  think people don’t think hard enough on it. I mean everytime people ask us what kind of music we make we say we make rap songs, but then people are like, “yeah, but it’s experimental…,” and it’s like that what rap music is. So I don’t know. If the rap umbrella isn’t big enough to hold all of that, then nothing is. It’s such a wide reaching genre at this point, and none of that matters. I think all of us would be just as happy if people were like “the rap group clipping.”

But at the same time you guys do push the envelope of what rap is.

I think that is something people like to say that we do, but we are just actually making rap songs. I think every song that we’ve made is citing at least, maybe, five different rap songs. It’s not like we come up with this things in a vacuum. We sit around and talk about rap music and other kinds of music and influences and mix them together, but we’re never not citing a rap song.

And the techniques that go into sort of making the beats maybe aren’t the way most people make rap music, but they are the most honest way we can go about making rap music and we can make beats for rap songs, which is how I think everybody works in their own sphere of influences and their upbringing.

And rap was always just about cobbling together what you have available to you and what your particular skills and history are. I mean you know, making beats out of your dad’s record collection is how rap starts. We’re just pulling from our techniques and our training in a way that we think is similar, and we’re not trying to do something radically different. We’re trying mostly to be in conversations with other rap songs happening now and in the past. We want to be part of that trajectory very specifically.

Well you definitely expand the palates of listeners, and you do push the boundaries of what rap music is. Now your creative process, as I understand it, is very cerebral — and I don’t mean to say it’s complicated, but there is an element of precision there. When does inspiration for a song strike you? How quickly are you able to act on it and eventually bring it to the group?

I think every song is different. Sometimes, yeah, I think the inspiration can come from any one of us. Usually if William comes up with the idea, then it’s usually a pretty theoretical idea. Like this is the kind of song that should exist and we should make it. If Jonathan comes up with an idea, then it’s usually a technical idea. Like it’s a sound, like “I know how to make a sound that would make a really cool song.” If I come up with an idea, like a cadence based idea or something lyrically like, “I really like how this song sounds, but the clipping. version of that.”

So it sort of comes from anywhere, and the length of time just depends on how much arguing we do and how much time it takes for all of us to understand what the idea is. I think most of our process is kind of talking, playing examples and then getting on the same page, because once we’re on the same page the song can come pretty quickly.

I think actually those are pretty accurate ways that songs start with each of us, but I think in every instance all three of us bring each of those things to the table. Like it might come to the table as a conceptual idea, but then the next thing is what technical idea supports that concept and then what cadence supports that idea or is it a lyrical idea that needs to get shoehorned into some sort of framework that I know a sound for. We all contribute to everything, but I think those are all our musical pillars when it comes to making this music.

Is there anybody that you’ve listened to in the last year or so that inspired you to work even harder at production or inspired you to find new sounds? It doesn’t even have to be a musician, maybe it’s a certain piece of art. I know you guys read a lot of sci-fi. There are definitely dystopian themes and undertones in your music.

I think it’s everything. That’s tough. We all consume so much stuff all the time and absorb a lot from all of it. Like what a better answer to the action maybe, things like Brian Reitzell’s score for Hannibal. Like SiR, the latest TDE signing. He just put out this incredible song “W$ Boy” that I cannot wait to copy, that would be really fun for us to do.

Last question. Since you’re touring with the Lips, are you going to change your rider and graduate from eating Lay’s Beer & Brats chips?

Haha. Those were not on the rider.

Those were a gift then?

It’s a thing for us to go to the gas station and get what the weirdest potato chip flavor would be, so somebody always does that. We usually make it about two chips per person per bag until we decide it might be too stupid to continue.

You’ve been at it for a while, are you able to stay healthy on the road? What do you do when you get to a new town. Do you chill? Do you like to go record shopping? You’ll be near the beach in St. Pete, so…

I don’t remember the time we’ve had any real time off. Restaurants are the things we look up. Yeah, record stores, too. Coffee, and good restaurants everybody likes. We’ve been spoiled because we are riding with Basic who’s rider has coconut water and kombucha so we’ve been stealing that and ignoring the Fernet that they’ve been giving us.

Oh man, you can only drink so much Fernet.

As it turns out we did not know that was the case when we put it on our rider, but we soon found out. Yes we found our limit.

Yeah, it’s cool. The shirts are cool, and everyone that drinks it is usually pretty cool, but after a bunch of it you’re like ‘Holy shit I’m too old for this.”

We love it, and we’ve always had it on our rider, but only like one out of every 15-20 shows would actually get it. So we’d show up and be like, “Yes! It’s Fernet night,” but then every night it is really not okay. Turns out they’re reading our rider now.

Well thanks guys. Maybe I’ll pass some record store recommendation through Frank and Bekah. There’s a huge warehouse in the area, but I guess you guys don’t sample really — you make the sounds.

We still buy records though! We still listen to records.

Cool, well have a safe trip and see you soon.

See ya.

Listen to Splendor and Misery below. Get more information on clipping.'s show with the Flaming Lips via local.cltampa.com.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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