Q + A with Clint Breeze and The Groove

Photography by Michael Cottone

A day before a gig at the Hi-FI Annex on October 3rd, 2020, Carrington Clinton, also known as Clint Breeze, rehearses with his band at McGowan Hall in downtown Indianapolis. Prior to rehearsal, I sat down with Clint in the lounge of the historic hall and talked with him about his music, navigating COVID-19 as a band and musician & being an artist from Indianapolis, among other topics.

Michael Cottone: I like to start kind of simple for these kinds of interviews. What have you been listening to the last month or so that stands out to you?
Clint Breeze: I’ve been listening to the new Yussef Dayes & Tom Misch album, the new Brandy album, I’ve always got Thundercat in my rotation. Some more jazz stuff I’m into right now is like Derek Hodge, he’s a bass player & he just released an album like a month and a half ago.

MC: Have you heard the new Jeff Parker album?
Clint: Someone the other day just told me to listen to that!

MC: Definitely one of my albums of the year.
Clint: Cool, I’ll have to check that out!

MC: To switch gears a little bit, obviously there has been a lot of challenges in the last half year or so for everyone, especially for bands and local venues. How has your band, or even just you, navigated these challenges? Did you have big plans prior to COVID?
Clint: Well thankfully, we’ve been able to navigate through these challenges productively. Before COVID, we wanted to finish an album and we’ve still been able to do that. The biggest thing that’s been affected for us has been the amount of times we’ve gotten to play live. We had gigs right at the beginning that had to be cancelled, some that have been postponed and not made up yet, but we’ve played a decent amount of times to keep ourselves productive, through practice or gigs. We’ve also taken the time to do other things. We’ve done some videos with local artists and we have more of those coming out soon. The other thing we wanted to do was tour, but obviously no one’s able to do that right now.

MC: You mention that you were still able to cut and record an album, would you say this is the time for artists in general to figure out their new direction?
Clint: Definitely! It’s definitely the time to do it, to tap into our creative genius. Before COVID, life was so full of so many distractions and so it’s kind of slowed things down. When things slow down for artists, we always return to our core, which is creating, so it was positive in that way. I’ve definitely taken advantage of it. I’ve made a solo album, I’ve contributed to my brother’s new project, I’ve produced Pernell’s project, so I’ve kept busy.

MC: What lasting impacts do you think there will be as a result of all this?
Clint: I think people will view the creative process differently. I think people will also learn not to take things for granted, maybe take their craft more seriously or in a new direction. I read something the other day that said something like ‘we won’t return to normalcy, hopefully we’ll be something better,’ so hopefully we can. I hope for a fresh spirit in artist’s creativity and when more shows pop up hopefully there’s a new positive spirit in people’s interactions.

MC: Perhaps more collaboration.
Clint: Definitely more collaboration, more open-mindedness. Even taking things musically back to how they were in the 60s, creating new genres from politically charged moments. I think we’re in a similar time, where this is a pivotal moment for us to develop new ideas, so I think we’ll see lots of fresh material come as a result of this.

MC: To switch gears a bit more toward music, you’ve had a long path since your first Clint Breeze record about six years ago – and we’ll talk about your new album here in a second, but could you tell me how your band – Clint Breeze and the Groove – formed originally?
Clint: The band formed about four years ago. Originally when I was getting asked to do shows, I didn’t have a plan to implement what I made in the studio to be performed live. I didn’t have a turntable or anything like that, but since I’ve been a drummer for most of my life I wanted to do something different from my solo stuff and that kind of sparked this quarterly event that I did called Nightly Notable, where we’d put on this show at State Street Pub. The first Nightly Notable show was the debut of Clint Breeze and The Groove, where we played some of my solo stuff live and we did some jams as a band where other MCs would come up and rap over us. It was such a cool experience. When I realized how special it was, I was like ‘we should do this more often,’ and we all agreed. Since then, the band has seen a couple changes but for the most part we’ve been in the same direction. Thankfully it seemed like people in Indianapolis and this region have gravitated toward what we like to do and it’s been awesome.

MC: You guys definitely aren’t afraid of blending different kinds of sounds.
Clint: Yeah, we try to keep it a little different and as we’ve grown, we’ve become more collaborative. With that, you’re able to pull from different influences, you start writing songs differently. The way I approached writing originally was to have the band interpret what they hear in these beats that I made. So the first few shows we played were songs on my old albums or beats that I just had, then when we started to rehearse more we began writing stuff from scratch and we had a nice chemistry start up. Where certain people bring ideas to the table, then we’d work on structuring it and then we’d have what we had on Arrival or what you’ll hear on our new album. It’s definitely grown naturally & organically which is the best way to do it.

MC: Definitely! And you mention chemistry, that is imperative for a band like yours, something that’s jazz driven. How would you say your chemistry developed?
Clint: That’s a good question, I think it has a lot to do with time. I like to compare it to athletics. Any good team that’s seasoned or has veterans spends lots of time together, and also uses their own time developing their craft, training, etc. I feel like musicians are very similar, especially bands that tour or play super often. As musicians ourselves, we have to spend time with our instruments on a day-to-day basis. We have to take our health into consideration so we perform well. Since I’m a drummer, I may catch cramps if I don’t eat right that day, since Jared is a saxophonist or Pernell as a vocalist, they have tactics to keep themselves developing and right. Which in turn allows you to gel and get better as a team. You won’t get better if you don’t spend time together.

MC: Let’s move on to your new album. What were your inspirations or influences and what drove you to name it ‘We Good?’
Clint: When I conceptualized the album it was right around the time COVID hit, so I wanted to do a play on words there in regards to the time. There are some songs on there where I made the beats years ago. Like the last song that features Corbin Jones from LA, I made that at my parents crib, so that was around 2014. Certain things got recycled or refreshed. Before March I was like ‘I have some ideas,’ but I didn’t know when I’d finish them. I was given the time from the pandemic. The project was actually originally going to be a lot different, I wanted to do a little EP where I’d play drums on, maybe five tracks. But it turned into a bigger project, I was hitting people up and it became what it became. It was kind of…

MC: An experiment?
Clint: Absolutely, haha.

MC: Well I love the record first of all. I thought it flowed kind of like a mixture of J Dilla and MF DOOM.
Clint: That’s crazy, man! You’re actually not the first one that’s said that. That makes me feel like I’m doing something right. Kyle Long said that too. I tried to make the album flow seamlessly, because it’s like 16 songs, but it’s only 34 minutes. Some of them were around the one minute mark, but I thought it was a solid listen.

MC: It definitely was, I’d imagine condensing 16 songs into something like that isn’t easy at all. ‘Do U’ is probably my favorite. The vocals were just so sweet.
Clint: Right on man, I appreciate that! Yeah, Sarah went crazy on that one.

MC: A bit more out of context question, but when you have a creator’s block either yourself or in the band setting, what do you do to get over that?
Clint: For the band it’s hard to speak for everybody since we’re not together everyday, but personally, I try to listen to lots of different music and I try not to get too hands on. When I’m having creator’s block and I’m hands on, every idea doesn’t work. Something’s got to tell me ‘you gotta go make something.’ Because sometimes I’ll go through periods where I’m not really making beats and others where I’m making lots of them in a short period. But what COVID has taught me as a musician is to never stop playing drums, so I drum everyday. It helps tons from a musical standpoint, and that came first for me, and it helps me stay creating.

MC: I totally resonate with that. Learning not to force it can be difficult. My last question for you is what advice do you have for artists around here, in general?
Clint: Yeah, just be intentional with what you create, ya know? Once you find your intentions within your creativity, don’t be discouraged and don’t stop doing it. Art is like a way of speaking our life, so once you find a way to express it that way, don’t stop.

Be sure to listen to Clint Breeze’s new solo record ‘We Good’ and be on the lookout for an album from Clint Breeze and the Groove soon! They’ll also be playing at the Madame Walker theater on November 20th.

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