Nothing small about Junior Clooney

Written by Johnny Pelhank

Being in a band for so long in the St. Louis scene, you make a ton of friends. That’s one of the reasons I love the music scene here. It’s not about being a celebrity here. It’s about making good music and being good people. The music scene in St. Louis spans over every genre and inspiration, and you will find a festival or concert just about every day somewhere within the spans of the city and county. I take it as part of my mission for Exist to scour the lands in search of music to create a more solid recollection of our time here. As I follow many musicians I find they move in many directions. My friend Travis Dodds once played in a band called The Engineered, and after he moved on I didn’t hear from him for a while. Then about a month ago I saw him posting about his new band Jr. Clooney. I checked out there music and listened through there EP and its jazzy melodic structure about 10 times in a row. Ok maybe I over exaggerated, but I completely got lost in the music. I wanted to know more about these guys so I messaged them and asked if they would tell me more! Here’s that conversation:

Exist- I know Travis from before so I assume you all have been playing in bands for a while. Tell me about your guys previous bands. Where did you come from?

JC/Paul Heitert (guitarist): I grew up learning to play saxophone and guitar when I was around 10 and played throughout college. I didnt start a real band until high school when i played metal music with some friends. After I was done with that, I started a 3 piece post-rock band called “LzBnz.” (lesbians) that toured a tiny bit and played around town a lot. Through those shows I met Jack (our drummer) and we started a heavy screamo band (that’s still very much active) called Laika that has done lots of touring around the midwest and south, and numerous local shows. I met Sam (bassist) while we were both studying music at Webster University in 2010-11. Travis and I met through Jack the day we started Jr. Clooney. The week beforehand, we were standing right next to each other at a TTNG show and didnt know it til that day. The others probably have a lot to say about this too, but for the moment, i will let you know that Jack was previously of the bands Badgerhunt and Mids, Sam was in emo bands Torchlight Red and Family Might, Travis was in a progressive metal band called The Engineered.*emo/post-rock.

JC/Travis (guitarist): I was in the engineered which focus a lot on prog metal. But even before that I have a solo project that I still do from time to time called Polar. Polar was where I really started when It came to jazz, post rock and math rock. I was also in Laika for a year and half and play on their latest release. I’m now only in jr clooney which started with me and Jack jamming all day together, then Paul and Sam came over the following evening to jam with us. I pretty much met everyone through Jack. I’m originally from Arkansas and started playing with friends there back when I was 14.

E- It sounds like Jr. Clooney was fate! So the EP that you guys just released is amazing. Pure instrumentals. Is this just the early stages of the band before you bring in vocals? Or is the sound pure enough as it is? And who is designing your album? I love the photograph!

JC- By definition, it feels to me like the closest idea of fate considering the odds against meeting the ones you love and love to play with. We do not know for certain about vocals, we have some songs written out with vocals but don’t know what we will keep still in the writing process.

JC/Travis: For sure fate did seem to play a roll here haha! 2 years in the making! Yeah vocals were on our minds for a bit but as of late we kinda like the instrumental vibe is a good direction so far. Paul and I kinda use our leads as vocal melodies often. A ton inspiration from our love for jazz.

JC/Paul: The person who took the photo is Chloe Happe! She is a really awesome friend of ours and a great photographer! The boy in the tub is Johnathan Olson.

E-When writing your songs is there a process that guides the construction of the song or are you guys more like jazz and just let it happen?

JC/Paul: For me it’s always seemed like a little of both. Sometimes we’ll come in with riffs/songs laid out and ready to arrange, other times you’ll have a simple idea and just jam on it for a while and see what ideas pop into our heads on the spot. Lately i feel like we’ve been inspired enough to compose on our own and then bring large pieces of a song in for everyone to work on and tweak from there. But anythings fair game, thats key to us. *my 2 cents*

E- Jr. Clooney is still pretty fresh. Have you guys had any crazy stories as this band? Or what is your craziest on the road story

JC/Travis :We have only been on tour once before but when we played meat spin in Austin me and Paul went behind these bushes at the fest to take a pee pee and we had a musical heart to heart while pee peein.

JC/Paul: Also we booked an entire tour with no one ever having heard our band before. Every show we’ve played and any attention we received before the release of “EP” was purely by word of mouth since we had no records other than a few youtube videos from past shows, which i think is cool.

E- So Travis, what was the subject of the heart to heart? Did you guys become sword fighting bro’s? lol and Paul, That is really amazing. I think that will add to the OG fans that will be around with you in the future. “I knew Jr. Clooney before Jr. Clooney knew they were Jr. Clooney” I can hear them saying it now! How were those shows? How did the crowd respond?

JC/Travis: we just agreed to never play music to fit into a scene and not jump on an over saturated band wagon and make music for music. The crowds always responded really well. I think they expected like the sound to be completely different than how we sound. So getting that 5 seconds of silence after we would play then huge woos and claps was always fun to experience.

E- There’s nothing better than being on stage and hearing a pleased crowd.

JC/Paul: Those shows were amazing. They obviously had no clue what to expect from us, and i certainly don’t think they were expecting how technical and melodic we can be. I was overjoyed to look up 30 seconds into our set and seeing people’s head’s bobbing mechanically and mouths wide open in surprise. I definitely felt extremely appreciated as a musician, and im sure everyone else did too. Everyone afterwards was talking to us like they were instant fans of our music, and they were really disappointed that we didnt have a real record for them to have at the time.

JC/Sam: Some people ask about the origins of our band name. Currently, I think the best response is “A two word poem.”

E- Where did you guys record the EP?

JC/Sam: At a church in South City St. Louis (all drums). The rest of it at Chuck Parson’s house. He has a good set-up there.

JC/Paul: Drums were recorded in a church called “Chapel for The Exceptional” in South St. Louis City. Guitars were at our recording engineer/best bud Chuck Parsons house.

JC/Travis- We recorded in the sanctuary! To get that great true drum reverb.

E- That’s amazing! How did you get permission to record in the church? Who is Chuck Parson? Does he have a local scene background?

JC/Sam: I got an offer from a friend to go rafting. His neighbor was taking us. So, I met his neighbor and he runs the church with his wife. Started recording drums there about a month later. Chuck Parson became a friend of ours about a year ago. He is a musician, has some local scene background, and has done a lot of recording. He saw us at a show in a Mexican restaurant and told us he would be glad to record us. He deserves a lot of credit because he gives local bands great quality recordings for a hella fair price, because he believes in doing that. And be on the lookout, I think he is in the process of recording and then releasing some of his own music

E- I love to hear about good people like Chuck. Did you run into any problems while recording? Scheduling conflict or stuff like that?

JC/Sam: Trucking all the gear into and out of the church was a bit wild, but overall, I think it ran smoothly.

E-Do you play a full 8×10 sam? I remember the “joy” of hauling mine around when i played. I eventually got a smaller one for smaller gigs. Dream big though right?

JC/Sam: Lol. I am always playing through different gear. For this tour, I’ll be using some of those real nice Mills Custom Cabs.

E- Thats great you’re even using equipment produced locally! I have never played on one but I’ve seen them in action! Do any of you use any super secret set up to get your sound? custom pedals?

JC/Paul: I recorded my guitar parts completely on a Mills Custom head. Travis used a Fender Deville. I would say we utilize layering a lot of reverb and delays, and we sneak in some chorus here and there. Mainly each of us just uses one drive pedal each, an assortment of reverbs and delays, and a chorus.

JC/ Travis: Lol the best thing I have is my guitar and relatively cheap pedals we are mainly clean so we just really make sure our tone on our amps is on point along with overdrive on our pedals. But yeah mills custom is literally the best amps I’ve ever played through so glad the are Doing back line for this tour. Also stag horn is one of sickest post rock bands I’ve heard and they really display what kind of power an clarity mills brings. Well actually we use a ton of delay and reverb. Paul and I both use 2 delays at the same time on some parts.

E- I can’t wait to see you guys play live! I didn’t see any St. Louis dates on the tour …?

JC/ Travis- Well technically this last Saturday was the tour kick off at Dugan house but jr just left later because of work an stuff.

E- Is there a song that hits home the most for you?

JC/ Travis- I will say the song Saint of inner light provokes an overcoming type feeling when I play it. Like I just climbed Mount Everest or something.

Thanks to the guys in Junior Clooney for giving me some insight into this new work. Be sure to go check them out and go download their music for any price you want to contribute on band camp!

And see them live here:
10.08.15 Springfield, MO @ Front of house lounge
10.09.15 Witchita, KS October 9th 2015 – @ Kirby’s
10.10.15 Oklahoma City, OK** @ Ten/Pen
10.11.15 Denton, TX @ Gatsby’s Mansion
10.12.15 Austin, TX @ MonkeyWrench Books
10.13.15 EL Paso, TX @ Mesa Music Hall
10.14.15 Tempe, AZ @ 51 west art space
10.15.15 Flagstaff, AZ @ The Cabin
10.17.15 Santa Fe, NM @ Ghost
10.18.15 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Underground
10.19.15 Larmie, WY @ Babe Haus
10.20.15 Fort Collins, CO @ Art Lab
10.21.15 Colorado Springs, CO @ FLUX
10.23.15 Minneapolis, MN @ The Broke Haus
10.24.15 Milwaukee, WI @ Quarters
10.25.15 Carbondale, IL @ The Skihaus