The Clientele

I Am Not There Anymore (Merge)

Contact Patrick Tilley about The Clientele

The Clientele — the cherished UK outfit composed of vocalist/lyricist/guitarist Alasdair MacLean, bassist James Hornsey, and drummer Mark Keen — presents “Dying in May,” the new single from their forthcoming album, I Am Not There Anymore, out July 28th on Merge. On “Dying in May,” Keen’s live drums weave around programmed drum and bass samples, creating something polyrhythmic and avant-garde. Following the serene lead single “Blue Over Blue,” “Dying in May” elucidates the range of genres The Clientele explore on I Am Not There Anymore, a 19-track journey that extends from light bossa nova beats to the band’s classic chamber pop.


Of the track, MacLean says: “I think ‘Dying in May’ is the first Clientele song with no guitar. It also has no chords, as such — it’s a drone, with french horn, cello and Mellotron. So the rhythm does a lot of the work — the drums and percussion are in 9/8, but the singing and instruments are in 4/4, so as each bar goes past, there’s a slightly different rhythmic emphasis. This was a complete accident, but I loved it when I heard it — the patterns are a bit disorientating, but there’s a pulse that goes through it. I almost feel I could dance to this, but not quite. It’s based on an Arabic flamenco rhythm.


“The words are all fragmented too — simple images repeating, like someone in a high fever. I took some inspiration from cante jondo, Spanish flamenco — there tend to be two or three very focused, repetitive images in the words. There was no way in hell I could play guitar along with these rhythms, so I scored out a simple melody which would leave space for the drums, and be something the bass could latch on to. By the end, the words go over and over, like someone beside themselves with grief. Hence the title. It’s a harrowing subject, but I think it’s presented with love — the song hopefully opens it out and lets some air in. It feels like an exorcism for me.”


I Am Not There Anymore regularly evokes what MacLean calls “the feeling of not being real.” A lot of the lyrics were inspired by MacLean’s memories of the early summer in 1997, when his mother died. Though the album functions as MacLean’s way of mourning, he notes that he’s not the kind of songwriter who ever sits down with a theme in mind. It’s more that “the music will bring images and then those images link of their own accord.” It’s a general mood he’s chasing with these loosely connected recollections.


The previous Clientele album, 2017’s Music for the Age of Miracles, arrived after a seven-year hiatus and featured the band’s familiar wistful melodies and haunting echo. Recording for I Am Not There Anymore began in 2019 and continued piecemeal until 2022 — in part because of the pandemic, but also because the band wanted to experiment. “We’d always been interested in music other than guitar music, like for donkey’s years,” MacLean says. This time out, the trio incorporated elements of post-bop jazz, contemporary classical and electronic music. According to MacLean, “None of those things had been able to find their way into our sound other than in the most passing way, in the faintest imprint.”


Over The Clientele’s  32-year career, critics and fans have often described their songs with words like “ethereal,” “shimmering,” “hazy,” “pretty” and “fragile.” MacLean, though, has his own interpretation of the effect his music creates. “It’s that feeling of not being there,” he says. “What’s really been in all the Clientele records is a sense of not actually inhabiting the moment that your body is in.” I Am Not There Anymore, as MacLean says, is all about “the memory of childhood but at the same time the impossibility of truly remembering childhood… or even knowing who or what you are.”


This August, The Clientele will embark on a U.S. tour, featuring stops at Bowery Ballroom in New York City,  Lodge Room in Los Angeles, Lincoln Hall in Chicago, and more. All dates are listed below and tickets are on sale now.


    Aug 09, 2023
    Somerville, MA
    Crystal Ballroom at Somerville Theatre

    Aug 10, 2023
    New York, NY
    Bowery Ballroom

    Aug 11, 2023
    Philadelphia, PA
    Underground Arts

    Aug 12, 2023
    Washington, DC

    Aug 13, 2023
    Durham, NC
    Motorco Music Hall

    Aug 15, 2023
    Chicago, IL
    Lincoln Hall

    Aug 17, 2023
    Los Angeles, CA
    Lodge Room

    Aug 18, 2023
    Pioneertown, CA
    Pappy and Harriet's

    Aug 20, 2023
    San Francisco, CA
    The Chapel

    Aug 22, 2023
    Portland, OR
    Mississippi Studios

    Aug 23, 2023
    Seattle, WA
    Tractor Tavern