Wonderfully named idiosyncratic singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay — whose approach has been described as "Lou Reed singing Buddy Holly songs" — spent fifteen-odd years fronting the rootsy, sometimes rollicking Clem Snide before heading out on his own. He recently released his second solo offering, Lose Big, a fantastic collection of sharp, understated indie-pop tunes. We caught up with the wry, friendly Barzelay at his home in Nashville:
Westword: You've been pretty busy this year with all the touring behind Lose Big...
Eef Barzelay: Yeah, well, I'm trying to keep the dream alive.
Is it still dreamy?
It's gotten less dreamy. More reality has crept in over the years. It's different for me now — I have a wife and kids and a mortgage, whereas before I was a little more carefree about it all. But I think I've gotten better at making music. I can sorta get my hands around it more.
Is it freeing to be making music under your own name now as opposed to being in Clem Snide?
Well, Clem Snide was pretty much just me for the last few records. Clem Snide began sort of ending right as it started doing something. Around 2001, when The Ghost of Fashion came out, is when it started falling apart, and it was a long, slow, somewhat painful demise.
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Looking back, why do you think it ended?
I've seen behind the curtain, and I know what it takes to be successful, which means everybody in the band has to sacrifice everything in their lives for at least two years. You have to tour constantly, and you have to make a great record, and then make an even better record, and stay on message, and we just didn't do that. So looking back, I'm not surprised it worked out the way it did. Life sort of got in the way.
You're happier now?
I'd say so. I function much better in more intimate environments. My desire has been to get a lot quieter with music. I really don't wanna do a big rock thing anymore. I am a family man. That's what I am, and I'm happy for that. I'm not gonna lose my family for rock and roll. Sometimes I feel like rock and roll is mad at me for that, because rock and roll is a very demanding mistress; she wants it all, man. But, yeah, I'm pretty happy with the way things are going now.