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Indie rocker Eef Barzelay returns to Savannah for intimate performance

 

Indie rocker Eef Barzelay returns to Savannah for intimate performance

29 May 2017

 

 

Throughout a storied, nigh three-decade career, Eef Barzelay has marched to his own beat, pushing aside industry tropes to forge an unorthodox path built on a bedrock of solid songwriting.

It would be easy to toss Barzelay in the singer/songwriter ether, lumping him in with a host of musicians who cut their teeth on Neil Young and Hank Williams, as he did. But Barzelay’s multi-dimensional career is not so easily quantified.

Born in New Jersey, Barzelay took flight in the early 1990s at the helm of a group of friends in Boston who formed the alternative/indie-rock outfit Clem Snide — a name taken from a rather infamous character from several William S. Burroughs novels.

“I wasn’t into like John Prine or even [Bob] Dylan that much,” Barzelay said of the early days. “I listen more to bands — The Stooges. I never got that big into, like, James Taylor.

“I can’t play nice guitar. I was more of a rocker dude. I liked old country as well, like Hank Williams. That’s how I learned to write songs. The first songs I tried to figure out were Hank Williams songs. That’s a good way to ground it. Those three Neil Young records, ‘Zuma,’ ‘On the Beach’ and ‘Tonight’s the Night.’ Those records, early on, had a big influence on me.”

Clem Snide garnered attention from the music industry, which at the time was slowing down and about to face a major shift with the coming digital age and the internet of free music. Their third album, “The Ghost of Fashion” via SpinArt Records, catapulted the band into the mainstream. The popular NBC program “Ed” used the track “Moment in the Sun” from the album as its theme song for the second season.

Clem Snide, however, faced internal problems. The band broke up and reunited on several occasions. They regrouped in 2009 and released a sixth record, followed by their seventh in 2010. Television again became an advantageous medium for the band with the track “Faithfully” appearing on the Showtime series, “Californication.” Barzelay’s songs have also shown up on a BBC nature show, CBS’ “The Good Wife” and the Netflix series “Love.”

Barzelay began releasing solo albums under his name in 2006. He recorded the music for the movie “Rocket Science” in 2007. After working with several record companies, SpinArt, Lakeshore Records and 429 Records, Barzelay began releasing his material via Bandcamp in 2011, skipping the industry machine and putting his work directly out to fans.

Which is where we find him these days, a solidified American songwriter, producing the music he wants and releasing it how he wants.

“I’ve managed to get my ducks in a row, for the most part,” Barzelay said. “Seems to be working. I am independent. I am a free agent.

“It’s kind of worked out for me in terms of the music business,” he continued. “I got into it in the late ’90s, right as the party was winding down. It was all starting to crumble. Then the internet came around and changed everything. But the internet also made it possible for me to actually do what I am doing. It kind of killed it in one sense, but it created a new thing at the same time.

“I got to say, this new thing is pretty good. It works for me. I have to hustle. It’s the gig economy.”

In 2015, Clem Snide released Barzelay’s latest batch of tunes, their 14th studio album, “Girls Come First.” This is where it gets confusing. Truthfully, Clem Snide hasn’t been a band for some time now. For Barzelay, the moniker has simply represented the joy of collaboration with fellow musicians, and not so much a singular sound.

“I go back and forth,” Barzelay said. “At this point, I am probably done putting out anything under the name Clem Snide. Never say never. I’ve killed Clem Snide several times and brought it back. I am not sure what that says about me. I am just trying to be me. For my perspective, with writing songs, I just write whatever songs I am writing at that time.”

Barzelay’s expansive discography exists in a musical realm free of easy compartmentalization. He laments about love in slow, weary acoustic folk songs. He expands into the indie-rock world with distorted guitars and full bands on both his solo albums and with Clem Snide. He writes alternative country songs soaked with steel guitar and then spaces off with singer/songwriter ballads.

Barzelay returns to Savannah after playing the Lucas Theatre in 2008 — at perhaps the apex of his mainstream career — as the opening act for Ben Folds Five. For his return, he’s joined a host of venerated indie rockers who use a different vehicle for live performances these days.

Undertow was founded in 2006 with the idea of putting an artist directly in the laps of fans, through the Living Room Show series. Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Eric Bachmann (Archers of Loaf, Crooked Fingers), Chris Staples (Discover America, Twothirtyeight), David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), Barzelay and more tour The Living Room circuit. Bachmann and Bazan have both performed in Savannah this year.

Barzelay will bring his latest music to Revolution: Savannah’s Yoga Studio on June 2. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance.

“It works out great,” Barzelay said. “It’s a nice experience. It’s like the underground for middle-aged people.”

IF YOU GO

What: Living Room Show: Eef Barzelay

When: 8 p.m. June 2

Where: Revolution: Savannah’s Yoga Studio, 204 W. Victory Drive

Cost: $25

Info: undertowtickets.com

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