Clay Ravens are a sweat-soaked foot-stomping indie folk band from Vancouver (Canada). Founded upon the guttural, honey-smoked harmonies of their vocal blend, Clay Ravens began as a singer-songwriter folk duo between siblings Justin and Brianne Huntley Smith. Now the band has evolved to incorporate Brendan Tydall’s shredding twang electric guitar style, Matt Cook-Contois’s legendary fiddle chops, Kelsey Butkus’s technical bass skills, and Tim Lanham’s hard-hitting beats.
Today we are pleased to team up with the group for the exclusive first listen of their new EP All In. The song brings the best of Americana and Folk music with a great modern touch that makes it appealing for both old and new fans of the genre.
About the EP the band comments
“We wanted to create a collection of songs that would capture the beauty in gritty Canadian stories of displacement, addiction, and friendship, using a poetic lens. What eventually became the All In EP is an intentional juxtaposition of raw folk and lush indie sounds to support the emotional dynamics of the stories we wanted to tell.”
In addition, we get to to sit with Justin to talk about the album and more!
Hi Justin, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hi VENTS. We’re doing great! We just returned from a really successful tour of Vancouver Island and people are responding really well to our new material. We’re really excited to share the recordings with everyone on October 26th!
Can you talk to us more about the title track from the EP, “All In”?
I was musing over the challenges I face as an artist and wondering why a rational person would ever put themselves through this struggle. You have to be courageous, insane or completely addicted to the creative process to want to make music these days. For me, it’s all of the above. All In is about accepting that if you’re going for the big highs get ready for some big falls. If I’m falling I want to be screaming “I’m All In” on the way down. Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Like all songs worth writing, the inspiration came from love, heartache and yearning for something greater. It wasn’t one particular event but there was a period of time when I decided “fuck it”, I’m going for all of it. There were some huge failures and some big successes; All In was inspired by all of those moments. Any plans to release a video for the single?
Yes, we’re shooting a music video with videographer Jesse Hood and it should be out by the end of the year. Why did you decide to name the EP after this track in particular?
Clay Ravens are “stuck in” right now. We’re really hitting our stride as a band and we’re giving it our all. The premise of the song All In captures where we are as a band so it was a perfect title for the EP. How was the recording and writing process for the EP?
I tend to write the songs alone or with my sister Brianne, we bring them to the band, and that’s when the magic happens. The songs on the EP started as bedroom folk songs but we crafted and arranged them together to produce the lush heavy folk sound you hear on the record. The song Railtie, which is one of my favorite songs to play, was written and arranged by Matt our fiddle player; I just had to add some lyrics.
Recording was great! We recorded at Fader Mountain Sound Studios with sound engineer Paul Boechler. We’ve worked with Paul before and we have great chemistry with him so recording was fantastic. Our goal was to capture our natural tone and vibe on the EP but we added some cowboy foot stomping and gang vocals for good measure. It’s always such a pleasure to play with these guys. We’re a real family and we have such a blast creating music together. What role does Vancouver play in your writing?
Three of the Clay Ravens grew up in a small community on Saltspring Island and that’s the location that inspires most of my writing. I write about my family farm and hometown more than I do about Vancouver although the city is dear to my heart as well. What aspect of displacement and addiction did you get to explore on this record?
The All In EP touches on some tough human issues but the overarching positive theme is about riding out the hard times with those you love and fondly remembering the places you’ve called home.
I do feel a sense of displacement from my home on Saltspring Island and I think that feeling comes through in the song Draft Dodger. I have a nostalgic view of my hometown and most of my immediate family lives there, so I miss it all the time. The longing that the character in Draft Dodger feels for the home he’s been displaced from, mirrors my feelings about my hometown.
I was playing with the idea of being addicted to music throughout this EP and the Clay Ravens love their whiskey, but the song Grown Ass Man was specifically inspired by the feelings I had for my close friend while he was dealing with drug addiction. The lyrics “we’ll ride it out together”, refer to my commitment to my friend regardless of any challenges in our way.
Any plans to hit the road?
Yes, we’re currently planning our next tour into the interior of British Columbia in early 2018 and we’ll be touring the festival circuit in the summer of 2018. What else is happening next in Clay Ravens’ world?
We’re already writing our next EP and we plan to get back into the studio to record when we return from our British Columbia interior tour.