Bassist Amy Humphrey and drummer Joe Hayes have learned to deal with the naysayers. In fact, they embrace these skeptics
“When we were trying to get our sound together for this project, a lot of people kept telling us that you can't play rock music without a guitar. We were like, 'Why not?' That made us that much more determined to make it work,” Hayes says
So far their quest has proven victorious
As the sole members of Clatter, Humphrey and Hayes have turned their rhythm-section talents into a fully realized band. The married duo benefits from the lilting vocals and nimble bass playing of Humphrey and the thunderous-yet-tasty stick skills of Hayes
Clatter’s latest record, “Monarch,” marks yet another creative step for this harmonious couple. The dozen-song effort strikes a sonic balance between the aggressive and the emotional, the restrained and the complex
"Everything has been an evolution with our sound," Humphrey admits. "Our biggest strength is we're not easily pigeonholed.
Humphrey and Hayes first met while students at Kansas University when a mutual guitarist friend invited the pair to form a trio. Although the band went nowhere, the couple's relationship flourished
They got married and graduated KU the same year -- Hayes earning a degree in English literature, and Humphrey netting two, one in French and one in Russian (a skill that allowed her to pen a tune called "Nevsky Prospekt," which she sings entirely in Russian)
In the early '90s when the grunge scene was in full swing, the couple decided to pull up stakes and move to Seattle
The two formed the quartet Clatter Bean and recorded an EP with producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), which led to a few months of touring. Yet soon the allure of the West Coast wore thin, and the pair stumbled upon a great opportunity to return to the Midwest
Hayes' grandparents' farm outside of rural Bunceton, Mo. (population 300), had fallen into disrepair subsequent to the elders’ decision to move into town. The young couple chose to adopt the 125-acre homestead, taking a career gamble that the relocation could actually benefit the band
"When we wanted to go on tour, we had to drive and drive just to get to the next town -- there's not a whole lot up in the Northwest when you leave the Seattle/Portland area," Humphrey recalls. "Whereas in Missouri, you're in the middle of everything. From a touring standpoint, living in the central U.S. is nice.
At this point the ensemble had dropped both the singer and the Bean, now performing as a trio named Clatter. The act issued its first full-length disc, "Brood," before parting ways with the guitarist
Humphrey and Hayes then decided to approach hard rock music from an entirely different vantage point. They chose to incorporate the dynamic rhythmic foundation that was always a cornerstone of their sound with something altogether unique
"We got the idea of adding distortion and other tones to the bass to make it sound more guitar-like. We worked and worked on it and tried different equipment and effects pedals and everything else. And we finally hit upon something that sounds really cool," Humphrey recalls
That led to Clatter's first record as a duo, 2003's "Blinded By Vision." The pair logged 50,000 miles on the ensuing tour
"Our first album appealed to the bass fans," Humphrey says. "And for the second album we thought, 'How can we expand on this next album? How can we make it more broadly accessible?' One of the big things I worked on a lot was singing, because I always thought of myself as a bass player first.
The result was the more melodic 2007 release "Monarch," which included the hammering single (and spacey retro video for) "House of Trouble," as well as a cover of the Rush classic "Limelight.
In addition to touring, Clatter has discovered with its recent records how valuable a tool the Internet is for getting its music out to the masses
"I've been really active in bass forums online. A lot of our CD sales have been online; there are people from all over the world we've sold CDs to," says Humphrey of the reach www.clatter.com
In addition, a 12-string bass demonstration Humphrey posted on YouTube has been viewed almost 25,000 times
"It's been really exciting that other bass players out there find inspiration in what I'm doing," she says. "Because that's what it's all about--trying to show that the bass can stand on its own as an instrument.
Standing on its own seems to be the common thread when discussing Clatter. It's a band where unity and individuality always walk hand in hand. And that spirit can't help but connect with people
"We appeal to punk rock kids or old classic rock dudes or people who like thrash metal -- just people who want something different than mainstream top 40," Hayes says
"We have this broad appeal for people who are on the fringe.
When Joe and Amy aren't on the road, they seek refuge on their farm that they converted into a wildlife preserve, having planted native warm-season prairie grasses and over 7,000 trees. They write and rehearse music in the studio they built out of a dilapidated chicken house, using reclaimed and recycled materials.