Retrofitted pop band the Clientele had obvious roots in the hazy, autumnal glare of Galaxie 500 and Felt.
Just as those bands took their Velvet Underground and Television records to heart without being derivative, the Clientele were able to chalk up an extensive discography riddled with lush melodies of their own without sounding like a tribute band. Think of your favorite '60s pop band and odds are they're in the Clientele's blood.
The London-based band formed in mid-1997, consisting of Alasdair MacLean (guitar and vocals), Innes Phillips (guitar and vocals), James Hornsey (bass), and Howard (drums). Mark Keen replaced the academically occupied Howard toward the end of 1999; Phillips left early on to form the Relict, a group with a varied membership that has occasionally included Clientele members. After debuting on the Fierce Panda label's Cry Me a Liver compilation, the Clientele released a slew of singles, compilation contributions, and EPs in short order. Most significantly, March released A Fading Summer in 2000, an EP that harvested some of the band's hard-to-find singles and a couple new recordings. Later that year, the full-length Suburban Light (another compilation of previously recorded material) was issued by Pointy.
The band hooked up with Merge in early 2001, which issued Suburban Light in the U.S. months later. The Lost Weekend EP came out on Acuarela in 2002, which was followed a year later by their first proper album and Merge debut, The Violet Hour. Strange Geometry arrived in 2005, and in 2006 the band added keyboardist/violinist/percussionist Mel Draisey to its ranks. God Save the Clientele, which featured production by Mark Nevers of the band's U.S. labelmates Lambchop, was released in spring 2007. Bonfires on the Heath, another release for Merge, was issued during fall 2009. The Minotaur EP, which followed in August of 2010, was made up of songs recorded during the sessions for Bonfires on the Heath.
Despite the Clientele's claims of giving up touring after their worldwide jaunt promoting Bonfires, they returned to the U.S. for live dates after the EP's release. Soon after these dates, however, the group members announced they were going on indefinite hiatus. MacLean formed a new band called Amor de Dias, and the rest went their separate ways until re-forming (minus Draisey) to play a one-off show in 2013 at the Pop Revo Festival in Denmark. Things remained quiet on the recording front, and the band surprised many fans by scheduling a U.S. tour in early 2014 to coincide with Merge's 25th birthday festivities and the deluxe reissue of Suburban Light. The release of the career retrospective Alone & Unreal: The Best of the Clientele in September of 2015 provided the band another excuse to play a live show, while MacLean set fans' hearts aflutter by sharing the news in an interview that the band had one side of a new album finished. Indeed, MacLean had been working with an old friend, Anthony Harmer, on new songs, with MacLean coming up with words and music and Harmer working out arrangements. Hornsey and Keen soon joined them and the band went to work on their fifth album and first in seven years. 2017's Music for the Age of Miracles featured the core trio plus Harmer on guitars, vocals, keyboards, saz, and santoor (an Iranian string instrument) with a guest appearance by harpist Mary Lattimore. The album was released by Merge and Tapete in September of 2017. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi