From their earliest encounters, Clayton Frank and Neuman Mannas got along like two peas in a pod. No wonder they started a band.
Frank, a Comox Valley native, met his future Head of the Herd bandmate five years ago, when both lived in Vancouver. Their girlfriends were roommates, so Frank and Mannas would occasionally see each other in passing.
They knew very little about each other when Mannas popped an unusual question. “We had hung out a couple of times when he asked me to go with him to a football game in Boise, Idaho,” Frank, 29, said with a laugh.
“I said sure, but totally forgot about it until two months later when he said, ‘Hey, that football game is next weekend, what time do you want to leave?’ I had only hung out with the guy twice and now I was driving 14 hours each way to Boise.”
It was a fateful trip, one which saw the road warriors paint themselves bright blue, to match the home field colours of the Boise State Broncos college football team.
During a rest on the journey, they showed each other lyrics, snippets of songs they had been writing in private. Neither had much musical experience, Frank said, which probably helped break the ice. “We realized then that we had a lot of similar interests and common songwriting ideas. When we came back, our girlfriends left the scene, and we filled the void by writing our first album.”
The bluesy Vancouver band has since opened for Guns N’ Roses and Alice in Chains, among others, and was named in 2011 one of three winners in the Fox Seeds contest. Their hit from last year, By This Time Tomorrow, with vocals by Jasmin Parkin of Mother Mother, reached No. 1 in rock radio in Canada. The album of the same name was co-produced by Rick Jackett and James Black of Finger Eleven, and former Rage Against the Machine producer Gggarth Richardson.
To say the least, it has been a crazy ride for Frank, who is relatively new to the music business. He left Comox Valley for Victoria right after high school. It was here that his musical odyssey began.
“It’s where I got my first guitar,” he said. “An ex-girlfriend bought it for me for Christmas.”
Frank spent four years in Victoria. He left in 2007 to attend the University of B.C. He was studying for a degree in commerce when he met Mannas, who was studying economics.
The rest is history in the making.
What was your long-term plan before you joined the band?
I wanted to be a real estate developer. I was a project manager for a construction company in Vancouver when we started the band.
So why did you give up on that?
We were writing songs together, with no intentions of starting a band. We made some demos and showed them to some people and they said, ‘Hey, these are pretty good.’
When did you first get into playing music?
I didn’t get my first guitar until I was 19. This is my first band, which the guys in the band tease me about. They say I’m spoiled.
Your career has progressed pretty quickly, no?
Our first show was in March of 2011, which was my first-ever live show. Our Fox Seeds finale, at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, was our 10th show. It happened really fast.
How did your relationship with producer Gggarth Richardson come about?
We met him the night at the Commodore, and he said, ‘I want to work with you guys. Write songs, keep working, send them to me and we’re going to make a record.’
His studio, The Farm (formerly Little Mountain Sound), is regarded as one of the best around. Recording there must have been fun.
There is so much history in that studio. Mötley Crüe recorded there, Aerosmith record there, Metallica recorded there, the Cult recorded there. The drum sound you get out of the studio is incredible.
What was it like playing a few shows with Guns N’ Roses?
It was crazy, but it was so worth it. They opened the doors early so the place would be packed for us, and when you play a show like that, the whole backstage area is catered. There are chefs; you’re pampered. It’s definitely a lot different from a small club show where you get a case of beer and some tortilla chips.
And your gig with Alice in Chains?
Alice in Chains Unplugged is probably one of the most-played albums in my iTunes, so it was pretty rad. Playing on Canada Day when it was sunny, in front of 10,000 people at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, it was a trip. It was awesome.
What are your plans for the band in 2014?
The plan is to play as many shows as we can. There’s tentatively another 30 dates in the spring, and then festivals in the summer. The goal is to play as many shows as possible.
Head of the Herd performs Friday at Lucky Bar with MCM. Tickets are $15 at Ditch Records, Lyle’s Place, and ticketweb.ca. Show is at 10 p.m. Head of the Herd also performs Saturday at The Waverly in Cumberland.