So they’re stopping back home with a catchy new name and a foot fetish. Now called Slow Claw, these three former members of Cincinnati favorites Junior Revolution return for Cincinnati gigs and a one-mile barefoot walk through Northside to kick the Tom's Shoes cause up a notch.
See, each time someone buys a pair of Tom’s, the company hands over a pair to a child in need. Since 2006, the company has donated shoes to 80,000 children. (See tomsshoes.com for more on the cause.)
“We toured Florida with a band who wore the shoes constantly,” Slow Claw drummer Chris Denholm says. “Generally people who like our music like the shoes. It made sense. We’re gonna do our best to get the word out.”
JRev was a more straight-up, light-hearted Pop band, while Slow Claw ventures into Indie territory. But when it comes to touring, they’re still true drifters with a case of hardcore, happy wanderlust.
About a year ago, Denholm crashed on singer/ guitarist Rob Barnes’ couch. Brian Miller (bass) was floating around, living in the JRev practice space in Northside.
“I lived in a ’91 Corolla for a month or two,” Miller says.
A mustache is hard to pull off, but Miller does it well. He’s proud of his heritage. Look at the Swiss flag tat on his arm. Quietly grinning, he says, “Guess I’m a man of few words.”
Late one recent evening, the three pumped out songs that strayed from the JRev material, and the fresh material took on a new turn; Barnes’ newfound voice became clear. Steady. Speaking, his tone is deep, with a hippie edge. Singing, it’s medium crisp, nothing hippie about it. He’s the bearded one in the old time hat.
This past December, when a drunken friend mispronounced “cole slaw,” Slow Claw was officially born.
“Every night after work, we stayed up ’til 3 in the morning trying to get everything up and running, basically starting a new project from scratch,” Denholm says. “You need to get all your designs, labels, Web site, all that stuff, and (Barnes) was booking shows.”
Denholm has dark eyes, dark hair and distinct, sharp features. He’s the cleanshaven one. Driven and focused, he trusts in the move to Nashville.
“I definitely needed to make a change for my future, personally,” he says. “Starting over. Not too many people know us in Nashville, and it’s a good city to do music as a living, either as musicians or to work in the business side.”
No time was wasted. In January, Slow Claw bolted to South Carolina to record their debut album, Grandfather Clocks with Joel T. Hamilton of The Working Title (formerly of Universal Records). Denholm had met Hamilton at a Southgate House show.
Slow Claw pumped out their debut in 11 days.
“We lived at (Hamilton’s) house for 15 days,” Denholm says. “I’m really happy with how it came out. It’s not too long. The songs don’t sound the same. It’s dynamic and loud, but quiet sometimes.”
“It was a challenge, because none of us have been in a three-piece band before,” Barnes says. “Now Brian has more opportunities to fill it up with bass. … I think there were only one or two songs with two guitar parts.”
Rather than urgency, the vocals present more of a smooth ride. Slow Claw takes traditional Pop, dissecting it, putting it through the wandering wringer, then circling back to structure. At times, lingering sounds allow for playtime and flow. Think of the sway of swings. They might throw in a banjo or an organ.
“Everybody” stands out strong — well-balanced with more subtle dynamics that give it an all-over, solid, emotional feel. “Self-Erased” is a quiet, longing acoustic gem. Barnes’ lyrics grab the feel with a concrete fist: “My knees hit the street/ Shorty, won’t you drive me home?”
“I think there will always be a catchiness to our music,” Barnes says. “I grew up on a lot of ’70s Pop on my mom’s minivan radio. When I write, I like it to be fluid. It just kind of moves. As long as we can wander a little bit, and it still makes sense, and we can bring it back, I like people not necessarily knowing.”
“Just being a three-piece makes it different,” Barnes says. “You can really take advantage of each part,” as in “Sprinkle Sprinkle,” where the drums lead the way, carrying it.
In July, Slow Claw will hit New York, drumming up a full U.S. tour come August.
“If we’re gonna be in a band, we have to tour our ass off, basically,” Denholm says. “It’s the only way. We don’t have advertising dollars. The best way to do it is to play, show people who we are and keep coming back to the communities.”
Miller agrees: “I’m a military baby. I’ve never really had a permanent home. I’ve been moving all my life. Probably will be from here on out.”
Whether searching for couches or walking barefoot, Slow Claw is on the move, with a feel as independent as a swift, fast train hopper.
“This is it,” Denholm says. “I mean, you’re looking at the booking, the management, the PR, the art department, everything. No one else is gonna do it for us. It’s us. That’s it.”
Slow Claw (slowclaw.com) rocks the Madison Theater Friday with The Sundresses, The Guitars, The Host, Lemon G, Wake the Bear and Wonky Tonk. The Tom's Shoes walk is 2 p.m. Saturday starting at Northside Tavern, with an acoustic performance following. Get show details and find nearby bars and restaurants here.