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Joshua Clifton (The New Jerseys) - Sound In The Signals Interview


I recently had the opportunity to interview Joshua Clifton, currently of Ravenhill, about his time in The New Jerseys. We discussed some of his musical influences, his songwriting, how the band formed, and his other bands from over the years. Check it out below.

 

First, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about The New Jerseys.

Thank you for having interest in a very fun time in my life. A time I was just figuring out who I was. 

 

Can you tell us about what initially got you interested in punk rock and emo music? What made you want to be in a band?

Man, I was into popular Alternative & punk,like THE RAMONES, GREEN DAY and THE CLASH when I was a kid, but MXPX  was my gateway band into an obsession with punk music.  After that I ran crazy through those bands I mentioned earlier along with everything from THE KINKS & BAD RELIGION to SAVES THE DAY & FURTHER SEEMS FOREVER.  Those bands were the the perfect soundtrack for a kid like me.   Break-ups were eased by the melodies of THE GET UP KIDS  & we rocked out to REFUSED in diner parking lots.   These prophets fueled our adolescent desire for fun & the American Punk Rock Way!

We watched these guys & gals perform on ST LOUIS or Chicago stages and thought, I think I can do that.   We drove passed hours of cornfields back home and learned how to make a power chord.   It started a wild fire destroying all of our parents clean cut sons and daughters and punk rock was to blame. 

 

You joined the members from Frontline to form The New Jerseys. Do you remember how it worked out for you to join the band and why you chose the name The New Jerseys?

Well this is a much bigger story that’s just me joining members of Frontline to form The New Jerseys.    

Everything starts with a band called “LEAN DOWN FOR NEIL”.   Neil Endicott (PUSHOVER,AN EPIC NO LESS), Lyle Chastain, David Curtis & myself (Joshua Clifton) decided to start a band to play one show at The Basement in Carmi, IL the following week.  We had one week to write the songs, learn them, & perform them.  We played that one show & loved it.   We started playing shows & recorded an ep with JOSH PLEMON ( S.S.BOUNTY HUNTER) at Room 12.   It was very punk/emo and very influenced by SAVES THE DAY & THE JULIANA THEORY.

After a while, David Curtis got really busy with SIDE WALK SLAM, making it hard for him to make shows.  Honestly, we may have just assumed he was too busy & wanted to play shows.  I probably owe him an apology.  At this time, someone had the idea to combine Frontline & L.D.F.N. since Neil & Lyle were members of both.   It would mean, I would move to just sing,  Neil would move from drums to guitar. Lyle would stay at guitar.  BEN ARNOLD (PUSHOVER) would play bass & Thomas Poole (BE MY DOPPELGĂ„NGER) would play drums. So, fans of Frontline would see us as just adding me as their new lead singer.   I had already talked about changing LEAN DOWN FOR NEIL’s  name to THE NEW JERSEYS & the Frontline guys liked it.  I remember looking at a band button that had the state of New Jersey on it.  I just thought it sounded cool.  Ultimately, that version of The New Jerseys, was short lived.  Although we were and remained friends, Thomas Poole & I didn’t work well in a band together.  I believe we split then.  They started the first Run Kid Run & everyone but Thomas continued with me in The New Jerseys.   That first Run Kid Run would break up & shortly after that. Neil Endicott would then join David Curtis in Side Walk Slam.  After one record Side Walk Slam would change their name to RUN KID RUN.   Crazy, huh?


What were some of your biggest influences for that band? Who were some of your biggest vocal influences at the time?

Of course all the bands I stated before, so I’ll use this moment to talk about vocals....

I remember hearing CHRIS CARRABA sing on Further Seems Forever's “The Moon Is Down” and feeling the pain in the vocals.  Then I remember hearing Saves The Day’s CHRIS CONLEY’s thought provoking poetic melodies and learned how to share who I think I am.

Those are a couple of big influences during that time. They inspired & pushed me. Whether it was acting or legitimate,  their art & how they performed spoke to me.  There were other singers that influenced me in other ways that weren’t exactly in the punk or emo genre, here are a few:

RAY CHARLES is the G.O.A.T. at everything music to me.  JOHNNY CASH was the greatest at being punk, country, a bad ass, & a genuine caring  good pastor at the same time.  

FREDDIE MERCURY (QUEEN) & ROBERT PLANT (LED ZEPPELIN) are as obvious of a mention as THE BEATLES but all of these introduced a symphony of melodies full of heart, pain, rhythm & emotion.  These melodies spinning from my parents  and now my record collection.  I’m grateful for my parents taste and it’s influence on the artist I am, as much as the artists music we listened to itself.  It was my Mom singing I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND by THE BEATLES to me while she rocked me to sleep that taught me how to sing.  My fathers love for the tone and attitude of CREDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL’s  Swamp rock or him explaining the pain in OTIS REDDING’s voice, helped me find mine!   In all reality my musical education, my love for the history of music, my tastes & any ability to entertain anyone, mostly likely didn’t begin the first time I heard my fathers record needle find the groove while laying in my crib.  It most likely started closer to my grandfather listening to HANK WILLIAMS as a young man with his fiddle.  Putting him on a path to play with & produce music with BOB WILLIS & THE TEXAS PLAYBOYS.  I believe our musical roots are deep & we are all connected.  I love that thought anyway.  It gives me hope that we are all more alike than we tend to act like.  
 

What was your songwriting process like for the band?

I believe it was several different ways but I believe most were written either by one of us bringing a skeleton of a song & we’d build it from there or sometimes I’d have pretty full ideas.   If that happened, or if one of the guys had a song that was pretty much finished we’d allow for the other members to put their flavor on it.  They were a fun bunch of guys to write with.  I don’t think anyone had a ton of ego.  If anyone had that, it was me.  You’d have to ask one of the other guys, if being in a band with me back then, was difficult.   It’s possible.  Being in a band is a weird thing.  Especially when you’re a teenager.  I’m sure I was an unintentional asshole a time or two.  There were several other members in The New Jersey’s over the years,  actually a lot.   The members that helped in pivotal release times are the before mentioned and the following: JORDAN WANKEL ( BRIAN LEE & HIS ORCHESTRA), ERIK BELFORD (SHILOH), & I’m 100 % sure I’m forgetting some others.
 

I remember seeing the band at a Side Walk Slam show, you didn’t play that night, but you were all there, and you told us about the upcoming songs. I remember when they went up on mp3.com. Do you remember the fan reaction to those songs?

Yeah!  I remember everyone, in our small world, digging it.   I couldn’t believe it.  It was kind of crazy.  It was about the time our local high schools started asking us to play functions.  We were hooked on rock n roll for sure.  It’s a shame we didn’t record more.  We had plenty of more live songs than we ever got recorded.   Recording was tougher at that time.  I’d love to relearn and record some of those songs but it would be a ton of work since we are all over the U.S. right now.


What was the recording experience like for those songs? Where did you record them?

We were at the mercy of who ever was producing it.  We recorded with Josh Plemon at Room 12 in Dongola or Anna Illinois.  We also recorded with JOSHUA ADKINS ( THE KILROYS) in West Frankfort, IL.   We recorded at this place in the back of a music store in Herrin, Illinois, but I can’t remember what it was called.  A guy named Dave ,that in my memory looked like a young Mike Myers, recorded us.  

 

Do you have a favorite show you played with The New Jerseys?

Several moments come to mind & most of those just involve my friends & being loud, fast, dumb, & loving life.  It was awesome.  We had a great community that I believe ultimately cared for each other, which led to great shows.  We had a ton of great shows put on by DARREN HALL (DIRTY HALL PROMOTIONS), TODD LARSON (CLOCKTOWER SHOWDOWN, SKUF, AN EPIC NO LESS), myself & too many others to mention.  Those were key players, that booked for THE LIVING ROOM (MT VERNON), CLC (HERRIN), THE BURG (WEST FRANKFORT), PK’s (Carbondale), HOSHI’s (WEST FRANKFORT) & many others.

Actually,  I do remember one show called “NEW YEARS ROCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF!” that I put on at the Herrin Civic Center.  I don’t recall all who played but I remember a few.  SIDE WALK SLAM, THE KILROYS, THE NEW JERSEY'S,  & it was Emcee’d by comedian MATT JONES (LOOK UP HIS COMEDY), who is now based in Los Angeles.  I believe he was only 12 years old or maybe 14,  but he was young & funny.  


  The Frontline guys went on to form Run Kid Run after The New Jerseys. Why did you decide to leave the band?

Like I said before in a previous long winded answer, the RUN KID RUN that I “separated” from was not the same RUN KID RUN that signed to TOOTH & NAIL Records, even though two members were similar for the first T&N RKR record.  I actually loved that both THE NEW JERSEY'S & RUN KID RUN (the 1st RKR) became separate bands.  It was a little weird at first & there was a RUN KID RUN song called “Not New Jersey” written but I remember liking it.  We managed to realize we were better as two bands than forcing it.  The scene was a healthy place for us to work stuff out.  It was how we learned to support each other, regardless of walk of life.  
 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I remember you releasing more music under The New Jerseys moniker after that original line-up. Can you tell me about that?

Well,  the first ep that had the songs below, was actually released as LEAN DOWN FOR NEIL then THE NEW JERSEYS.

1-A Thin Line Between I Love You & Goodbye

2-Offering

3-Tonight

4-Stars

5-A Single Tear


Next we released a song DAVID CURTIS & I recorded while on tour somewhere in OHIO called “FOR OLD TIMES SAKE”. Then we released two songs with everything I mentioned previously on a full album: MEET ME ON THE ROOFTOPS  and ELIZABETH.


I know you’re still playing music. What have you been up to musically recently?

I don’t think I’ll ever really stop making or playing music in some capacity.  I’m just fortunate that some people care about what I do.  After THE NEW JERSEYS I played solo as GLENDALE.  I did that until I met some guys at EASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY & we started a band called FORGETTING PARIS.  I played with those guys until around 2010.  Then I started a band called RAVENHILL.  RAVENHILL started in SOUTHERN ILLINOIS with other SO.ILL Music scene alumni.  DAVID CURTIS (SIDEWALKSLAM, RUN KID RUN), JON RABY (PREVENT THIS TRAGEDY, CLOCKTOWER SHOWDOWN, THE CEDAR SHAKES ), DANE JOHNS (ALLISWELL, SLEEPING TAPES), BRADY CLIFTON ( FORGETTING PARIS, NOT TONITE) amongst others.   

We moved to Nashville 9 years ago, signed to a small label and haven’t stopped yet.  About 3 years ago,  we moved to DALLAS, TEXAS, started a small indie record label called HONEY GOLD RECORDS with some friends.  You can hear or watch that story continue on our HONEY GOLD’s YOUTUBE channel or THE HIVE PODCAST!
 

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

Thank you for asking these questions.  It really does mean a lot.  I also appreciate you reporting and cultivating stories and interviews about this art.  You are preserving a history that means a lot to me.  Please follow me on Instagram: @joshuacliftonart  & BE BLESSED!

 

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