A great way to avoid being disappointed by life is to keep one’s expectations modest—a reality that’s not lost on Clayton Linthicum of Canadian psych-tinged Americana duo Kacy & Clayton. When the guitarist and occasional singer first started getting serious about music with his honey-voiced cousin Kacy Anderson, neither was dreaming about scoring platinum records or selling out Madison Square Garden.
“I would say that all I wanted to do was do one tour, and then make the next one better,” Linthicum says with a laugh, speaking from his home in Saskatoon. “You know, like ‘Let’s try not to take so much time between songs on our next tour.’ Or ‘Let’s try and stay in a hotel.’ Those were the sorts of things that we dreamed of. But over time, it’s really become pretty nice.”
That’s something of an understatement, but perhaps that’s to be expected, considering Linthicum comes across as a humble and modest guy. Over the course of four albums, including the recently released The Siren’s Song, Kacy & Clayton have been gushed over by publications ranging from Rolling Stone to No Depression. Along the way, they’ve made some high-profile fans, including Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Linthicum and Anderson opened for Wilco in San Francisco, leaving the singer so impressed he decided to produce The Siren’s Song.
For Linthicum and Anderson—who started performing as Kacy & Clayton in rural Saskatchewan—working with Tweedy was, understandably, both daunting and a learning experience. One of the most striking things about The Siren’s Song is how warm the record feels, from the shuffling funk of “Just Like a Summer Cloud” to the gorgeously tape-hissed acoustic ballad “Go and Leave Me”. It’s the sound of a band that’s playing live off the floor.
“Not only was that encouraged, but there was no other option,” he says with a laugh. “We were all in the same room—everything was set up when we got there with our names written on our little areas. There’s no changing things once you get a little piece of tape with your name on it to let you know where you have to be. We had to fit into their style of working, which was that you get four takes on a reel of tape. It was some kind of two-inch tape machine that had about 20 minutes of recording time.”
While Linthicum says that was a challenge, the results are pretty magical, with Kacy & Clayton sounding like British-folk obsessives who might also be familiar with such landmarks as Gram Parsons’s Grievous Angel or Linda Ronstadt’s often overlooked but essential Hand Sown…Home Grown. The duo hunkers down on the porch for the Appalachia-flavoured “Cannery Yard” and dips into Bert Jansch territory for the surreal—and surreally funny—“The Siren’s Song”.
The duo is definitely onto something, as proven by the effusive praise for The Siren’s Song. Unsurprisingly, however, Linthicum isn’t getting swept up in the hype. Sometimes you have to keep your expectations low.
“Ever since I was about 14, doing music is how I’ve spent my time—all my time,” he says. “So I think being able to see whatever success we’re having is hard when you’re so busy with the daily tasks of being in a band and making music. But I will say that every time we go out on the road, something new and exciting happens. So I guess we’re pretty lucky.”
Kacy & Clayton play the Biltmore Cabaret on Thursday (September 28).