Just when you thought you were safe, CLIBBUS.
Rochester NY's best offering in chaos rock.
I went to Rochester to visit my friend Rick for Halloween, which meant seeing buckets and buckets of live music - I was there for just four days, and went to five concerts. I saw local indie rock and bluegrass and “Irish Fusion,” but the creme de la creme was a very distressing rock band that I saw in the basement of a bookstore.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into - in fact, Rick kept the show that night secret so that it would be a surprise. From the parking lot, it was any old punk show, with brunettes in leather jackets and Halloween costumes smoking outside. When we went down into the basement, where the show was, the band seemed to be: a person in a Princess Leia costume on bass, one clean cut looking young man on guitar, and a drummer wearing a shirt covered with googlie eyes, giving Alex Gray vibes. Rick grins at me and goes, “It’s Clibbus.”
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Lettucehead (left) and Gourd master (right), photo by Brandon Oleksy ( @brandonoleksy on instagram)
Clibbus is, or can be, a three rock piece band that plays chaos-hell music, based out of Rochester, New York. Their music is heavy, goofy, scary, and it flirts with the uncanny. Beefus is on guitar, and is the center of the Clibbus imprint (which includes a lot of things - more on that below). Then we have Graham “Lettucehead,” on bass, and Mike “Gourd master” on the drums. Their set is a complete transportation to a new reality - every moment is jam packed with sound, visuals, attitude.
That night, their set started ferociously, with this relentless, demonic cover of “Midnight Rider.” I was instantly sucked into the world that they were building, and I thought it was a smart place to start - I felt like it was their way of saying, “to give you an idea of who we are, here’s something you might be a bit more familiar with.”
“The Halloween show was the first time we have ever played a cover in all our tenure as a band,” Beefus told me when I asked if there was any particular draw to doing covers. “I had suggested we do one for shits and treats and Graham literally pulled that Almond Brothers song out of his ass. It’s a fine song I think.”
The people in Clibbus are all really skilled musicians, which made me feel like I was in really good hands. Making fuck-all chaos music is all well and good at any skill level, but really knowing your shit gives you the potential to explore a lot of territory. There were times in the Clibbus set where it seemed like Lettucehead’s bass was a writhing sea bass that they were wrangling, chasing the song around the room. For long stretches of the set, I was standing hypnotized by Gourd master’s drumming - every rhythm and fill was brutally smacked onto the drums. There was a lot of floor tom work which was really engaging and earthy, and sometimes startling, their arms moving with impossible speed and severity around the kit. All the while Beefus smiled at the audience, singing and speaking through ever warping filters of vocal effects. Behind them, the visuals went between a warp speed flip book of AI generated faces and footage from births, hitting lots of different spots in between. I was overstimulated, and instantly addicted.
The end of the Clibbus set was one of the most disappointing moments of the year - never have I wanted to hear, “we’ve got just one more for you,” less. And of all the places they took me, I wasn’t expecting it to be a riff on the song “Patches,” that high actually hit quite close to home. A lot of the Clibbus set made me think about the pressures of traditional masculinity and the way that those pressures and expectations interact with and warp sensitivity - I also spent a lot of the set headbanging harder than I have at any other shows this year.
Clibbus’s 2021 album, Horsesattelite, is a faithful facsimile of their presence on stage. While I drove home from Rochester I listened to it three times, and I forced many of my coworkers to listen to it as I re-acclimated to my non-Rochester life. I can’t recommend Clibbus more highly, to fans of Butthole Surfers and Ween, but also to anyone who is into being teleported to a completely alien place by a musical experience.
Don’t just take it from me - Beefus answered a few questions from me, via email, about what Clibbus is all about.
Beefus, photo by Brandon Oleksy ( @brandonoleksy on instagram)
What are the eras of Clibbus?
Not quite sure about how to describe "eras", it has always been a constantly changing and growing project. Long ago (my late teens) I started making music by myself and recorded a song called "Clibbus" and created the Clibbus International imprint. I am always going in different directions and Clibbus International became my factory name that housed any of my creative output whether it was Art, Music, Movies, Web Design, and more recently electronics repair and design. As far as eras of Clibbus music I feel like it is still pretty much the same, as the consistent objective was to create whatever I/we felt like at the moment. Even though since 2019 it has primarily become focused on the music written as a trio, I still continue to make and perform music as a solo entity as well.
How did you get to the three piece configuration?
Graham and Mike had approached me about jamming in late 2018, and doing a "different sounding" rock music group. I had known them from our local scene throughout the years and Graham and I worked together for sometime at a local hot dog restaurant. We all shared similar music interests. I had brought in a lot of riff ideas, whoah one second on the news there is a story of a bison attack in Texas, wild.
Anyway, I had brought in some of the main ideas to our early songs and had some songs pre-written and kinda finished writing them out as the three of us and recorded the Crowning for dog E.P. and then started playing and touring and writing more. I had suggested we just name the band Clibbus since I had been already doing the solo project and had always wanted to do it as a band and it just made sense and gave more steam to the already malleable project.
What does the three piece allow you to explore?
I think it helps articulate ideas that I may have trouble putting down when I am recording by myself. They are both insanely talented and have a lot of good ideas to add on to stuff that I may bring into rehearsals, as well as ideas on the whole performative aspect of the band too, we tend to rearrange song structures and segments differently from time to time to make the show feel like one whole large piece as opposed to us just playing a song/stopping/play a song/stop etc.
How'd this team come together?
[Beefus answered this question with the lyrics of “Come Together” by the Beatles, but I don’t think I can publish that directly so - ]
What's your rehearsal routine like? Everyone in the band seems really skilled.
Right now, it’s a pain in the ass. I'm out of town like 8-10 months out of the year for work, Graham is in school full time, and Mike works a lot and is busy building a small community off the grid. Lately we have been just rehearsing a set for the few shows we have played this year and tightening up one or 2 newer songs we wrote after releasing our first full length “Horsesatelite".
Generally I will come in with a song idea and it will either be completely thought out or just a single riff or hummed in my head thought, then we kinda start piecing it together until it gets to a place we like. I am planning to do a lot more writing on my own this winter too, so I can bring in a bunch of stuff to hash out for a new record. But over the last 2 years it has just been squeezing in rehearsals when we can and keeping the older material tight so we can go and play a few shows here and there.
What do you think about Hell?
Hell in what context? Hell, Michigan? Hell Yeah? It is a fun word to say I, I can say that.
I'm a big Ween guy and I wonder if you are also into Ween? (Of course I'd love to hear about other influences, musical or otherwise).
I do love Ween's music, the first five records, especially "The Pod" were always very influential on me. I even found out years later while looking at a picture online that the equipment I have used in my main solo recording setup is also the same equipment used for the Pod Recording setup (Tascam 424 and Alesis Hr-16) that was pretty exciting to me since I am very interested in musical equipment. They are one of those bands that the music can cover every emotion on the spectrum, a lot of people write those types of groups off as solely a humor act, but to me they have always had more emotional presence than just in my mind when I listen to them.
Lately I have been listening to a lot of European Folk Music (Mainly from Greece and Italy; Stelios Kazantizdis and Roberto Murolo) and a real whole shit ton of Classical Music, honestly over the past few months I have been listening to classical music the most. Big ones in the classical arena for me have been Iannis Xennakis, Edgard Varese, Arnold Schoenberg, Chopin, and just throwing the classical station on when I am in my workshop.
I'd love to hear about a time when the three piece worked on something really difficult together, and what you learned by that striving?
I cant think of a particular event, but as with any band there are always difficulties that arise from time to time, whether it's communication or organization or whatever else a close relationship can bring. But I'd like to think we keep learning new and better ways of being a band and buddies whenever those lessons present themselves.
How do people respond to Clibbus? What's the range?
It usually ranges from a smile to fingers in their ears. Any response is a good response in my book, as it ensures there is some sort of pulse to those in attendance.
do yourself a favor and listen to Clibbus’s first full length, Horsesatelite. I also recommend this live album, to get a taste of what Clibbus sounds as a one-person-band.
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