Mic CheckMusic

Instrumental Virtuosos of Cloutchaser Mix Metal with Math Rock

A chat with Cameron Price and Brady Kennedy

The two members of Cloutchaser stand shirtless in front of a house
Cameron Price (left) with Brady Kennedy of Cloutchaser. (Photo courtesy of Cloutchaser)

Fueled by an undying sense of creativity and a mission to steer away from synthetic tendencies in today’s music scene, NC natives Cameron Price and Brady Kennedy bring the explosiveness and energy of 1980s metal to today’s math-rock as an instrumental duo. 

Distinguished by a volatile and dynamic sound that is at once electrifying, melodic, and thrashy, guitarist Price and drummer Kennedy are impressive to watch live, offering a riveting performance sans lyrics that serves as the musician equivalent of a lightning strike. 

Filling the room with the sound of electrifying arpeggios and rolling drum hits, Price’s fingers glide and flutter across guitar strings at light speed, rhythmically colliding with Kennedy’s undulating drum beats and hard-hitting cymbal clashes as the two accelerate to terminal velocity and back. 

While their visual style may echo that of the ’80s metal scene — the duo regularly forego shirts and rock flowing manes of hair reminiscent of metal icons like Dimebag Darrel and Dave Lombardo — Price and Kennedy found musical inspiration in math-rock bands like Hella and Shake The Baby Til The Love Comes Out

The two began writing as Cloutchaser during the COVID-era shutdown, while a previous project, death metal foursome Basilica, was put on hold. 

In an era of music production characterized by the use of pre-programmed instruments, Cloutchaser’s vision relies on a more analog approach to songwriting and music production, one centered around artistic viscerality and free-form live performance. 

The duo seeks to inspire other musicians to create outside of a set mold, feeling that the pressure on aspiring artists to use automated instruments in order to produce a more conventional sound has contributed to the erosion of artistic freedom and originality within today’s music scene. 

We spoke with the duo in the lead-up to a show they have scheduled for The Milestone on Feb. 11, to discuss everything from their COVID-era origins, getting their start practicing under a karate dojo, to how an older relative’s accidental livestream served as titular inspiration for one of their songs.

Queen City Nerve: How did you both meet?

Cameron Price: We met in Boone, North Carolina. We both went to Appalachian State [University], where we played in a death-metal band before Cloutchaser called Basilica. Brady played drums, I played guitar, and during COVID, the death metal band kind of slowed down, that type of thing. We started jamming together every single week, so Cloutchaser’s sort of a COVID-baby. 

Brady Kennedy: We played in Basilica from 2017 to 2020, 2021-ish. We kind of built our rapport by playing in Basilica. I recorded one song by myself, ‘cause I play a little bit of guitar, and I showed that song to Cameron, and he was like, “I can help you play this.” Cameron totally re-imagined the song and made it way cooler, and that was kind of our first song, “Racecar Bed,” off our first album This is Real Math Rock. Once we learned that, we knew we wanted to write more.

We got together every week and started writing this stuff, and nobody heard it for like, a year. We recorded [This Is Real Math Rock] before we ever played a show. I didn’t know what we were, at the time, because we hadn’t unveiled our project or seen the public’s reaction to it. We wanted to do that as soon as possible, but we just couldn’t. It’s easy to forget now that it’s been a few years, but none of us left our homes [during COVID] for like, a year and a half. 

Price: Our first gig was a kava bar on open mic night. 

Kennedy: They had acoustic singer-songwriters, poets, and then we go up. It was so much fun, I mean, we use the slingshot analogy a lot when we talk about playing; in writing a whole album worth of math-rock, we had never been a math rock band [before], we had never felt what it would be like to play in front of people, so we just kept imagining it over and over again, and weren’t actually able to do it. 

We were just building up to this big release, and then we just unloaded on this open-mic night. It felt kind of like the Tenacious D movie, when they played Master Exploder at the open-mic night, and the dude’s head exploded — it was kind of like that. Like, not really, but in our minds it was. 

What made you choose math rock as a genre?

Price: There was a band called Hella — Brady was kind of obsessed with them

Kennedy: As far as us choosing the math-rock direction, I was a catalyst in that, but just because I discovered this band Hella … Death Grips drummer Zach Hill used to be in a duo very similar to us, it was just a guitarist and a drummer, and the guitarist is going nuts, and the guitar’s just crazy and alien and everything’s hard to follow. 

The first time I heard it, I was just totally obsessed. I wanted to recreate something like that, because I had never heard music that made me feel that way. Cameron and I, at the time, were running every morning together, we would run like 3 miles while listening to Hella whenever we both lived in Boone. 

How did you guys develop your style of songwriting? 

Price: We knew we wanted to make crazy-ass shit, kind of like Hella, we would just get together every week and bring in different ideas and flesh different things out. For a long time, we couldn’t really play our songs, ‘cause we were writing new ones every single week.

Kennedy: We were just feeling really creative at the time; we wanted to do something big. There was just this big excitement about what we were doing at the time. We’re still excited, obviously, but now we have an identity created for ourselves. At the time, we didn’t know what was ahead of us. 

Every song is written differently; some of them are mostly my ideas, and some of them are mostly Cameron’s ideas. For a lot of them, we start from scratch and just bounce ideas off of each other, and then within an hour or two we have a song. There’s no shortage of ideas when it comes to us, we naturally have so many … Our brains are just constantly needing stimulation, I guess. I think every person has their way of playing, the way they hear things, and we just kind of know each other well enough and how to complement each other when writing music.

Price: We both have the need to create. 

How did you two develop your style of playing? Do you view your music through a more technical or creative approach?

Kennedy: Don’t get me wrong, we can explain music theory, but part of the “real math rock” thing is like, sometimes, progressive music like [math-rock] is almost too lifeless, and like: “Oh, did you notice I did a 17/9 polyrhythm in the B-section?” It’s like, it’s a little bit high-brow.

Price: It’s not playing like an animal. 

Kennedy: We want to be a little more feral than that. If you cornered me and asked me a question about a certain thing, I could explain it, but the technical aspect of things is just a means to an end. We want to make people feel things, we want to feel things. You can use numbers and patterns and such to help you get to those feelings, but music’s about feeling, you know? 

Cloutchaser (Photo courtesy of Cloutchaser)

Price: You can get lost in it [the technical approach], and it’s like, tone comes from the fingers, or the hands, it comes from you, not from whatever petal you’re using. 

Kennedy: Most people aren’t even gonna begin to try and grasp it from a technical standpoint, so we don’t want to isolate those people. We want to know what the people who know nothing about music thought about what we just did; did it reach them? Or are we just in our own little secret club where you gotta know the rules, y’know what I mean? That sort of mentality can alienate people, and we try to have enough energy and charisma about our stuff so that even if you don’t know what ⅞ time signature is, you’re gonna get something out of it. 

How did you two develop your particular style of live improvisation?

Kennedy: It’s interesting, y’know, ‘cause these songs, they change, and they continue to change. Like, we have one spot, in one of our songs, where it was never talked about — we didn’t even decide, it just happened — where we stretched one section to be way slower. We never talked about it, and when we were on tour the first time, that pause wasn’t that long. But doing this over and over again, we just stretched it longer and longer every night, and now it’s become this whole moment in our set. 

Price: It’s like a new moment every single time. 

Kennedy: All of our songs, we play them way faster than when we recorded them, ‘cause we’ve gotten more rips. And playing in front of people energizes you so much more than playing in a studio, like, “All right, do it again for the fourth time.” Y’know?

What has your recording process been like? 

Price: Our first album, we recorded all in one day, and we pretty much live-tracked most of it. Some of our songs were first-take, only take, specifically “Later Gator” and “Clown.” The first time [recording] it was just us playing together and live tracking, and for the second album, [Metallica], we recorded the drums at a nicer studio space called Warrior Sound outside of Chapel Hill. 

We recorded all of the drums with me playing at the same time with a scratch track, so no click-tracks, we just play together. And then, we went back on another day and re-recorded all of the guitars. 

Kennedy: We split it up in two days instead of one. This music is, you kind of have to capture it. The second or third time you play it, it’s probably not gonna be as good as the first time, ’cause it just takes so much energy and moment-to-moment thinking that sometimes you’re chasing a moment that already happened instead of being in it. It’s kind of like lightning in a bottle, a little bit. So honestly, recording didn’t take that long, because usually, the first take was what we wanted to keep. 

Price: Luckily we have a good friend, Jeremy White, who we’ve known for a long time and who recorded our death metal band a bunch; we feel comfortable capturing the “Lightning in a bottle” with him. 

Kennedy: He kind of understands our vision, and he’s there to help us create it. I’m very big on natural drum sounds, and being off-grid, not playing to a click track … Y’know, just being a little more alive, a little more human. 

If you look at the industry, it’s like, if you’re trying to have a show, and you use lights, or tracks that correspond, that’s a great tool to use … It’s just, something about that never really spoke to me. Cameron and I both share that sort of “purist” mentality I guess, because we grew up on older stuff and thrash metal, when all these industry standards hadn’t been established yet. That music, to us, felt more “real”, which leads to why we call ourselves “real math rock.”

Price: It’s tongue-in-cheek; it’s a joke, but also not.

Kennedy: We’re just kinda inserting ourselves into the math-rock conversation via,  just, “claiming the throne” with our first album. [Laughs]. 

How do you feel you convey a message as a solely instrumental band, versus one that employs lyrics? 

Price: Neither of us are very lyric-focused people. Like, I feel like both of us, our favorite songs, we don’t know the lyrics to.

Kennedy: We’re just weirdos, man; we think about our music in terms of sounds and textures and stuff. We don’t really have that much to say with words, I guess. That’s why our song titles and stuff are kind of jokey, really, any of the words we attach to our music are either just because we thought it was funny, or to just try and like, “chase clout” — basically, like break through the noise. Like, 420% Burnt is an homage to 43% Burnt by The Dillinger Escape Plan. And Enter Sandman is Metallica. 

What about “72 Virgin Dolphins?” 

Price: It’s kind of a joke. That one has a kind of “widdly-widdly” part at the end of the song that kind of sounds like a dolphin’s laugh, and we always called it “The Dolphin One.” 

Kennedy: There’s no actual rhyme or reason to this, but the 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only undefeated team in NFL history.

Kennedy: For our song titles we kind of just mash a bunch of imagery together, so it paints a little picture in your head when you hear it. Especially the first album, it was kind of just aesthetics. Like, Clown, it just kind of sounds like spooky clown music or whatever. 

“Thunderkiss 69?”

Kennedy: Another example of a joke that is kind of a nod, too, I guess you could call it an influence–

Price: White Zombie. We grew up on the like, classic metal shit, and that song does specifically have a similar rhythm at the very end to the White Zombie,Thunder Kiss ‘65 intro. 

Kennedy: Neither of us take ourselves too seriously as like, a philosopher, or a messenger, or a preacher or anything. Like, we don’t have anything prophetic to say, and maybe that in itself is prophetic, who knows? I’m not gonna question it or try to look too much into it. We just wanted to play really fast and crazy. You have to call the songs something, y’know? 

“Accidental Livestream,” is there a story behind that name? 

Price: [laughs] I won’t drop any names, but an older family relative was accidentally livestreaming on Facebook, and I caught it, y’know, as it was happening. And it was just like, his face, like, zoomed in, heavy breathing and like, drool. So “Accidental Livestream,” I feel like no one would get it, but it does have that backstory.

Kennedy: Now that I think about it, we have kind of tried to use terminology that reflects the current day. Like, “Simp City.” I feel like people were talking about “simps” a lot around that time, and we just kind of wanted to attach ourselves to things that were bigger than us. That’s why we’re Cloutchaser. 

Y’know like, everyone is clout-chasing. If you’re in a band, playing shows, you want fans, you want notoriety, you want to make more money, you want more opportunity, aka clout. So, instead of trying to be fake and shy away from that, we just kind of like are super on the nose about it. [Laughs]

Does that have anything to do with why you guys named your second album Metallica

Kennedy: Oh, yeah! I don’t know, it kind of has grown bigger than we expected. We didn’t know what to expect, we still might get sued, y’know?

Price: We’re kind of still hoping, in a way, for a letter of “cease and desist” from Metallica. But that has not happened, and if it does happen, it will be my life’s accomplishment. 

Didn’t Anthony Fantano shout you guys out for Metallica?

Price: While talking about top albums of the year, he was like, “A band released an album called Metallica?” and then just kind of jumped on to everything else he was saying. But yeah, he did mention that, it was fucking insane. 

Kennedy: It was totally surreal. Just, to hear yourself in certain conversations that you never picture yourself being a part of, is really validating. It’s like, wow, we set out to do something, and it actually resonates with people, and we’re not even using words! 

Just the idea that we went from like, we used to practice in this room underneath a karate dojo. During COVID, only these kids doing karate heard our music. 

Price: The karate kids. 

Kennedy: For the first year, only the karate kids heard Cloutchaser.

Price: They were doing karate to Cloutchaser, which is kind of just like, badass if you think about it. 

Kennedy: But to come from that, to Anthony Fantano shouting us out and people discovering us a couple of times … The internet has thrown us a couple of bones, and like, we’ve seen peaks in our streams and our fanbases and stuff. We went on a two-and-a-half-week tour over the East Coast and the Midwest. 

The cover of Cloutchaser’s debut album, ‘This Is Real Math Rock.’ (Courtesy of Cloutchaser)

Price: For the past two or three years, we pretty much only played North Carolina, some shows in South Carolina and some in Georgia. The tour was the first time we really got out, and it was so amazing and life-changing. We’re super grateful for our record label, Choke Artist, and our good friend, Joe Scallow who booked the tour for us. 

It was so dope, throughout the whole tour, every single show, even if there weren’t a ton of people there, somebody from TikTok knew us, and came up to us, and was like: “Yo, I found you guys on TikTok, and I never thought I’d get to see you, and now I’m seeing you guys!”

Kennedy: The world is bigger and smaller than we think. I don’t know how to explain that — the internet, people find us on there and it’s hard to realize that these are real people out there listening to us, following us, enjoying our art, and valuing what we’re doing, whether it’s someone in Kentucky or Boston, or wherever. But to have people come up to you at a show, at a place you’re 1,000 miles from home at, and they know your name, and they make you feel at home — it’s just amazing.

What shows from that tour still stick with you? 

Price: We played at The 529 in Atlanta, and we played at Tubbs in Brooklyn — it’s like a house venue, basement venue. Playing in Brooklyn, it felt like a hometown show. There were just so many old friends. There were a ton of people there, so many old homies, and it was way better than our North Carolina dates from that tour. 

Kennedy: A couple of other people in the math-rock scene live there: Roshan from Big Scary Indian and the drummer from Shake the Baby Till the Love Comes Out. We saw, probably like 20 people that we know personally, out in New York, in Brooklyn, it was very surreal. 

It was nice to actually be [away from home] in that sense, and actually see the people. You can believe whatever you tell yourself — if you tell yourself people aren’t out there, you’ll start to believe it. But when they’re right in front of you, and you see them, you kind of can’t deny it anymore! Like, this is resonating with people. We’re doing something here. 

Price: We just felt very at home, and we were 1,000 miles away. 

What are some of your musical inspirations?

Price:  We talked a bit about Hella earlier; Standards is another favorite band of ours; Floral, who are on the same record label as us, all of which are two-piece instrumental bands. 

Kennedy: There is this kind of archetype of like, a guitarist and a drummer is all you need, all the bands that Cameron just listed were kind of like the archetypes that enabled us to do what we do. Another one is Lighting Bolt, that’s a good example of a two-person band. Shake the Baby Til the Love Comes Out, Bygones, and basically anything with Zach Hill in it. We also have other influences, like we said, we grew up listening to classic metal.

Price: Dimebag Darrel and Pantera were kind of like my shit, back in the day — a lot of my stuff comes from learning the Dimebag solos. I play a Floyd Rose guitar a lot, which people in math rock don’t necessarily do. I have a little bit of a metal approach to guitar-playing, even if I don’t necessarily listen to only metal, because that’s my roots. 

Kennedy: Y’know, I grew up on Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Alice in Chains, stuff like that. We do tend to like things that are a little bit outside our generation, but we just grew up watching VH1 Classic or whatever. For some reason, the ’80s and the ’70s, you know, that’s the stuff you hear and you’re like, “That’s real rock.” I have no doubt in my mind that’s the real shit. It’s what we feel like we grew up on, and it’s also what we feel is missing from all these new things. So, we’re trying to take from the new and the old and just put that spirit of what we feel like is “real rock ‘n’ roll” into our music.

What do you guys think might have contributed to the standardization of sound in today’s age of music production?

Price: With technology, you can get lost in the digital aspect of making music, and not necessarily, like, technical playing. But back in the day before you could grid everything out, before you could program insane drum solos, you had to just do all that [playing] yourself.

Kennedy: It’s common to use tools like Superior Drummer. You just buy samples and just slap them on and everything sort of sounds the same. 

Price: That’s why in a lot of deathcore, death metal, and newer-style metal, the drums usually have the same sound.

Kennedy: And if you don’t have that same sound, you can’t like, fit in on all those little playlists. There’s this industry standard now, which is like, “In order to be creative, here’s how you do it!” And it’s like, “What? No. I can create how I want to create, that’s the whole point of creation.” It’s weird that doing it the old way is now innovative. Most bands, you find, it’s just like one guy, what I call “in-the-box” like programming everything, who has this whole vision of, “You play this, you do that, everybody shows up here, and the band’s called this.” We’re just not that. We could not do that if we tried.  

This is the only kind of band I feel like we could be in — one where we’re ourselves and not trying to fit any kind of mold for success. And, ironically enough, the two of us have found more success doing that than ever trying to be successful. This project, we kind of just said, “Fuck it”, and that’s what worked. 

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Price: Another main goal of this band is to show other people, you don’t have to try to do something that already exists. You can just do some weirdo shit, your own weirdo stuff, and still be successful and stand out. And hopefully, because of Cloutchaser, there will be other weird, crazy bands that don’t make sense but also find success. 

Kennedy: It’s like, what if you just did something weird that didn’t have a name yet? And you just kind of molded something, until it worked. It’s like 3D printing versus pottery — there are no bad ideas, you just gotta believe in ideas. If you’ve got a really crazy idea, you should just follow it through, and see what that’s like, ‘cause it’ll probably resonate to more people than you would think!

Which is what we’ve learned through [Cloutchaser] — we didn’t think anyone would like it at first, but through playing, at this point, probably like 100+ shows, people don’t hate it, y’know? [laughs]. We just want to inspire people to take a left turn and see where they end up. Do something different. 

Check out Cloutchaser at The Milestone on Feb. 11 along with Girl Brutal, Litterkitten, and Demiurge. Cloutchaser’s albums, This Is Real Math Rock and Metallica are available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, and Bandcamp.


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