In a small, cold Garden Valley cabin, Clarke Howell of Clarke and the Himselfs prepared to record a new album. She and her friend and sometimes-collaborator Tuck Nelson hauled in sound equipment and instruments through the door. They planned to record for a week in the space and then go their separate ways. Howell has lived in Los Angeles for the past two years, and Nelson is a freelance sound engineer based out of London currently working with singer/songwriter Nick Lowe. They hadn't recorded in the same space together since 2010, but their reunion was a prelude to the release party for Howell latest album, Pot Sounds, on Friday, Oct. 18, at Neurolux.
"Tuck and I are recording the album here, and then playing with Orua is always a good time," said Howell. "It all just came together."
Nelson and Howell corresponded for months about the album they recorded before meeting in Boise. In the meantime, Howell arranged to release Pot Sounds, a separate project, on local label Scavenger Cult Records, which she started with former Built to Spill member Brett Netson. Howell has been making music for over 20 years and has cut 21 albums, released and unreleased. There has always been a progression to her music.
"The whole point is there's a lot of evolution involved, C&TH has always been changing. I mean I didn't start playing the drums and the guitar at the same time," Howell said. "Nobody wants to hear me make the same album over and over again and I don't want to hear it either."
Nelson and Howell have worked together sporadically since childhood, often at a distance, and lately, they've collaborated via email. Howell recorded the 2017 album In Your Heart You Know She's Clarke and the Himselfs, and sent them to Nelson for mixing. For the album they worked on in Garden Valley, Howell and Nelson gave themselves a week to record and mix, but that didn't faze either.
"We are musically more prepared for this one," said Nelson.
"I'm not a hobbyist or a dabbler, when I do something it's 100% live or die. Like John Waters, I am not a dabbler," Howell said, adding, "also, Tuck and I work really fast together, so the recording is maybe only a week but we've been working on it since May 2019."
They've worked on that project for seven months, but Howell said it may take a year or more before the album is finished.
While fans wait for this album to be finished, Pot Sounds, recorded at singer/songwriter and guitarist for Built to Spill Jim Roth's house in Ft. Lawton in 2015, will be on tap.
"I stayed there for 10 days using [Roth's] equipment, he's an excellent engineer and the album wouldn't be without him," said Howell.
"There's some distance between what I'm doing now and I almost didn't release it," said Howell. "I was shopping it around sort of waiting or expecting someone to put it out."
Then, as other projects came up and Howell began writing again, Pot Sounds fell to the wayside. Eventually, said Howell, "other people who had listened to it and loved it convinced me otherwise."
She recently got a boost from a publishing deal with Sub Pop records, but Howell is already focusing on other things. She has consistently moved around, touring, recording and trying new things, and she said it seems to be providing fodder for her music.
"Playing and touring gave me the opportunity to learn," she said, "and when you examine life and live life, then you have new things to think about and deal with. And sometimes some of those things turn into a song."