Breaking Out: The Henry Clay People

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Photo by Mike Piscitelli
WRITTEN BY
Brian Raftery

In the last year, the members of the Henry Clay People have played Lollapalooza, toured the West Coast with Drive-by Truckers, and signed to the same label as Radiohead. So they're living the high life, right?

"Actually, I had to sell a guitar today to make my credit card payment," says guitarist Andy Siara, 24, from his apartment in L.A.'s Glendale suburb. Luckily, the buyer was Joey Siara, his 27-year-old brother, and the Henry Clay People's frontman. And since Joey's broke, too, there's a good chance Andy will be able to buy back his instrument before the next bill is due.

Formed in 2006, and named for the 19th-century Whig statesman, the Henry Clay People specialize in raggedy power chords, barreling piano, and desperately boyish vocals -- what Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would sound like if they'd taken temp work and listened obsessively to Crazy Horse. "End of an Empire" and "Working Part Time," from the band's third album, Somewhere on the Golden Coast (TBD Records), are kinetic celebrations of the purgatory occupied by rudderless twentysomethings and fortysomethings alike.

"Job security isn't what it should be," says Joey, who only recently quit his gig as a tour guide for the Gene Autry Museum of the American West. "I have friends who went to law school, and a lot of them are in limbo now."

The band members helped shore themselves up this summer, when the Siaras -- along with bassist Jonathan Price, 35, drummer Eric Scott, 27, and pianist Jordan Hudock, 30 -- toured as openers for Silversun Pickups and Against Me! In August, the quintet starts a new jaunt that includes a gig at Austin City Limits. That should keep the brothers out of hock. If not, could they hit up a coworker for a loan? "The label will make sure we're far away from Thom Yorke," laughs Joey. "We'd probably geek out too much."

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