A Quiet Turn From A Former Punk Rocker

Jul 22, 2013
Originally published on July 22, 2013 6:40 pm


Clem Snide is the musical pen name of Israeli-born singer named Eef Barzelay. He just posted a compilation of songs called “We Leave Only Ashes” on the music website Bandcamp.

Our song of the week is one of those tracks, “We Are Flowers.”

Barzelay is an unusual artist. For a fee he’ll write a song with or about you, he tours living rooms and he’s starting a monthly subscription service which he’ll use to send fans new songs each month.

Stephen Thompson, writer and editor for NPR Music says not to think of Barzelay as your typical singer-songwriter type.

“His stuff isn’t all sweet and sensitive — he can blindside you with sarcasm and then blindside you with sweetness,” Thompson said.


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All right. Well, now for some music so we can just relax and - I don't know - think about the royal baby or something. Stephen Thompson, writer and editor for NPR Music joins us as he does each week with a new song. And, Stephen, what are you bringing us this week?

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Clem Snide is one of my favorite bands of all time. I actually named my cat Clementine...


THOMPSON: ...as a tribute to Clem Snide.

HOBSON: Really?

THOMPSON: I'm that hard-core. I've got posters in my house. It's almost sad. Anyway, it's a band from Nashville lead by an Israeli-born singer named Eef Barzelay. These days, he does just about everything in the band himself. For a fee, he'll even - he'll write a song with or about you. He tours living rooms. He's very do-it-yourself guy, kind of running all the business elements of things himself. And he just put out on the website, Bandcamp, a gorgeous collection of old, unreleased songs called "We Leave Only Ashes." I've seen him live more than 40 times and...


THOMPSON: Yeah. It's a sickness. And I'm always excited when he plays this particular song, which he'd never put on an album until now. It's called "We Are Flowers."


EEF BARZELAY: (Singing) We are flowers blooming in the dark. We can make it smoke without a spark. We are soldiers that will never fight. We can save the world in our bed tonight.

HOBSON: So he's kind of a quiet singer/songwriter.

THOMPSON: Well, he's a lot of things. Clem Snide actually started about 20 years ago as a punk band and then kind of an alt-country or art-country band and then a wry folk-rock band all built around his voice. He's kind of like a folk-singing Kermit the Frog, in a way. It's a very warm, comfortable voice. It's mostly Eef Barzelay's solo nowadays, which is a guy with a guitar, but his stuff isn't all sweet and sensitive. He'll blindside you with sarcasm. And when you're expecting sarcasm, he'll blindside you with sweetness.

HOBSON: And you said this is out on Bandcamp, which is this music website. Is this an official release from him?

THOMPSON: Yeah. It's - I mean, it's tricky. It's gotten harder and harder to differentiate between what's an official album and what's digital only. He's got an official studio album coming out in October, but he often puts out digital compilations of cover songs or songs he's written for other people. He makes them available for download for nine or 10 bucks and that's that. He's very interactive with his audience and very prolific. You know, he's even starting a monthly subscription service where you pay a monthly fee and get new songs each month. But he's also got a ton of amazing archival material dating back like 15 years.

HOBSON: The song is called "We Are Flowers" from a compilation called "We Leave Only Ashes." It's by Clem Snide. Stephen Thompson from NPR Music. Stephen, thank you so much.

THOMPSON: Thank you.


BARZELAY: (Singing) We are soldiers that will never fight. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.