Britain’s Lighterthief label has announced an exciting new project. The 3 Clubmen – a new project comprised of Andy Partridge, Jen Olive and Stu Rowe – will release their eponymous debut EP on June 30. The first taste is ‘Aviatrix’, an avant-pop delight offering a strange, seductive blend of experimental pop, jazz and sci-fi cinema excellence.
The 3 Clubmen is the culmination of a decade of antics from these longtime collaborators, who started writing and recording this material years ago. While each artist has worked with the others in some form since 2008, The 3 Clubmen marks the first time that Stu, Andy and Jen have combined forces as a trio, an inevitable partnership once described as “a three-headed Frankenstein’s monster dancing at a neurodivergent singles club”.
“Like an ‘action painter’ throws colour at a canvas, we tend to throw musical and sound things, knowing that we’ll cut through this seemingly insane mess later, to hopefully find some beautiful garden, hiding there,” says Andy Partridge.
“I throw paint, Jen throws paint, Stu throws paint…and we walk away. If, when we return, something in there calls to us, we’ll move heaven and earth to get it out and let it breath. Using whatever it takes, be it contrary musical ideas, parts in clashing keys incongruous sounds, contradictory words/phrases. Its all clay to us.”
Best known as co-founder of XTC, Partridge is known as the “godfather of Britpop”. His most recent solo releases include ‘My Failed Songwriting Career, Volumes 1 & 2’. Apart from various XTC re-releases, he also released the ‘Planet England’ EP with Robyn Hitchcock, the ‘Powers’ collection of sound pieces, and the ‘Gonwards’ album with Peter Blegvad, in addition to writing songs for The Monkees, Miles Kane and others.
Native to Los Angeles, musician-songwriter Jen Olive has a series of albums to her name, in addition to writing and recording for A&M Records and contributing music to various American Film Institute projects. Her latest solo release was 2022’s Stu Rowe-produced single ‘Two Futures’.
A key player on Swindon’s music scene, Stu Rowe has supported many artists as a guitarist, bassist and producer. Apart from Patridge and Jen Olive, these include Shriekback (Barry Andrews), Paul Weller, Colin Moulding, Future Sound of London (The Amorphous Androgynous), and TC&I.
The Clubmen saga begins in 2006, when Andy and Stu first worked on ‘Monstrance’. Riding on a mutual fascination with experimental music production, a bi-weekly ritual soon emerged, starting at Stu’s Lighterthief Bunker and ending at the local pub, which resulted in sonic explorations and improvised recordings. A series of musical sketches gradually formed, setting the stage for Jen’s later involvement.
With interest reignited during the pandemic after being put on hold and largely forgotten, the trio decided to finish what they’d started all those years ago, resulting in their debut 4-track effort.
“The Clubmen project is something I’ve been messing about with for years – it’s the one thing that everyone who hears it says I should finish. It was great fun to make and I think we’ve managed to create something really quite interesting between all three of our musical sensibilities,” says Stu Rowe.
Jen Olive adds, “The joy is it… so much humor… the lyrics reflect the spirit of the conversations… the call and response. There’s an ecstatic quality to it. it’s thrilling to have people share in that.”
Signing to Andy’s label APE HOUSE Records in 2008 after recording her ‘Warm Robot’ album, Jen contributed lyrics and vocals on ‘Up On Hi’ and ‘My Dream Sea’, penned by Rowe and Partridge for Lighterthief‘s ‘Trick Picture’ and ‘Hard Listening’ EPs (released on APE HOUSE).
It would only be in 2010 when the threesome were finally able to work together in person. The chemistry was instant, the room was buzzing and the ideas flowed. Over pints at The Roaring Donkey pub, they dubbed their project “The 3 Clubmen” after the local defence volunteer groups formed during the English Civil War. Clubmen protected themselves from both armies by fighting on their own side – the name seemed to fit.
After returning to the US, Jen released her ‘I Say Love’ EP (involving collaborations with Andy and Stu individually) and then ‘The Breaks’ album, a three-year endeavor produced by Stu and released in 2014.
As of April 28, ‘Aviatrix’ will be released everywhere digitally. ‘The 3 Clubmen’ debut EP will be released on June 30 and will be available digitally, as well as on CD, exclusively via Burning Shed.