Todd Clouser first was a rocker, then a jazz man. Today he plays altruistic rock.
“The idea is to connect with people but not by way of sacrificing any of our artistic desires,” Clouser said. “The idea is to connect and create community by playing live with fans and friends. And if it doesn’t get really popular, that’s not really the point.”
His Mexico City trio, A Love Electric, makes its annual Tahoe swing this week, playing Thursday, Oct. 24, in the Divided Sky in Meyers and Friday and Saturday in the area’s jazz spot, Moody’s Bistro in Truckee.
Clouser strives to be an honest electric guitarist, a bent like a White Stripes with a music degree. He grew up in Minneapolis loving the Nirvana grunge before he headed to the Berklee College of Music.
“I feel very grateful to have had incredible teachers,” Clouser said on his cell phone while traveling from Portland, Ore., to Boise, Idaho. “Most have been after school by just playing with people. You do a lot of unlearning then. Yeah, I know all these scales, but is it saying anything? Is it helping me say what I want to say? There is an unlearning process that is fun, actually. Rock is my native language.
“My issue with jazz, or any kind of genre, is you get into a box. And then we sell ourselves short. We have a notion of what the music should be, and that doesn’t do any good for anybody. I have felt it needed to be more jazz, and I felt that was really destructive to creativity. I just learned to let go of that. After I worked that through, I felt cool about singing.”
Contrasting earlier records, Clouser on Sept. 17 released his second album upon which he sings. It was produced by Anton Fier, a New York drummer who plays with the Palominos and worked with REM’s Michael Stipe and Sugar’s Bob Moulds.
“He gave me a strong nudge that I should be singing and deep into the songwriting process,” Clouser said.
The album is called “A Man With No Country,” for a song Clouser actually wrote before he moved to Mexico.
“Now (the title) seems obvious and trite,” said Clouser always cognizant of the importance of veracity. “It was more referring to feeling a bit out of place where ever I ended up, as opposed to geographically and borders and things like that.”
A Love Electric, which includes Aaron Cruz on bass and Hernan Hecht on drums, has played the songs on tours, which included Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Eastern United States. It will be Mexico in November and December.
“I love the spirit of jazz but I want to write songs, I want to be singing,” Clouser said. “I want to have lyrics. It’s just what feels right to me right now. We’re not sacrificing any influence at all, in fact we’re probably including more influences.
“To me it feels like a really strong voice, a unique voice. It’s a more complete picture of me and the band of what we do. It’s not like we’re making a ton of money. We all wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t really interesting and artistically rewarding. That’s the impetus of the band to continue to push and find things that are more honest where we can surprise ourselves or learn something.
“It’s pretty altruistic.”
Todd Clouser’s A Love Electric
9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 – Divided Sky, Meyers
8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 – Moody’s Bistro, Truckee
8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 – Moody’s Bistro, Truckee