Bassist Amy Humphrey and drummer Joe Hayes have learned to deal with the naysayers. In fact, they embrace these skeptics.
“When we were trying to get our sound together for this project, a lot of people kept telling us that you can't play rock music without a guitar. We were like, 'Why not?' That made us that much more determined to make it work,” Hayes says.
So far their quest has proven victorious.
As the sole members of Clatter, Humphrey and Hayes have turned their rhythm-section talents into a fully realized band. The married duo benefits from the lilting vocals and nimble bass playing of Humphrey and the thunderous-yet-tasty stick skills of Hayes.
"Everything has been an evolution with our sound," Humphrey admits. "Our biggest strength is we're not easily pigeonholed."
Humphrey and Hayes first met while students at Kansas University when a mutual guitarist friend invited the pair to form a trio. Although the band went nowhere, the couple's relationship flourished.
They got married and graduated KU the same year -- Hayes earning a degree in English literature, and Humphrey netting two, one in French and one in Russian (a skill that allowed her to pen a tune called "Nevsky Prospekt," which she sings entirely in Russian).
In the early '90s when the grunge scene was in full swing, the couple decided to pull up stakes and move to Seattle.
The two formed the quartet Clatter Bean and recorded an EP with producer Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), which led to a few months of successful touring around the US. Yet soon the allure of the West Coast wore thin, and the pair stumbled upon a great opportunity to return to the Midwest.
Hayes' grandparents' farm outside of rural Bunceton, Missouri (population 300), had fallen into disrepair subsequent to the elders’ decision to move into town. The young couple chose to adopt the 125-acre homestead, taking a career gamble that the relocation could actually benefit the band.
"When we wanted to go on tour, we had to drive and drive just to get to the next town -- there's not a whole lot up in the Northwest when you leave the Seattle/Portland area," Humphrey recalls. "Whereas in Missouri, you're in the middle of everything. From a touring standpoint, living in the central U.S. is nice."
At this point the ensemble had dropped the original singer, guitarist and the Bean, now performing as a trio named Clatter with a new guitar player. The act issued its first full-length disc, "Brood," and toured across the US a couple times before parting ways with the guitarist.
Humphrey and Hayes then decided to approach hard rock music from an entirely different vantage point. They chose to incorporate the dynamic rhythmic foundation that was always a cornerstone of their sound with something altogether unique.
"We got the idea of adding distortion and other effects to the bass to make it sound more guitar-like. We worked and worked on it and tried different amps, effects pedals, even digital recorders with effects. And we finally hit upon something that sounds really cool," Humphrey recalls.
That led to Clatter's first record as a duo, 2003's "Blinded By Vision," written in the studio they built out of a dilapidated chicken house using reclaimed and recycled materials. The record was recorded in Texas and Nashville and released on their own Chicken House Records, and the pair logged 50,000 miles on the ensuing tour.
"Our first album appealed to the bass fans," Humphrey says. "And for the second album we thought, 'How can we expand on this next album? How can we make it more broadly accessible?' One of the big things I worked on a lot was singing, because I always thought of myself as a bass player first."
The result was the more melodic 2006 release "Monarch," marking yet another creative step for this harmonious couple. The dozen-song effort strikes a sonic balance between the aggressive and the emotional, the restrained and the complex. The album includes the hammering single (and spacey retro video for) "House of Trouble," as well as a cover of the Rush classic "Limelight."
Following the release of "Monarch," Hayes and Humphrey not only gigged in the US but also made their first foray to Europe as a band, accepting invitations to play in the UK and France. "We have so many fans in Europe that it was a thrill to have the opportunity to play for them," Humphrey enthuses. "We can't wait to go back."
Closer to home, Clatter continued their tradition of putting on concerts and workshops for schools. In the summer of 2011, Hayes and Humphrey combined forces with a local arts group to spearhead the Clatter 'n' Splatter Art and Music Festival in Boonville, Missouri.
Summer 2012 saw the long-awaited release of the band's third album, "Garden of Whatever." Recorded by the band in their own Chicken House Studio, the music is a reflection of the couple's desire to get back to their heavier roots.
"When it came time to mix the tracks, we wanted to find someone who could capture the raw essence of Clatter," Hayes says. "It had always been a dream of ours to work with Sylvia Massy."
Massy, known for her work with Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Johnny Cash, among others, accepted the challenge. With partner Rich Veltrop, Massy not only mixed the album but added production elements as well.
"The mixes exceeded our wildest expectations," Hayes says.
With the release of the new album come plans for touring in North America as well as farther afield. According to Humphrey, the band is happiest on the road: "We can't wait to play the new songs for people. Playing live is what we love to do most."
In addition to touring, Clatter has discovered how valuable a tool the Internet is for getting its music out to the masses.
"I've been really active in bass forums online. A lot of our CD sales have been online; there are people from all over the world we've sold CDs to," says Humphrey of the reach www.clatter.com has achieved.
In addition, a 12-string bass demonstration Humphrey posted on YouTube has been viewed almost 42,000 times, with total YouTube views for Clatter at more than 218,000.
"It's been really exciting that other bass players out there find inspiration in what I'm doing," she says. "Because that's what it's
all about -- trying to show that the bass can stand on its own as an instrument."
Standing on its own seems to be the common thread when discussing Clatter. It's a band where unity and individuality always walk hand in hand. And that spirit can't help but connect with people.
"We appeal to punk rock kids or old classic rock dudes or people who like thrash metal -- just people who want something different than mainstream top 40," Hayes says.
"We have this broad appeal for people who are on the fringe."