Jan. 26 2011 10:46 AM

Grand Tarantula are taking fun seriously

Grand Tarantula’s Jordan Clark (left) started Pretty Awesome Records with a friend last year.
Photo by Bryan Wingen

There’s something to be said for musicians simply having fun. Jordan Clark learned that the hard way, when almost seven years of recording and touring with his first band, Hot Like a Robot, left him looking forward to a break. When the band called it quits in 2006, it seemed like the impending respite would be a relief— until it actually happened.

“It was definitely a really hard period when we broke up, because it was all I knew since I was, like, 17 years old,” Clark says. “We’d meet up every day and play, and we kind of sacrificed everything for that.”

It took a year before he and his former bandmates started reconnecting—from that point, it was only a matter of time before they considered playing together again.

The end result is Grand Tarantula, a band that reunites Clark, now in his late 20s, with Christoff Kolek on guitar / keyboards and Barker on drums—joined by newcomer Manny B. on bass—and sporting an all-new sound. Clark’s urgent screams, backed by driving lo-fi guitars and rapid-fire drums, reflect everything from dream pop to garage rock.

The group has wasted no time getting noticed. Within months of forming, Grand Tarantula were recognized with a Best New Artist nomination at the 2010 San Diego Music Awards. It could have something to do with their steady performance schedule during the past year. But now, the band plans to ease up.

“It’s gonna be kind of our last one for a while,” Clark says, referring to the band’s Jan. 29 show at Soda Bar. “We’ve been playing a lot—which is a good thing. Now we’re gonna start scaling back and make it count a little more.”

Still, there’s no evidence that they’re actually scaling back. So far, they’ve booked dates for South by Southwest (two in the works so far, but Clark is aiming for five) and an EP is currently being mixed by Lars Stalfors, who’s previously worked with Matt and Kim and The Mars Volta. If anything, their focus has shifted from quantity to quality.

“Our standards have gotten a little higher, the older we get,” Clark says. “When I was 19, I was down to put out whatever I recorded as soon as I did it. But when you get older, you definitely want to take your time and think about things a little before you deliver.”

It’s a different project Clark’s been working on that might be his most ambitious yet. Pretty Awesome Records is something Clark and friend Tess Passero started collaborating on last year, with the goal of uniting musicians and visual artists behind worthy charities.

“It seems like you can make something a lot more special if you put, like, a positive spin on it,” Clark says. “It feels like kind of the coolest way to make it something super-special, something that counts a little more.”

Though Clark and Passero haven’t yet registered it as a nonprofit, the label already has one release: Grand Tarantula’s 7-inch single, its vinyl covered in a fractured, candy-colored abstraction created by local artist Kelsey Brookes. Proceeds go to the Keep-A- Breast Foundation, a local charity devoted to breastcancer awareness.

For all the band’s hard work, Clark wants Grand Tarantula to be fun.

“I fought that feeling for a long time,” Clark says, “where you just want to play something that’s loud and fun and makes you want to dance and jump around.” From this inner battle comes Grand Tarantula’s signature sound. It’s loud and bright, urgent and energetic.

“We just want to make music for kids to like,” Clark says. “I’d be much more happy making a 15-year-old kid in his room happy than just my friends at the bar— which is fun, too, don’t get me wrong. But that’s what we feel like when we play this kind of music. We feel like we’re 15 forever, you know?”

Grand Tarantula play with Fatigo and Red Pony Clock at Soda Bar on Saturday, Jan. 29. grandtarantula.com