RR LogoThe Corner Laughers Release Poppy Seeds

Corner Laughers top photo

To the uninformed and perhaps those not willing to delve into the multi-layered lyrics and meaning behind the song “Grasshopper Clock,” by the Bay Area Pop band The Corner Laughers from California, the opening song on their brand new album Poppy Seeds, may easily be dismissed as simply a song that has silly lyrics, a light upbeat melody and gorgeous vocals by lead singer Karla Kane. Well cast in that light, the song sounds pretty good, and it is, in fact it is excellent, but there is much more to this tune, as Kane explains.

“The song “Grasshopper Clock,” was inspired by a real clock in Cambridge, U.K. I first encountered it when we were in Cambridge playing (and staying) with Anton Barbeau who ended up playing and singing on the track. In fact I wrote it with his future participation in mind. It also has an inscription on it from the Bible (in Latin) that translates roughly to "the world passeth away and lust thereof ...," which I reference in the lyrics. The concept came together naturally, of the strangeness of time and the verses build up from seconds to minutes to hours.”

Karla Kane also explains that the song has underlying themes of communication in relationships and the intersecting or should we say “insecting” theme of grasshoppers, crickets, bees and ants.

“Khoi Huynh’s bassline is meant to evoke clock chimes and the tempo of the song is exactly sixty beats per minute, just like a clock!” she says.

Huynh says, "I hear the song as not being specifically about one clock, but about time in general. It's always being eaten away, so make the most of it while you can. Go see places and things, drink tea, pick flowers, row a boat, look at the sky and realize that in the grand scheme of things you're no more important than any of the four insects mentioned."

“We love when people take time to listen to the lyrics of our songs! Sometimes a happy, poppy melody belies some darker or melancholy words and fans that "get" us get that. Some reviewers tend to just gloss over the songs as "sunshiney" and happy, which they sometimes are, but sometimes they aren't so easy to pigeonhole that way,” says Karla Kane.


With all of this talk about insects one might suspect that there is an entomologist (one who studies insects) in the group. That is not the case, but there is an anthropologist in the band, Karla Kane, who received her Masters in Anthropology from the University of Wales. It was however, during the years in which she did her undergraduate work at St. Mary’s College in California that her musical talent began to bloom. Her high school friendship with her friend and co-founding band member Angela Silletto continued at St. Mary’s.


“It was during college that we really started to write song. When I was growing up, I was into musical theater and dance, but I never really wanted an instrument or thought about being in a band until the end of high school or college. I don’t know how it happened, it sort of surprised us. Khoi joined us a couple of years later. He was my boyfriend and now he is my husband. He had been in tons of bands for years and we started playing our songs for him and he started helping us with them. Charlie (Crabtree, drummer) started playing with us in 2007. We knew him, because we were friends with someone in a band in which he was the drummer. We sort of borrowed him and kept him (she laughs). KC Bowman (guitar, vocals) is the most recent (addition). We have been fans of his music for a long time, but we didn’t start playing with him until 2009. When Angela (guitarist) got married and she moved to Michigan, he naturally took over the guitar. For about a year there were five of us,” says Kane.


Charlie Crabtree, recalls joining the band prior to the release of the second album, Ultraviolet Garden. “They had most of their demos done. Khoi used to be in another band that I was in and The Corner Laughers and that band would play shows together. I was there with my girlfriend at the time and who is now my wife, and she said, ‘Hey they are really good, you should be in their band.’ They already had a drummer, but we did buy the CD and we really liked it.”


Eventually, Crabtree would receive an invitation from The Corner Laughers to play for them, “I don’t know if it was for some shows or to record or if they just wanted a drummer to see what would happen,” and then in what struck this writer as being somewhat humorous he says to Karla Kane, “what was your intention?”


Crabtree muses that perhaps there was a mutual attraction, while Kane mischievously says, “We had this secret wish that Charlie would be our drummer. There was this mutual crush (between the band and Crabtree.”

The year 2009 was another pivotal point in the life of The Corner Laughers for that is when they teamed up with Folk-Pop singer, songwriter and producer John Wesley Harding who signed them to his record label.

Kane explains, “Khoi had been playing with John Wesley Harding for years and John Wesley Harding had just put out his own record on his label. We asked if he would put us on there too and he said yes. It has helped us gain name recognition from some reviewers and we are really big fans of John Wesley Harding.”

Ultraviolet Garden was also the first album produced by Allen Clapp, who also has his ears and fingerprints on Poppy Seeds. The album demonstrates once again the vast repertoire and range of influences of The Corner Laughers as the songs run the gamut from the vintage sounds of “Inner Archaeologist,” to the ethereal Pop vibes of “Stonewords.” corner laughers photo 2

“On “Inner Archaeologist,” I am playing a banjo ukulele. It looks like a banjo, only it is very small and it has four strings and it is strung like a ukulele. It gives it that twangy sound and you can play the same chords. I have one from the 1930s. They were popular in that Tin Pan Alley Jazz age type of music. I wish I had a good story about “Inner Archaeologist,” but I don’t have any kind of a story as to why I wrote it. I wanted to use the banjo ukulele to give it the old time sound and there is a washboard on there. The words are odd and it is a juxtaposition of the really old fashioned sounding song with weird words,” says Kane.

As for the name of the album, Ultraviolet Garden, “I think I came up with it (drawn from) how birds and insects can see ultraviolet and infrared, so they see many more colors than the human eye. The idea is from a Richard Dawkins book and the idea that there are all of these colors out there that we might miss,” says Kane.

On Poppy Seeds Angela Silletto plays guitar on about one-half of the songs and she also wrote some of the songs, including the Power Pop song “(Now That I Have You I’m) Bored.”  Charlie Crabtree’s drumming is splendid and prominent, Huynh’s bass builds a strong foundation and Silletto plays guitar, while Karla Kane’s demonstrates her versatility as a singer and you are left shaking your head and wondering why more radio stations are not playing this band’s music.  Riveting Riffs Magazine can thank our good friends at the Voice of Sacramento, Twirl Radio and DJs Mike and Amber Lidskin for turning us onto the music of The Corner Laughers.

Crabtree recalls the inspiration for the song “(Now That I Have You I’m) Bored.” “It came from a conversation that Angela and I were having. If you go back to the first Corner Laughers album, Tomb of Leopards, the songs written by Angela were about someone that she really liked and this is the guy that she ended up marrying and moving away for, so it is funny and it came full circle. She pines for him (on the first album) and is writing songs about him and stuff. We had this conversation that after all of these years of writing songs about him and “can we be together,” now they were married, the movie is over, they ride off into the sunset and (now) it is the next day. We (talked) about how a good relationship is generally boring. That is the point.”

Comparing the new album, Poppy Seeds with Ultraviolet Garden, Karla Kane notes, “Ultraviolet Garden is a little more eclectic and Poppy Seeds is a little more cohesive and a bit more of a unified album. Even though it has Angela moving away and KC (Bowman) joining us, when you listen to Poppy Seeds, you don’t get that sense that it is musical chairs.”

Crabtree says, “It (Poppy Seeds) is the second one that we produced back to back with Allen, so if you listen to the songs in order, it really does sound like a natural progression (from one album to the next). It starts filling out and going in different places. At the core it may be the same kind of music, but with different styles, different instruments, bigger harmonies and just going for it. We got more comfortable with the producer and he got more comfortable with us. It became collaborative. If you listen to Ultraviolet Garden and to Poppy Seeds back to back, it really does make sense.”

As for the name of the band, The Corner Laughers, Karla Kane recalls, “The phrase The Corner Laughers came about when Angela and I were on a high school trip to Italy, before we had ever even thought of having a band or anything. We just became friends on that trip, because we both studied Italian. We were on a ferry in Venice and some people were standing on a corner and laughing at some other people. Somehow we came up with that phrase The Corner Laughers. It is kind of like being in the background and just watching the world go by or sitting in the back of the class and laughing. That was us.”

Please visit the website for The Corner Laughers

Interviewed by Joe Montague

This interview is protected by copyright © and may not be reproduced in print or on the internet or through any other means without the written permission of Riveting Riffs Magazine, All Rights Reserved