Max Clarke | The Cutworms
Max Clarke was standing outside of his own show, waiting for a friend. I recognized him and knowing very well he had no clue what I look like, I introduced myself. We exchanged a simultaneous hello and how are you, as we collectively stumbled from one word to the next. It was awkwardly comforting to communicate in such an unscripted manner, considering I had conducted a phone call with Max one week prior.
We were outside The Teragram Ballroom where I would later be watching the Chicago born musician as he opened for King Tuff under his alias, The Cutworms; a name borrowed from poet William Blakes, Proverbs of Hell. Careful when google searching The Cutworms, you’ll know when you’ve found Max, he is the man most likely in a red button up among a sea of worms. I was there to get a couple quick shots of Max before he hit the stage to continue his tour for his debut album, Hollow Grounds that came out May 4th via Jagjaguwar. Hollow Grounds was written and recorded between Los Angeles, Chicago and Brooklyn, where Max currently resides.
Max was pleasant and swift as we fast-walked through the ballroom and out into the back. There I did my best to quickly conduct a makeshift photoshoot in a parking lot surrounded by brick walls, chain link fences and neighbors yards. My apologies to Max for getting him in trouble for standing on a neighbors back porch, all parties involved were polite about it.
In between the exchange of small talk and shooting, I had accumulated just enough time with Max to gage the character he was becoming on the other side of my camera. Even more so than on the phone the week before. Relatively soft- spoken, his emotions were quite tame and presence outwardly calm as we engaged in lopsided communication. I spoke more than he did and he never said more than he needed to. I appreciated this about Max though, he was delicate and intentional as he spoke with an awareness of the direction in which he wanted to go.
He doesn’t know how natural he is. He walks, talks and performs with inherent movements, so raw that I question my own genuiness as I gaze upon his. Max stepped on stage and his humble quirkiness was cast over an impatient crowd. Backed up by drums, keys and another guitarist, The Cutworms gleamed and dove once more into their performance. With a bit of a hazy twang, familiar but weird enough to grab ones attention, Max and his counterparts slip subtle strangeness into the confines of your brain. Just when you think you’re safe, the oddities of The Cutworms lyrics seep into your subconsciousness, only to return as a song you want to listen to again.
Written by Meagan Rafferty
Photos by Meagan Rafferty