The Vera Project is an organization steeped in independent spirit. With roots in the D.I.Y. movement, the entire space hums with a deep reverence for creativity and individuality, and possesses a kind of unapologetic grittiness that’s rare in most mainstream venues. It feels like the grown-up evolution of a punk house—a place carved out by artists with the needs of artists in mind. One artist at the forefront of this carving is Jason Clackley, programs director for The Vera Project and long-time fixture in the Seattle music scene. Sitting before a backdrop of locally-illustrated zine covers, show flyers, and band posters, Clackley speaks animatedly about his youth, his experience with the local arts culture, and his evolution as an artist. His simply-stated personal history feels like a perfect extension of The Vera Project mission.
“I bought a guitar, and I started making music. I took a few lessons and started playing shows, and then I started doing my own shows, and I moved on from there.”
Jason Clackley’s passion for making and listening to music began early, in the sixth grade. He formed and played in cover bands as a pre-teen, and in spite of being “raised by MTV,” his taste in music was strikingly diverse, a list with everything ranging from oldies soul records to the grungy post-punk of the 90s. When asked what he listened to the most, he bemusedly replies, “Anything I could get my hands on.” Later on, in high school, he discovered the punk scene and formed a hardcore band. He describes his memories of life as a touring young punk: a history of van troubles, unpaid gigs, and calling friends from across the country, looking for a space to play and a couch to crash on. It’s this connectedness amongst the arts community that drives the D.I.Y. movement.
Now, no longer a teen in a cover band or a couch-surfing twenty-something punk, Jason Clackley speaks to his love of the culture in a way that feels mature, but still deeply genuine. As vocalist for local punk band The Exquisites, Clackley’s soulful shouting on their 2016 LP Home explores the nature of finding an emotional home as an artist. The work is uncommonly thoughtful, as emotive as it is thrashing, and listening to it makes it clear that Clackley places a high value on the connective nature of the D.I.Y. ideology.
“When you’re working with a community-based D.I.Y. scene and people are in it for the right reasons, it’s not about what you can offer in social clout,” he says. “It’s about what you can offer as a person, as far as emotional giving and the ability to be around in the scene. I think that’s more important.”
His advice on how to start forming these connections is simple. “90% of any music scene is about showing up.”
This article was written as part of the Beyond the Review Press Corps Intensive.
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