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Pranatricks Leans into the Light 

With calming acoustics and spiritual lyricism, this Vancouver Island indie folk artist is putting his ideologies into action.

by Ben Boddez

Andrew Clements, better known as Pranatricks, wants you to feel a little lighter — in a spiritual sense. The Vancouver Island native, who took his name from the Sanskrit term for ‘life-force,’ sees the purpose of art as a means to relieve suffering in the world. It was a big reason why he felt he finally had to share some of his perspective on finding peace amid the chaos of our everyday lives.

Although he hasn’t officially released any music since a couple Bandcamp releases in 2011 – building a family in the interim – the ideas that eventually became his latest project, Cherished, have been gestating ever since. Clements’ time in the studio became more of a seasonal project, but he continued to hone the kind of production skills that create a calming, acoustic environment for his folksy musings, drawing the listener into the kind of comfortable space where they’re ready to absorb every word of his tales – and then make the kind of progress they want to see.

“Like in karma yoga, it’s about finding a place where we can rest in our physical, mental, spiritual self, but you have to act too,” he says. “Action is the main teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. I do want people to come in and relax, and then I want them to find what’s important and act upon it. And for me it’s higher virtues: peace, love, joy and compassion. If you’re emanating and vibrating that quality more often, that’s exactly where our intentions should lie.”

The album’s cluttered cover art – an image taken by Clements himself of a car with an open hood in a automotive workshop, parts strewn in every direction – seems on the surface like it doesn’t align with the music’s overall vibe, but it was chosen to mirror the process of self-improvement as well. According to Clements, it represents opening yourself up and fine-tuning the parts that aren’t quite operating at the highest level.

Much like the car itself, the parts coming together to make a well-crafted whole with intentions behind it was the approach he took to his unique release strategy. While there’s been a lot of online discussion about the album format slowly dying as singles take prominence, Pranatricks released the album’s 12 tracks one single at a time, finally culminating in a finished LP, Cherished, in January 2023. 

“I love being in that moment, figuring out what the next line is,” he says. “When I was 15, sitting in my room and playing air guitar on my hockey stick, my mom got me a guitar, and there’s something about the texture – you just noodle, and you noodle enough until something comes out. You put a name on it, put a feeling in it, and I’m happy to share it.”

Judging from his sound, you wouldn’t think Clements would be the kind of guy to be deeply inspired by legendary producer Rick Rubin, who shares his philosophy of enjoying the process. Clements is also not the kind of guy you might expect to be interrupted mid-thought by a high-school buddy catching a glimpse of him and hollering “Skate or die, brother,” but this happened as well during our interview. When RANGE met with Clements he had recently finished reading Rubin’s 2023 book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being.

“It’s 1985, and I had a clear signal of CiTR Radio. They dropped the Beastie Boys song, ‘Fight for Your Right to Party,’ and I was like ‘I don’t even know what to do right now. I don’t know if I like it or hate it, but it’s doing something to me,’” he says. “When I used to play baseball, I was training to compete. My body was sore and broken, but it started to change. And the thing about Rick is he’s constantly focused on the process, the process of creation. For me, in any discipline, athlete, artist, that’s what I’m interested in. What’s the process of getting there? My life goal is to spend an afternoon with him, he’s pulling in ancient philosophical teachings.”

While Clements hasn’t crossed paths with Rubin just yet, he does have history with one of Canada’s closest equivalents: Chin Injeti. The two worked together in 2005, when Clements was still with his old band, Fur Bearing Animals, and attributes most of the production quirks he tries out on Cherished to building on top of the basics learned in the time they spent together.

“That was a great experience just to see someone of that skill level, just seeing how he was tracking bass and guitars. I got to go to school! That was my music school,” he says. “Just trying to keep up, you learn a lot about production. I figured out where my talents were and now I can see what’s possible to record acoustic guitar. What you hear on the album is basically a decade of me trying to figure out how to layer the vocals.”

Photo: Britney Gill

One aspect that stands out most of all is the percussion. It’s sparsely used, but when it does, it counts – most of the time manifesting itself in the form of an echoing crash directly at the front of the mix, adding to the intimacy and live feeling of the album as a whole each time it snaps listeners out of the acoustic daze. Of course, the percussion tones have their own story, this time involving his former Fur Bearing Animals bandmate Michael Fraser.

“I’m using a drum pad for the kick and snare, and I was stuck,” he says. “Michael said something like ‘It sounds like you’re at the circus, and instead of seeing a clown, a prince comes out. It’s not tying it together.’ We had this vintage suitcase sitting there, and I just started hitting it with a mallet, and he recorded it and was like ‘Yeah, that’s the thing!’ And then the snare was this tin my wife collected; it would have been for milking cows. I started hitting that with the mallet. Once I got those sounds, the floodgates opened.”

The project’s concluding song, “Stars,” finds Pranatricks zooming out to the big picture, analyzing this whole business of life from a cosmic perspective while marveling at the astronomical odds of he and his partner, “chunks of meteor lost among the stars,” finding each other.

“I wrote that song living in a small space in Strathcona, and it took four years,” he says. “I love astronomy, man, it’s so interesting. You get a different perspective. You look at the stars and go ‘Yeah, it’s not about me. I’m insignificant.’”

When you think about it on a universal scale, the problems on Earth don’t seem too bad in the grand scheme of things. That’s where a good portion of the lightness to be found in Clements’ music is to be found. The rest of it comes from understanding that, and doing everything we can to reach our highest selves anyway.