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I first met Lora Williams when I featured the Kansas City chapter of Extra Life, a gaming charity event. After seeing her at several cons and a MakerFaire, I found out she’s also a part of a self-proclaimed “nerd band” called Clearly Guilty. When they gave me an impromptu performance, I knew a feature post was in order. Read on and find out why they are known for calling out “bad nerds.”
Please introduce yourselves.
Libby Green: stage name Vespaer, guitar/vocals/songwriting
Lora Williams: stage name Rowena, vocals
Jeremy Groom: stage name Horatio, guitar/vocals/songwriting
How would you describe your group and what you do?
At our core, we are a nerd band. This means we write all of our own music about nerdy topics such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, video games, tabletop games, and more. Our music also has a flavoring of “purdy” and dirty. Since we perform at Renaissance Festivals frequently, we have a whole smattering of adult music and more “traditional” sounding music, though nerd is our core. It’s all mostly humorous but we have some soulful music as well. The style is a folk style with guitars and vocals but sometimes in recordings we add some flair.
When did you start making nerdy music together?
Five years ago is when the band formed. Originally, Clearly Guilty was not a nerd band but more a traditional Irish band with some original music. Then, we wrote two songs that were slightly nerdy or had nerdy jokes in them. One made jokes about Zelda and the other was called iMug, where we compared ren fest mugs to iPhones and their nice “features.” We got a lot of reception from these songs and that’s when the nerdy idea was born. We wondered if audiences would want more blatant geek references and it was obvious they did. So then we went straight nerdy and rarely look back.
How did you all come together?
The group was merged from two previous ren faire bands. We started jamming together one season at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival and realized how well we connected and sounded together…and thus Clearly Guilty was born! There have been a few line-up changes since then, but the current installment is the best and will be sticking around for awhile!
What musical backgrounds do you have?
Jeremy was a music major through most of his college years until he made a last minute change. Throughout his life, he’s done a lot of musical theatre and performed with the Wichita Grand Opera. He was involved in ren fest performing for a few years before he decided to start his own band, which eventually morphed into Clearly Guilty.
Libby has always had a passion for music and did a lot of choral work in high school and college, as well as a Lion’s Club choral volunteer. She began performing in 2009 as a guitarist and singer in renaissance festivals and elsewhere as a solo act as well as with a few groups…one of which eventually became part of Clearly Guilty!
Lora was a music major in college and has been singing her entire life in musicals, choruses, and solo performance. Despite having sung in professional choruses in Kansas City, she always had a desire for something different and a love for renaissance festivals. In 2015, these two passions merged when she was asked to join Clearly Guilty.
Where do you perform?
We perform all around the midwest at renaissance festivals, conventions, weddings, bars, and more. We’ve done shows across Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. These include the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, Central Missouri Renaissance Festival, St Louis Renaissance Festival, Apostacon, Planet Comicon, ConQuest, and renaissance festivals in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa. Every year we also do one or two bar shows with other ren fest performers or just as they come up. It’s always a good time!
What do you love about collaborating and performing together?
Jeremy: I love the challenge it gives me and us to continue creating. Nerd culture is always growing and there is always an opinion we need to express or a topic I want to focus on. There is always something to prepare for and that keeps us fresh. We are always thinking, going, and writing which allows us (me especially) not to settle for the same old stuff we’re doing or everyone else is doing. Also, Clearly Guilty allows us to have a hobby that pays for itself. We’d probably be creating anyway and this allows us to share our creations AND get paid for it.
Libby: I agree with the creating part. I like creating, but I always doubt myself. In Clearly Guilty with these two, it’s always a safe place. We always support each other and our ideas and help each other make them the best it can be. That’s part of what Clearly Guilty is all about: guilty pleasures and acceptance. People embrace what we say and they feel safe responding. They see us being open and honest and ridiculous and they are open and honest back. We are very anti-nerd shaming and it’s noticed.
Lora: As cheesy as it sounds, I love the memories we make. As Libby said, people feel safe when they come to a Clearly Guilty show and I love making memories with our fans. No two shows are ever the same and it allows audiences, and us, to be constantly entertained and feel as though they are part of something special. We laugh a whole lot. Sometimes we still laugh at jokes we wrote three years ago. Or, we’ll try something new and laugh even more. I also enjoy traveling to different faires and festivals and meeting new people. Traveling makes you learn a lot about the people you’re with and it brings us closer together for sure.
What is your most popular song, and how did it come about?
“Bad Nerd” is definitely our most popular song. We made a video for it and it was actually listed on the Kansas City subreddit when it was released! It’s a collection of “unpopular opinions” such as disliking Firefly or liking Internet Explorer. At the beginning of the song, people are always shocked and angry, but by the end they realize there is at least one opinion in the song they agree with and realize we’re all “Bad Nerds” together.
The song actually formed after an experience Lora had on social media when she mentioned she had never seen Star Wars. She was publicly shamed by people in comments and she was told she couldn’t possibly be a nerd because she hadn’t seen Star Wars. As though Star Wars is what makes someone a nerd. Many people came to her defense, but it inspired us to write a song about being “Bad Nerds” and prove that EVERY nerd is a nerd, no matter what they like, how many episodes of Star Trek they have seen, or whether they read the book before the movie/tv show.
So, in 2015 at the end of our festival season at the Central Missouri Renaissance Festival, we got very drunk with some other bands and wrote down a list of “unpopular opinions” and started fiddling around with a melody. It went on for at least an hour and we laughed and laughed and laughed. It’s an excellent memory. Everyone added something great to the list and the next week we compiled them all into the final version of Bad Nerd.
Tell us about a particularly memorable musical moment.
While not a nerdy song memory, one of our favorite moments was at Kansas City Renaissance Festival in 2015. During our dirty song show, a fan who was also an ASL interpreter decided to translate our literal WORST (as in dirtiest) song for the entire audience (and us). We learned a lot about sign language that day.
What are you working on now, and what future plans lay ahead for Clearly Guilty?
Right now we are finishing up our newest album: #BasicNerd. It will be released on September 30th at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival! It’s our fourth album and we honestly think they get better every time. We’re excited to return to KCRF on September 30th as well for the final three weekends as we haven’t been there in two years! We’ll be there September 30th, Oct 1, 7, 8, 9, 14, and 15. And then we end our fall season at the Central Missouri Renaissance Festival in Kingdom City, MO (30 mins outside Columbia) on October 21 and 22.
Further in the future, we’re continuing to create content for our Patreon page. We release one new song a month for subscribers as well as funny rehearsal videos and soon: gaming videos! We’re planning on going to new festivals in 2018 if we can manage it and meet new audiences, while also going to all our favorites. And…continue to put out a new album every year!
What’s something you love about Kansas City?
Firstly, Kansas City has a HUGE nerd culture and we love that. Not many cities have over a dozen game stores…even ones that are bigger than us! Kansas City is mellow and nice and very inclusive. For instance, when the Royals won the World Series we packed 800,000 people on the streets and nothing bad happened. You can’t say that in other cities. Also, we love BBQ and burnt ends of course.
Where can someone find more information about your group?
Anything else you’d like to share?