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How 'Silicon Valley' writer Clay Tarver balances screenwriting, rockin' out and parenting

Writer Clay Tarver (left), winner of the episodic comedy award for
Writer Clay Tarver (left), winner of the episodic comedy award for "Silicon Valley," and cast member Kumail Nanjiani at the 2016 Writers Guild Awards.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Writers Guild of America, West

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It’s one thing to have a career with an acclaimed rock band. And it’s quite another to be a writer and producer on one of TV’s hottest shows.

Clay Tarver has done both.

Tarver is a writer and co-executive producer for the HBO series, “Silicon Valley.” But he recently revived another part of his creative life — the rock group, Chavez. The four-piece outfit was formed in 1993 and helped pioneer a style of hard rock that combined complex rhythms and angular melodies. 

But, for a variety of reasons, the band was put on hold and Tarver, a guitarist and singer for the group, went on to his writing career. The band recently got back together, however, to record a 3-song EP titled “Cockfighters.” It’s their first new music in 20 years.

When he recently joined us in studio, Tarver started by explaining why he kept his musical past hidden from his kids.

Interview Highlights:

On why he kept his career as a rock 'n' roller private:

It's not that you can't play rock when you have kids, but I couldn't. So I noticed that every time there was a musical moment, I would quickly avoid it. Or every time some dad at a pre-school would want to "jam," I would do whatever I could to not experience that. I just got weirder and weirder about it. Finally, Matador Records had this big 21st anniversary thing in Las Vegas and I decided, I gotta tell them. And, of course, they already knew.

On how the new Chavez EP came together:

Once life got complicated, we would always get back together and write stuff and play together. And occasionally play a show. At a certain point we just decided we can't play any more shows until we have new material. So the last two years I really made it my mission. I was like, If I don't get some of these songs out... I needed to at least get these three songs out and we did. And they're actually sort of representative of [our history]. One song is from probably 1997, another one is from 2001, and one is from the last rehearsal we had. And we have like seven or eight more. But these were the songs that we decided to do this time.

On working in screenwriting after being in the music industry:

First of all, I worked with really interesting people — very smart, cool, great people. So that was always good. I was lucky in that way. I thought, Wait, you're going to pay me whether you make the movie or not? This sounds great. And then after a while, you just got really tired of working on stuff that only [a few] people would read. At one point, my kids [asked], Dad, do you write movies? I was like, Well, I write some movies. Mostly, I write big stacks of paper. It's weird how to complete the process of doing anything creative, it does need to reach someone or you start to get really weird. Playing music is such a direct, visceral connection. Screenwriting is like writing blueprints for a building you hope gets built.

On why Silicon Valley's do-no-harm motto made it the perfect target for satire:

It's so ripe for making fun of [the characters] because they're these really ruthless capitalists at the heart. But it's all shrouded in this sense of making the world a better place. So they think, As long as we say that and believe it, then we'll get away with all the capitalism stuff. So the fact that no one had really called them all on this was the great opportunity of the show. It was also just really fun and part of what's going on in our world.

Chavez' new EP, "Cockfighters," is available Jan. 13.

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