Rushing their debut album was something Claud knew they never wanted to do. Taking a creative journey through the release of their EP’s ‘Sideline Star’ and ‘Toast’, they were really searching for the messaging and direction to come to them that would steer the creative process where it should go. From taking that time, a sense of clarity overcame the Californian singer-songwriter that allowed ‘Super Monster’ to turn into a very vulnerable, intimate, expansive, direct and self-realising body of work.
From start-to-finish this record feels like you been inserted into their head as they navigate love, mental health, misogyny, and the concept of grief. It’s very conversational and lyrically raw as they unravel their intimate thoughts without too much second guessing. The production is experimentally charged with a fusion of intimate relaxed pop with a more expansive guitar influenced alt-rock delivery intertwined on other tracks.
As the first signing to Phoebe Bridgers’ label Saddest Factory, there is an immediate spotlight that has been put on Claud and this record, and it doesn’t disappoint.
I recently chatted to Claud about the journey of self-discovery and self-reflection that their debut album ‘Super Monster’ embarks on, and we explore the creative processes behind songs like ‘Guard Down’, ‘In Or In-Between’ and ‘Falling With The Rain’. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Standing out immediately on the album, ’In Or In-Between’ is a dreamy track that is all about trying to get someone’s attention. So can you explain the creative process behind this track?
CLAUD: That was a song that came together pretty quickly actually. It was all a-day-long process. I think we started with that really quick and crazy guitar line and then built it around that. But that song came from being unable to read somebody. I feel like I’m so bad at picking up social cues, so I was like I have no idea what is going on with this person and I don’t know if they like me. I kept seeing them out around New York, and was like “oh my god, what is happening”. So I actually ended up showing the person I wrote it about, and it just helped clear up a lot of stuff.
TB: Sonically, ‘Guard Down’ is a rhythmically charged track with dreamy harmonies that incorporates a rap into one of the verses. So what was inspiring you sonically for that vocal experimentation?
C: I was having a hard time being honest and opening up about how I was feeling with this certain situation. So I decided to pitch down my vocals as it almost made me feel like somebody else, like an alter-ego. It sort of gave me some anonymity in the studio to just be like really honest, and that helped me get to the core of the song.
TB: And what references did you have in the studio session for the song?
C: I wrote it about a year ago and I had about two different directions that I was sonically trying to tie together with my record. One direction was ‘In Or In-Between’ with the melodic bass and the not really built out production in the verses with just bass and drums, and some keys here-and-there. But then you also had a song like ‘Falling With The Rain’ where it’s fully produced, there’s a lot of guitar, and it almost feels like a big rock song. So I played two different songs in the studio and was like, “this is one direction I have, and this is the other direction I have, and I want to make something that fits in the middle and ties it all together”. So that’s sort of where we went with that song.
TB: I love how the song ends with a snippet from a demo. How vulnerable does that feel for you to include that on the record?
C: It does feel really vulnerable because it’s sort of like, if you weren’t listening to what I was saying before, you are now. I’m pretty sure the producer was just recording the room noise when I was singing that last guitar part “there’s nothing like, nothing like”. He threw it in there randomly, and I honestly didn’t even know he was recording. But I really like having it because it pulls you out of the song and into the room.
TB: ‘Falling With The Rain’ perfectly closes the record, and the lyric that really stands out is “In my head, In my head, I hang on by a thread”. So when you hear that lyric now, where does that take you emotionally and physically?
C: It definitely takes me back to when I wrote that song. My mum was about to have a really major surgery, I was really worried about her, and I never had to worry about death like that before. My whole family was really vulnerable at the time, and it just made me super depressed. I went through a really dark period around that time. I felt like I was on my last straw, all the time, like I could snap at any second. So that’s where that lyric came from. But then the whole point of the song is right now I feel like this, but I always bounce back. Right now Im falling with the rain, but the rain always stops.
TB: You explained this song as one you could imagine playing during the credits of a coming-of-age film. So is there a film that you wish could insert the song into if they did a remastering of the soundtrack.
C: Oh my god, I really love John Hughes movies. So maybe one of those!
TB: ‘That’s Mr. Bitch To You’ is a playful song that has a deeper message that explores how derogatory and demeaning a man calling someone a bitch from a marginalised gender is. Hoping to create some awareness from this track and giving a big “fuck you” to the patriarchy, which we love, would you like to take a moment to elaborate the effects that this word can have on people, because I think this is actually a really important topic that we need to have more of a spotlight on?
C: Totally! That literally happened to me, like some straight guy called me a bitch and I was like “that’s mr bitch to you”. Im not really confrontational or sassy like that, and my friend overheard the conversation and was like “uh, so sorry to interrupt but you need to write that down *laughs*. I can’t believe you said that”. And I was like “holy shit, I can’t believe I said that either”, so I wrote it down. The song was so easy to write because there is still so much sexism, and it was really playful cause I got to tap into a different way to approach it.
TB: ‘Ana’ and ‘Jordan’ are songs on the album where you create fictional characters to highlight a message through storytelling. I recently had a chat with Chelsea Cutler and Jeremy Zucker about how they’ve used names in songs to humanise the story with listeners and immediately curate a vulnerable nature. Was that an intentional thought process for you too with these tracks?
C: ‘Ana’ and ‘Jordan’ are two very different stories. ‘Ana’ is a completely fiction person that I made up in my head, and the song is from the perspective of Ana’s husband. He calls her up on a Sunday and he’s like; “Ana, I’m not coming home. I love you, but I need to go find myself. I need to go do this self exploration because you deserve the best man that you could get, and right now I’m not the best version of myself”. It’s kinda like if you love them then you need to let them go.
Whereas ‘Jordan’ actually started in a really interesting way. Basically, growing up Michael Jordan’s house was right around the corner from my grandparents house in Chicago, which was really crazy. And my grandpa loved to walk me past the house even though you couldn’t actually see the house because it was so far back. But there was this huge gate and it had “23” on it, and you couldn’t see anything else beyond it. I was always really curious about it, and was always wondering if he was there because I never saw him, and the town we grew up in was really small and I was always there. So the song begins with “Jordan, It’s July in the city again. Spending my time with the same friends. How do I reach you?”. It then turned into this whole love song, not about Michael Jordan *laughs*, but about the unreachable. Being like, “How do I reach you? I’m thinking that you’re too good for me. You’re bigger than me. How do i tell you how I feel?”. So that’s where the name Jordan stemmed from, but it’s not really a love song for Michael Jordan.
So yeah, they’re two completely different stories. ‘Jordan’ is a love song and I just used that name because I had it written out in my notes, and then ‘Ana’ is made up.
TB: Would you ever use real names in your songs?
C: I would! I actually do write songs with real people’s names in it, but I just haven’t released one yet. But maybe I will one day, I dunno.
TB: From releasing your EP’s ‘Sideline Star’ and ‘Toast’, what was your biggest thing you learnt that you actively took into the creative process of ‘Super Monster’?
C: The EP process was so different to the album process. It was almost like practice, I guess. I waited a long time to release my record because I felt like I wanted to have a distinct message that I wanted to get across, and I didn’t want to waste anybody’s time. I wanted there to be something to say. So I put out a bunch of EP’s to make sure that my first record was my best foot forward, and that I knew how to get a message across and have cohesive thoughts.
TB: “If you’re Coke, I’m Pepsi” is a lyric taken from ‘Pepsi’ which playfully references how you feel like most people’s second choice. An incredible contrasting reflection. But personally, if I put a pepsi and a coke in front of you right now, what would you choose?
C: Not that one is better than the other, but I feel like Coke is more popular? I think it’s more widely distributed, so you see it more I guess. And I think if you’re thinking of brown bubbly soda then you’re probably thinking of Coke. Well, at least for me anyways *laughs*. What is your favourite?
TB: Coke! I’m a little bit basic *laughs*.
C: Me too! I’m a diet coke type of guy *laughs*.
TB: Lets play a quick game of rapid fire questions….
C: Yeah, let’s do it!
TB: The emoji that best describe ‘Super Monster’ is…
C: The soft smile with the teardrop!
TB: The colour of my toothbrush at the moment is…
TB: When I think of Australia I think of…
C: *Laughs*, the pictures that all the touring musicians take holding Koalas. I want one of them!
TB: A new hobby I’ve had during lockdown has been …
C: Drinking iced coffee.
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
C: Amazing! It’s not open for discussion *laughs*. I don’t even know why it’s open for debate because it’s closed as it’s a fact and not opinion.
‘Super Monster’ is out now!