Diane Theunissen

11 Feb
Music

Claud: “My Music Is More Therapeutic Than It Is Strategic”

Gifted with an incredible lyricism, Claud is one to watch this year. After several singles and a well-acclaimed EP, the American artist returns with their debut album “Super Monster”. Nostalgic yet youthful tones are on the menu, coated in a comforting blend of electric guitars, poppy synths and ethereal vocals. Last week, we caught up with Claud and had a chat about their upcoming release.

Your debut album “Super Monster” will be out in the world in a couple of days. How do you feel about the release?

I’m very proud of myself and excited, but nervous for everybody else to hear it I guess (laughs). Buy mainly excited.

How did the pandemic affect your take on this release ?

There’s no ending to the pandemic so there’s no point in waiting to put out my album. This is my first album so I can’t really compare it to anything else. I’m not really sure on what I’m missing out on, other than touring and stuff like that. It definitely sucks, but it’s not the worst thing to happen in this pandemic. You know, there’s worst things to worry about right now and I just feel lucky to be able to put out an album at all.

How does “Super Monster differ from the music you previously unveiled ? 

It feels so different (laughs). Sonically, I think it has matured a lot – my sound has matured a lot. A lot of the songs that I’ve released are years and years old, so I’ve just naturally grew as a musician and a singer since those other songs, and I feel stronger in my musical proficiency. The themes have matured quite a bit as well, I waited for a while to put out an album because I wanted to make sure I had something to say.

The narrative that surrounds your music and the lyrics you come up with are utterly relatable. What does your writing process look like ? 

I very rarely think of other people when I’m writing (laughs). I usually write a song for myself like “this is the kinda song I want to write” or “I heard a song like this earlier and I loved it because of x, y and z” and “I want to make sure that this song taps into that part of my life” or whatever. It’s more therapeutic than it is strategic. Also, I just always loved pop songs, so I write in a pop song structure, just because it’s more fun for me. 

Why did you call your record “Super Monster” ?

Let me back up. So there’s this artist named Daniel Johnston, he’s a musician – well he was a musician and a visual artist as well, he passed away about a year ago. He was very highly regarded in indie music, and when my best friend showed me his art like 3 or 4 years ago, it really resonated with me. I strongly related to his themes, talking about feeling like an outsider, a creature, and a monster. He talks about Frankenstein a lot.

Towards the end of my album process – I think it was our last day actually mixing the album –, I was at the studio mastering my record and the owner of the studio happens to be managing Daniel Johnston’s artwork with Daniel’s brother, since Daniel’s passed. He came over to the studio and was like “Claud I have to show you something”, and he found this sketch from like 2014 of Daniel that said “Claud the Super Monster” on it.

At the same time, I was reading a bunch of theories comparing outsiderness and queerness to Frankenstein and monsteresque stories. So I asked the family if I could use the title “Super Monster” for my record and they said yes.

That’s a lovely story! We heard you also did the artwork for your upcoming album. Does illustration work as an extra channel to express yourself ?

I guess so (laughs). It’s really funny: after I did the artwork, my manager was like “when did you become an artist? Have you always been able to do this?” And I was like “Yeah!” (laughs). It was just always so separate from my music, I was never able to line the two up in my head. But now I realize, “OK maybe I could have been drawing my own covers this whole time”. I just never thought of it as something I would do. I just always have done it for fun, but yeah it’s really fun to do!

Could you take illustration to a professional level ?

Yeah I hope so! I have been thinking about setting up a little art corner in my apartment and give myself the physical space to do that. Maybe I will sell some prints, I don’t know.

Is there any other aspect of your career that you’d like to put greater input into ?

Yeah! I really clover a lot with my music video directors. I’m pretty hands-on for everything, there’s isn’t really anything that I wasn’t involved in.

Can you tell us more about the central themes of your upcoming project ?

It feels like the biggest theme throughout my record is that we’re all human, we all mess up. Nobody’s perfect, nobody’s like a superhero. But at the same time, you can be a superhero and have monster qualities and self-destructive qualities.

You mentioned what inspired the name of your record, is there any other person or project that has inspired you to create this album ?

Yeah. I definitely was super inspired by my friend Josh – my first project ever was with him. I have been working with him ever since and he really inspires me, sonically and musically. I was also super inspired by Feist, The XX and The Smashing Pumpkins.

A lot of people define you as a bedroom pop artist. How would you describe your sound ?

I never understood bedroom pop (laughs). Everybody has a studio on their laptop now, so you can make music from wherever. Most musicians make music in their bedroom, I think. But frankly, my bedroom’s too small to make music in, so I don’t even make music in my room. I don’t really know where that term came from, I see my music more as like indie pop or alternative, some people call it that too. I don’t know, people are going to call it how they’re going to call it.

Do you usually work with other musicians or do you write and record everything by yourself ?

In depends on the song, there’s some songs on the record where I played every instrument and completely produced it and wrote it myself, there are a lot of other songs where I collaborated with other people. Sometimes I bring like a half-written song into the studio and we’ll flash it up. It just depends on the song really.

Does it usually work ? Do you enjoy working with others ?

Yeah! I love it. It’s really inspiring. You’re doubling your brain-power by having somebody else help you, especially if it’s somebody that you really love and really trust musically. So yeah, I love working with people.

If you could take the “Super Monster” era on stage, what would the general vibe be like ?

That makes me so sad to think about! Definitely a lot of green and blue, and I was thinking of having 10-foot tall sunflowers, like the ones that appear in my upcoming music video. Definitely a lot of funny green screen stuff perhaps. I haven’t even thought about it, because the idea of being able to tour feels so far away…

Maybe one word to sum it up ?

Funky!

Do you feel close to your audience ? Have you found a way to keep the connection alive without live gigs ?

Yeah! You know, I respond to nice messages and I have this app on my phone that lets me text people. So they think I’m texting them but it’s actually an app. And I think that’s so funny, I respond randomly like one-word responses to people and they’re like “hello?” (laughs).

What message do you want to share with your audience ?

My overall message is that it’s ok to mess up. Growth is not linear and you still deserve love even when you feel like you don’t, and even when you’re messing it up. You know, if you want it.

Super Monster is out tomorrow, 12 February 2021.

Pictures by Angela Ricciardi & Jeremy Reynoso.

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