Claud covers the 'Voices of the Next Generation' issue
of Tenner Magazine. - Click here to order your copy!
Photography by Grey
Words by Scout Fischman
About to embark on a huge headlining tour across North America, Saddest Factory Records artist Claud is hard at work. With a recent guest appearance on SNL alongside Bleachers, exciting new music and frequent appearances on Tik Tok, the bedroom-pop star is sort of everywhere if you’re on the relevant side of the internet.
The 21-year-old artist joined our call from their grandmother's home in Palm Springs sporting uncharacteristically non colourful hair. Claud assured me it was only due to a recent haircut and the blue and green would return ASAP. True to their word, the blue and green were back within days.
Claud’s music takes you to dimly lit parties and hard conversations. Spilled drinks and hurt feelings make way for crystal clear vocals reminding the listener exactly how an experience feels. Identifying as nonbinary, Claud has added a voice for uniquely queer feelings in the current music industry, “Touch my body, pretend I’m Tommy”, the singer serenades on their most recent release, Tommy. On Super Monster, the singer reminds somebody, “It’s Mr. Bitch to you”. The relatable feeling of going to bars you hate or stopping by someone’s dorm room, Claud has the power to make your heart jump into your throat with one line. “I wish I’d left all my things at your place so I could come get them”. Claud doesn’t shy away from the topic of gender identity, “I think a lot of artists don’t talk about their sexuality or gender but I like to, because 1) It gives context to my music 2) It’s important.” The significance of having these conversations online isn’t lost on Claud, having gone through their own experience of coming out. “I feel like I wasn’t able to realize I was nonbinary or queer until I saw it online. So I recognise how special that can be.” Claud’s authenticity online provides representation for young nonbinary and queer people as they assemble on the internet to find community in a time when in-person connections have become more scarce.
Writing from personal experiences, Claud says they don’t think too hard about it. “I just write what I’m going through, I have no trouble [writing] but I have trouble getting other things done, like emails.” Claud explains, “When I get all in my head about production, it’s like a dead end, it’s awful, it’s like a spiral. I think kitschy production sounds can be brilliant sometimes. I like exploring the simplicity and seeing how far I can push it without overproducing.”
Earlier in 2021, Instagram took down a post Claud had made. The photo was a shirtless snap of the singer, post top-surgery. “It was annoying. I was so nervous to post it and immediately it got taken down and I was just like, I went through all this trouble to work up the nerve and write a caption and then I posted it and it got taken down. Now my account is flagged.” After reposting, the photo is still up on their instagram, but the result of a removed post is an occasional shadow ban on their content. This means Claud’s posts are occasionally hidden from other people’s timelines. It’s another example of Instagram having work to do on their content moderation in order to adjust to diverse bodies. Claud concludes, “I try not to let social media consume me. I wanted to post about my experience getting top surgery because I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I didn’t see it online.” Claud’s frankness when it comes to gender discussion is refreshing, and it creates accessibility to the conversation. “I really love it when like somebody, like a 12 or 13-year-old comes up to me and says ‘I’m nonbinary and my mom doesn’t believe me then I took her to your concert.” Moments like this with fans are what makes touring so special to Claud. “Before the pandemic, I would sell my merch after shows and just stand there and meet every single person.” These days, it’s easy to keep up with fans on Tik Tok and Instagram, “The videos I’m liking and commenting on, I’m guessing my content also goes to them. So I think we just find each other.”
It’s been a year since the release of Claud’s debut album, Super Monster. Coming off tour with the Bleachers in 2021, Claud will now headline their own tour in 2022 with openers Jackie Hayes, Kali and Dad Bod. For the Detroit and Chicago dates, the Interlochen Songwriters, a group from Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, where Claud attended their last year of high school, will open the show. Another lasting connection from Interlochen Center is film director Christina Xing, a former classmate of Claud’s, Christina directed the music videos for Wish You Were Gay and Gold. “She’s wildly creative, the things that Christina’s brain comes up with, I don’t know how.”
For the busy performer, touring sometimes feels like Groundhog’s Day. “It’s like you wake up, you get in the van and drive, you get to the venue, you play the show, you go to sleep, wake up, get in the van, drive to the venue…” But despite the repetition, Claud remembers every concert. “It’s really fun to see different audiences, I remember every separate city. With the Bleachers tour, if you ask me if I remember Salt Lake City, I can picture it perfectly because every show is so different.” Claud said it was also a blast playing in festivals over the summer. “I had no idea what to expect, I’d never played a festival before and it’s so different. You get to the stage and there’s like six bands that have to sound check before you… You go on stage and the audience is staring at you as you set up, because I don’t have people who set up, it’s just me. I’m like hey guys, it’s not starting yet!” One of touring artists' memorable moments from this year was at a Bleachers’ show. “We played the Santa Ana show, and it’s Hanukkah and Lana Del Rey was there. Somebody, somewhere has a video of me teaching Lana Del Rey how to do Hanukkah. I’m like, ‘okay now you say Barukh ata…’ That was like 10 minutes of my life that are so ingrained in my brain. She probably has no memory of it. It was really weird.”
As a young artist themselves and the first to be signed to Phoebe Bridgers’ label, Saddest Factory Records, Claud has an ear for the up and coming. “There’s this band, Critter, they put out an EP called HAVE SAFE B FUN. It’s so good, it’s crazy. Then there’s Dora Jar, who I really love.” Talking about their own musical influences, the songwriter didn’t pinpoint one influence but said the dream collaboration at the moment is Willow, or “Anyone in the Smith family. I loved Will, I was the biggest Will Smith fan when I was a kid. I was like, ‘he is it’.”
Overall, the young artist thinks the pandemic may have been good for them. “I haven’t really unpacked how, or in which ways, but it’s definitely been good for me to be home.” This past year, when not touring, Claud has been laying low in New York City. “I just write a lot. I set up a little tiny home studio in my room. When I got back from tour, I was like, I’m finally going to rent out a studio space separate from my apartment but then I was like that’s a waste of money, I’m just going to put everything in my room, so now I have like a million things in my room. Every morning I wake up, I make a piece of toast and I write and then I watch a movie and go to bed. It feels nice to write something.” With much already accomplished this year, Claud will switch into tour mode at the end of February. With the timing of a young fan base and a return to more consistent live music, Claud’s first headlining tour is destined to be a huge success.