In Conversation: Claud

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By now we all know of Claud, the artist taking strides from bedroom pop to surf rock, all the while tapping into a sweetly intimate power. If Claud was introduced via breakout album ‘Supermonster’ then new LP ‘Supermodels’ is its inverse – a project powered by confidence, and the odd walk-on part from a Hollywood star.

Clash speaks with Claud about the recent release of ‘Supermodels’, emotional revolutions within music, queer joy and of course about Paul Rudd’s unlikely cameo in one of their music videos… 

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It’s been a few weeks since the release of ‘Supermodels’ – how does it feel to have the new album out there?

Yeah, I’m so happy it’s out, I’m really proud to have it represent my project, and it’s nice to have up to date music of what you feel like are currently as an artist so it’s been nice to have it out into the world. 

Were there any new musical or other inspirations that you brought to the writing of ‘Supermodels’? 

Yeah I worked with a bunch of new people, specifically Dan Wilson. I’ve been a big fan of his band Semisonic since I was in high school and he’s just an incredible songwriter. Also Ethan Gruska influenced and co-wrote ‘Crumbs’ and ‘Glass Wall’ together so I’ve had a lot of great people to work with. 

The similar but very different titles struck me as interesting: ‘Supermonster’ to ‘Supermodels’… what’s the journey there?

So I didn’t go into writing thinking it was going to be called ‘Supermodels’, but I had finished the album and I was really stuck on what to name it. The same thing happened with ‘Supermonster’ too, the album title was the very last thing to come to me.

I remember I was spending time with my grandparents in Wisconsin and something we do together is to sit on the dock with fishing poles and never catch anything. I was thinking I really just wish I could call the album ‘Supermodels’ because of a lyric in the song ‘Screwdriver’, but I felt like I couldn’t because ‘Supermonster’… it’s too similar. Then I thought about it for a few days and I was like wait, maybe this is actually a really cool theme continuation. They have such different sentiments and they mean such opposite but similar things to me so I decided to go with that! 

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Was there any significance behind the album cover as in placing yourself as the spectator rather than the subject? 

Yeah exactly, thanks for noticing that! Actually a lot of this album is about me feeling like I’m observing other things. Making music in general is your interpretation of the current climate of your life. So in ‘Supermodels’, that’s why I was the photographer on the cover rather than trying to be the supermodel. 

There seems to be a shift in confidence within the music. Can you tell me a little about the writing process of the album, how did it all come together?

Yeah, it was pretty organic. I pushed myself a lot for sure. A lot of times when I’m feeling shy or withdrawn in my own life my music tends to be the same, even with the emotional depth that I’m able to get to. So I really had to push myself outside of my comfort zone and pretend to be somebody else for a second, somebody who can speak their mind. Just a more confident person. I think writing that way has made me able to do that more in my real life too. So that was definitely a big shift, learning that you can’t really be shy when you’re making music because you just hold back so much. That was definitely more prevalent in this album over ‘Supermonster’. 

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Music has always been a space for emotional expression but I feel as if there’s been some kind of emotional revolution within music in the last five or so years, with artists such as Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo, Lucy Dacus etc as well as yourself. Do you have any thoughts on this shift into brutal emotional honesty and why do you think people respond so strongly to it? 

I think it’s a very uniting feeling to know that the darkest parts of your mind and emotions are being represented in these songs and that other people are also relating to what you’re going through. I caught up with a high school friend a few months ago and we were both not in a great place but we were both pretending to be fine. Then 10 minutes in she leaned over and whispered like hey, are you really sad? And I was like, yes, are you really sad? A lot of the time we just don’t feel like we can show those parts of ourselves. It’s quite taboo, and as an artist you wanna present to the world as vulnerable but not too vulnerable. Not to mention women in the industry are always told to smile and present this certain facade and actually I think it’s really radical to be more honest and truthful. It shouldn’t be a radical thing to do but it is still. Did that make sense?

Absolutely! It’s also such a wonderful thing that we’re seeing more trans/nonbinary representation in music. That being said, it’s a difficult time to be trans or non-binary and visible in popular culture right now. Could you tell me about anything within this visibility that brings you joy?

Yeah! Woah, joy. The joy needs to be talked about more. It’s very unifying, when I see other visibly trans people in public it’s like running into an old friend. I think coming out to your family is really hard. Even if they are supportive and pretty progressive people, it’s hard to talk about something that isn’t so universally accepted, like being trans, because you just don’t know how they’re going to react. The public support of me and my music has made it easier for me to have conversations with my parents because I can be like ‘and all of these people agree with me!’ I think that when kids or adults take their parents to shows of mine, they can do the same. That makes me really happy.

You’re signed to Saddest Factory, which seems an excellent home for your work.

Yeah, it’s awesome. Phoebe (Bridgers) is just amazing, she’s a genius and I really trust her with my life. I couldn’t imagine signing to a record label and not having it be them, because I just think who better to have your music in the hands of than another artist, let alone your favourite artist. I do think more artists should be in positions of power in the music industry and in the business side of things because they understand what it’s like to put out music, to tour and what it’s like to be an artist. So I feel very lucky to be on the label. 

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Absolutely love this Paul Rudd co-sign… why him specifically and how was that filming process? 

So I met him because I went to see Phoebe open for Taylor Swift, and when I went to say goodbye to Phoebe, Paul Rudd was standing right there. I said to Phoebe ‘oh my god it’s Paul Rudd!’ and she was like you have to meet him. At this point the album – and the song I named after him – was already recorded. I had tried to get him the song beforehand but what could I do?! I obviously had no connection to Paul Rudd. I was like, should we try contacting his dog-sitter’s roommate’s friend or something…? There was no hope. 

Anyway, he was right there. Phoebe just walks up and says: hey Paul Rudd, this is your biggest fan, Claud! And I was like… hi, it’s me. I explained about the song and he was so nice about it, he was saying ‘oh my God there’s a song named after me, there’s never been a song named after me, just send me your whole album!’ He gave me his email and I sent it to him and he said he loved it. So then I told him we were filming a music video for ‘A Good Thing’ in a few days. I knew he lived kind of close to where we were filming (he told me what neighbourhood he lived in for some reason, really shouldn’t have trusted me with that information), so I asked if he was around that day and would he wanna come. Even if he just walked in the background that would make my life complete and he said yes, whatever you want I’m there! And I ended up giving him a whole role, a whole scene that we improvised. It was so funny, he’s great. 

That’s amazing. Do you have any other standout memories from the process of making the new album? 

So this is a strange one but I had COVID for part of the time when I was making the record. I had just gotten back from a tour and I was exhausted, then I got COVID and I was alone in my room for fourteen days and I love any excuse to be alone. I was just writing music all day. I wrote the song ‘Spare Tyre’ and I was so excited about it but I couldn’t show it to anyone. I really wanted to show my roommates so I tried blasting it really loud through the door while shouting ‘guys I wrote a song I really like!’ So that was very cute. 

And lastly if you had to pick one song for someone to listen to from the release, what would it be and why? 

It kind of changes. I feel like maybe ‘Crumbs’. I’m just really proud of the writing on that song. I feel like if you were to strip back all of my songs, they would sound like that, so it’s a good representation of my brain. It’s my songwriting in its most stripped and vulnerable form. 

‘Supermodels’ is out now.

Words: Oshen Douglas-McCormick
Photography: Angela Ricciardi