“Sorry, I was distracted by that dog, it was so cute!” Claud apologises to me mid-sentence as we sit in Washington Square Park in New York, discussing how they hope their songwriting helps people to feel a little less lonely after listening to it.
Formerly releasing music under Toast, Claud re-emerged last year with a string of singles, continuing in 2019 with the beloved anthem ‘Wish You Were Gay’, along with ‘If I Were You’ and ‘Easy’.
On their latest single ‘Miss You’ - lifted from the upcoming ‘Sideline Star’ EP, due out on October 25 - the non-binary musician delves into heartbreak, and revealed to Wonderland Magazine that they wrote the song in the midst of moving to a new city, amongst other changes in their life.
We caught up with Claud in New York recently to discuss their upcoming music, the importance of diversity, their songwriting process, and more…
I think there’s a sense of loneliness that everyone goes through and I think that’s a big reason why people listen to music in the first place, is to feel less alone, or to have company when you’re walking somewhere, or distract yourself from something that sucks...
COUP DE MAIN: Was it important to you to write and release a song like 'Wish You Were Gay' as a non-binary person, and share that with your fans?
CLAUD: Yeah! I feel like the cool thing about that song is that, for me, no matter what gender you are, if you like me, you’re a little bit gay - just because I don’t really identify as one gender over another. So that was really fun because I’m often in situations where people are like, ‘We’re completely different sexualities,’ or something. But I definitely feel like with that song, I got the most messages from that song than any other song I’ve released - people reaching out to say that it helps them.
CDM: What’s it been like seeing that reaction and having fans come to you with that?
CLAUD: It’s so nice. <laughs> It makes me so addicted to my phone because all I want to do is talk to the people who are wanting to talk to me. They remind me that I put out music for more than just myself, I have a bigger motive.
CDM: I love the imagery of the outro in 'Wish You Were Gay' when you say, “I won't trade four roses for your heart / I won't wait forever in the dark”. How do you think one can move on from unrequited love?
CLAUD: I think that you take each heartbreak, or unrequited love, as a learning experience. And thinking of it as less of a loss and more of a gain in something you can get better from.
CDM: I love your homage to '(500) Days Of Summer' with your music video for 'Wish You Were Gay'. Was that your idea?
CLAUD: So I work with a director that I met in high school called Christina Xing, and her and I got together at a coffee shop a few months before we shot the video. We were brainstorming ideas, and we really felt like we really wanted to sit down and take the time to go over it, but it just came to us in a second! We were like, ‘We have to do this, and make it gay.’
CDM: Was there a special significance of the sandwich tied to the yellow balloon?
CLAUD: It’s toast tied to it!
CDM: I thought it might’ve been.
CLAUD: Yeah! I did it in my ‘Never Meant To Call’ music video too. We originally did it in ‘Never Meant To Call’, because it was the first song that I put out switching from Toast to Claud, so we put the toast on a balloon as a ‘I’m giving it away’ idea. We decided to bring it back for ‘Wish You Were Gay’ too.
CDM: You tweeted about International Non-Binary Day earlier this month, sharing: “i know what it feels like to stay quiet and blend in to make everyone around you feel more comfortable.” Do you feel more yourself now than you used to?
CLAUD: Completely. It’s definitely really difficult in some settings, where you don’t feel comfortable enough to correct people on your pronouns, or speak up when you’re being misgendered, but it takes time. With time, I become more comfortable.
CDM: Do you feel like the world is becoming more educated than it used to be about gendering and pronouns?
CLAUD: Definitely. I didn’t have the language or the vocabulary to identify who I was when I was younger, and I don’t know if kids really do still today, but we’re definitely getting closer with that. With the internet and everything, people are much more receptive--
CDM: In TV, I feel like we’re seeing more trans characters who aren’t just defined by that.
CLAUD: It’s so cool. We’re just talking about it more, which is so important.
CDM: Do you think those are the most important things for helping visibility?
CLAUD: Yeah. Like, with anything - I say the word gay a thousand times a day, or queer, ‘cuz why not?
CDM: It's cool that you teamed up with The Trevor Project to make a series of 'Wish You Were Gay' t-shirts, the proceeds of which you donated back to the organisation. Was that something you felt was important to do?
CLAUD: I really wanted to make those t-shirts to match the song, and I know a lot of people have really benefited from The Trevor Project. I also put up a question thing on Instagram and a bunch of people responded being like, ‘The Trevor Project saved my life.’ So I knew it was important for people who followed me, and one thing that I really hate about Pride is the exploitation of queerness, and I didn’t want to profit off selling anything Pride-related.
CDM: Was it fun having your fans be in the music video for 'Never Meant To Call'?
CLAUD: Yeah, and we did that again for ‘Wish You Were Gay’! It was cool. I got to meet a lot of new people, and I became really good friends with some people, it was really fun.
CDM: In 'Easy' you say, "You hold me but not too tight." Do you think that it can be dangerous/unhealthy when in a friendship/relationship there’s an uneven balance?
CLAUD: Definitely. In that song I was more talking about, ‘You don’t hold me tight enough,’ <laughs> which sucks just as much as someone holding on too tight.
CDM: Do you like to reflect on past versions of yourself in your songwriting like you do kinda hilariously in 'If I Were You'?
CLAUD: Yeah. I very rarely write in the moment, or about what’s happening in the moment, because it helps me to sit with something and reflect on it later.
CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
CLAUD: I have thousands of notes on my phone of just random phrases or words, or things that I think of that I like, and I have voice memos of melodies that I like. Whenever I’m gonna sit down and write a song, I pull from that, or sometimes I just get a call or a text, or something happens to someone and I run home and instead of crying I write something. I also collaborate with a lot of people - I like writing with other people and opening myself up to the way other people experience things. It’s always crazy when you walk into a room and then thirty minutes later someone is like, ‘So, tell me what’s going on in your very personal life.’ I’m like, ‘All right, here we go!’
CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically with melodies, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
CLAUD: It depends on the song. Usually I have a lyric in mind and I make the melody fit. Usually it comes together - I like the way that words fit with sounds, and some words sound good with certain melodies, they usually shape each other.
CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
CLAUD: I think there’s a sense of loneliness that everyone goes through and I think that’s a big reason why people listen to music in the first place, is to feel less alone, or to have company when you’re walking somewhere, or distract yourself from something that sucks. This might sound cliché, but I hope that people feel just not less lonely, but also know that everyone is feeling lonely, or that there’s someone else there who’s feeling it too.
CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
CLAUD: Probably ‘Wish You Were Gay’ or maybe my song ‘Easy’. I’m proud of that one, I really like it a lot.
CDM: If C.L.A.U.D. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for?
C - constantly watching Ellen.
L - late night snacks.
A - always smiling.
U - ummm.
D - dorky.
CDM: What have you been working on recently?
CLAUD: I have a song coming out in a few weeks, and it’s part of a slightly bigger body of work that I’ll be putting out in the fall. I also have a few months off before I tour again this fall, so I’ve just been really - as stupid as this sounds - working on myself, and I’m working on experiences that I feel like I missed out on after dropping out of college. I’m going out a lot and making really dumb decisions, meeting new friends, and going places that I wouldn’t. From that, I’ve been writing things that I’m really proud of - I feel like I’ve tapped into a new part of my writing abilities.
CDM: Back in 2018 you said: “I want to go on tour, I want to release more music. I want to collaborate and work with a lot of different artists.” Is that still your to-do list for your music?
CLAUD: I mean, I’ve done a lot of it! I went on tour a lot. I definitely said that before I knew I was going on tour, so that’s really cool. I went on tour like four or five times.
CDM: How did you find those experiences?
CLAUD: Awesome. I think I love touring more than anything else. When I’m in one place for too long I get stir-crazy, there’s nothing more I love than waking up and going somewhere else. I love driving, and I love being with people all the time, and having new experiences as a group is really cool.
Claud’s latest single ‘Miss You’ is out now - click here to purchase and listen to it below: