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Interview: 2021 Must-Know - CLOVES

Interview: 2021 Must-Know - CLOVES

"In terms of a mental place, this record came from a dystopia," says Cloves (born Kaity Dunstan in Melbourne; now based in London) of her forthcoming sophomore album. "Throughout the album, there are little glitches, creeks, and slimy greens. The songs are different pockets of feeling that come under an umbrella of a dystopian discord playing out in your mind. Think of it like a playlist representing the complexity of emotions you experience when you can’t pull yourself out of a spiral—or an entire other world going on behind the eyes that only you know about. There was a lot of genuine sadness in my life, and it’s easy to feel frustrated by your own negativity and lose all effort to care. I’m trying to poke myself throughout this record and ask, ‘Hey, are you still alive?’ I put the negativity into something productive. For me, it proved to be the best way of coping."

On first single, 'Dead', Cloves navigates a toxic headspace ("I'm alone and I'm playing roulette with my enemy / Relaxation is strangulation"), tackling the complications of mental health with a wry sense of humour ("I'm done but not dead, yet," she intones). And it's this disarming knack for humanising anxiety and fearlessly voicing her innermost turmoil that makes Cloves' upcoming album one to keep an ear out for. In a world full of filters and curated 'Sad Girl' content, Cloves is a refreshing explosion of emotion - and reassuring solidarity that the little voice in your head maybe isn't so crazy after all.

MUST-LISTEN: 'Dead', 'Sicko', 'Bringing The House Down'.
YOU WILL LIKE, IF YOU LIKE: Christine and the Queens, MUNA, Broods, MS MR, Shura, Tei Shi... and reading dystopian novels before bed.

COUP DE MAIN: You've described your forthcoming album as a "playlist representing the complexity of emotions you experience when you can’t pull yourself out of a spiral—or an entire other world going on behind the eyes that only you know about." When you feel frustrated by negative feelings, how do you find peace and/or motivate yourself?
Sometimes there's just no escaping your own brain so I try to compartmentalise how I'm FEELING from who I actually am as a whole. Learning to identify the beginning feelings of a cycle, I find really helpful, so I can say to myself "okay this is anxiety coming on right now you’ve been through this” rather than "MY WHOLE WORLD IS ENDING". I remember when I first started getting really bad anxiety, I literally thought, maybe I'm sick because it was all body consuming. I guess there isn’t a fail-safe way of approaching it or a quick fix, but I try to be as patient as possible and treat myself like I would a friend - adding the pressure of frustration only makes it worse.

CDM: You've said that: "So much of my self-esteem revolves around my work and how well I feel I’m doing." What have you learnt about trying to untangle your self-validation from your work, since making your first album?
UMMMMMMM not that much yet lol. No, but for real, I know it's not always a healthy concoction, but just being honest with you it's still something I'm trying to find a balance with. Sometimes I feel like I need my level of anxiousness over my work to retain my focus, but also sometimes I find it mentally and emotionally draining, so I guess I'm still trying to understand the balance. I'll have to get back to you on that - adding this to my bucket-list below, I don't wanna pretend I have it all figured out.  

CDM: In 'Dead' you ask: "What you doing with your gеneration?" Do you feel hopeful about your generation? Or future generations?
I do feel hopeful, but we do have so much work to do for important social issues, environmentally and culturally so we can live in a society where everyone is truly equal <3

CDM: What was running through your mind while writing 'Sicko'?
Weirdly, I was imagining me in a pub garden in Brixton - it's crowded and loud AF with loads of that really high-pitched clinking of glasses and the scraping of plates, that scraping that makes your teeth hurt, I'm in the scenario chain-smoking to avoid the fact that I'm actually feeling incredibly socially anxious giving me something to do with my hands (the less noticeable version of a stress ball), then like random flashes to an empty room with me in the corner, it's cold and also a random swing set. I guess it's very like a horror film meets a night out.

CDM: Why did you want to cover Christine & The Queens and Charli XCX's 'Gone'?
The first reason was the line, "I feel so unstable fucking hate these people," was something I feel on a deep level lol but also I just respect them both so much as artists, they both have such a unique fingerprint with their creativity, and it's a BOP.

CDM: What else can you tell us about your new album currently?
Ahhhh I can tell you that it's good and you should listen to it lol. But I can tell you all the track titles are one word, each a fragment that ties into the world and concept of the album <3

CDM: How does your songwriting process work?
For some reason, in my brain I can sing better on a SM7 mic then any other mic (which is annoying cause they have loads of hiss noise when you crank them up and I sing really quietly most the time lol) so a SM7 mic with reverb loud in a room for vibe, pull together some chords, build together a track, vibe melodies as we go (recording on voice notes always cause it's so easy to forget), settle on something that just feels good, like in your chest feels nice, usually will get a rough arrangement together, then fill in the lyrics like a puzzle, though things will change constantly as we go, like for 'Sicko' we had an entirely different chorus written, came back from a break outside and ended up changing it to what it is now, also when we went to cut the final vocals on a separate day we then re-wrote the verse melody, just slightly so that it felt better with the syncopation of the track. I like being open to changes always, though I find it's all about perspective too, learning when something should be changed, or if actually what you need is perspective (because you been listening to the same idea for nine hours and actually your ears are just burnt out :)).

CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
I don't write poems, I like to take down textural words that feel to me like they could spiral into a concept or a key punch line, I like to see them like pockets of moods, but I don't write poems, I buzz off the energy of a melody. Plus, it's satisfying to find pieces to fill in the puzzle. I'm also dyslexic lol so I feel like sitting down to write a poem is just not the way my brain functions, it needs a bit more chaos to find where it's headed (did not mean for that to be a head pun).

CDM: Lyrically, what's your favourite song that you’ve written?
Probs 'Dead' because it's me word vomiting to you: "Relaxation is strangulation, my mind's been fucked, mental fornication."

CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song?
Idk if there's an answer to this, it's subjective, I guess it's like a frequency thing, it either rings in your chest or it doesn't, like intuition it's always there telling you what you really think.

CDM: At what age did you write your very first song ever, and what was it about?
Ahhhhh this is embarrassing, it was definitely very shit, I am in no way a 'like wow you were such a talented child' - nooooooo haha. I've worked really hard to start making stuff I actually wanna hear. First full song I remember writing was called 'Just A Memory' and it was about the end of a relationship that I was sad about, but never happened lol.

CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
Two things: I want people to feel an openness around the conversation of mental health from me, that to me is super important, I do feel vulnerable but I feel this is the honesty of my mind and I want to be open with people about it. Secondly, GROWTH - I've grown a lot as an artist and a woman; I want to be a positive representation of that! I feel like sometimes people associate others changing as a negative thing, but I think it's so important to follow your authentic self regardless of what people think/say/want from you, That's what the butterflies across all my stuff represent, I love constantly changing my likes and inspirations, I don't always have it all sorted out but exploration is beautiful.

CDM: If C.L.O.V.E.S. were an acronym, what would each letter stand for?

CDM: What’s on your bucket-list?

- Trying to untangle self-validation (see question two).
- I wanna tour this album live to real people in a room (when Covid safeeeeeee)!!!
- A cute album tattoo when lockdown lifts, maybe a butterfly.
- I wanna design my own line of furniture (interior designnnnnn is a vibe).
CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
I once took one of those free playing cards off a magazine in the shops when I was about six and it fucked me up with paranoia of bad karma that I am scarred for life; I cannot think about stealing something like ever again.

CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem?
'Daisy' by Ashnikko.

CDM: You’re one of our 'must-know’ artist picks for 2021... who are yours?
I really loveeeeeee Griff atm, I think her latest song is a vibe, also BIIG PIIG is so sick, Jean Dawson :)))))))

Watch the 'Sicko' music video below...

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