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It only took one keyboard lesson for Claud to realize they wanted to be a musician. “When I was about 11 or 12, a contemporary music school opened up in my town and I took a trial keyboard lesson,” they tell me over Zoom. “The keyboard teacher was super cool. He taught me the four chords, it was just C, G, A minor and F. I was like, ‘I can do this, I can play these chords. And I can write my own melodies over them.’ And that’s how I started writing songs.”
It wasn’t long before Claud started releasing music professionally, beginning shortly after they landed on campus at Syracuse University and started attending house shows at the various DIY venues around the city. (“Shout out to Space Camp!”) It was there that Claud met another fledgling indie pop artist by the name of Clairo, and the two would eventually start writing together. However, after spending a couple of semesters writing more music than essays, Claud opted to leave Syracuse to focus on music full-time.
Claud became prolific after leaving school, releasing a string of seven EPs and other short-form releases between the summers of 2018 and 2020. During this whole period, they had their sights set on a full-length release. “With EPs you don’t really need to have a set theme or a message you’re trying to convey,” they explain. “But I really do feel like with a record you do have to have that. And you do have to know what you’re trying to say and find your voice a little bit more.”
One of the first things to stand out about their debut album Super Monster is the depth of its production and the confidence in its delivery. Claud’s songwriting process is one of those anomalies that defies standard explanation, but when a song begins to come to life in their head, it isn’t long before it exists in its full form, in the confines of their brain. At this point, it’s important for them to enlist the help of some collaborators in order to bring the full vision to life. “[I recorded] most of the guitar parts. I played around a lot with bass on the record, too. But I can’t play drums to save my life. So I did not do that. I don’t think you would like the record as much if I didn’t get a drum guy.”
From the first notes of “Overnight,” listeners are invited into Claud’s world as they describe the overwhelming feelings of love at first sight. “Soft Spot” continues the narrative that begun in “Overnight” to illustrate that relationship’s dissolution, and the sense of lingering feelings that remain even after a breakup. “You told me that it’s over now/But I can’t help that I think about/All the things that we used to do/’Cause I’ve got a soft spot/I’ve got it for you,” they sing softly over an affected acoustic guitar and compressed drums.
Much of the album revels in heartbreak – not only romantic, but also social. However, when Claud couldn’t land on a specific story to tell in a song, they would turn to their phone for inspiration. “I use my Notes app religiously,” they recall. “I have probably thousands and thousands of notes. Anything that I think I might want to pull from or anything that I find weird, I’ll just write it down. And then when I go to write a song, I’ll look through my notes and see if anything reminds me of something or someone and then I’ll start writing.”
After about a year and a half of writing and recording, Claud finally had the material for a full-length album. But it wasn’t until they received a call from Phoebe Bridgers, who was in the process of starting her own label, that the full scope of possibilities for the album finally presented itself. With the album already mostly recorded, the next stop was mixing at Electric Lady Studios, a process that greatly widened the lens for the album’s sonic capacity.
“When you’re making music in an apartment or even a garage or a living room it’s hard to imagine it in a space bigger than that,” they explain. “And then when you step into a space like Electric Lady that’s three times the size. Even that one studio, it was three times the size of my apartment. It’s like, wow, this is being played in a big room right now and has the potential, if I want it to, to be played in another big room.”
The result of building the album around big-room aesthetics is a sound that truly fills headphones to fully envelop a listener and welcome them into the world of Super Monster. Across the album’s thirteen tracks, Claud builds a unique indie-pop listening experience that doesn’t sound quite like anything else. Songs like “In Or In Between” or “That’s Mr. Bitch To You” are filled with rich, distinct layers that leave space for imagination and ruminating in Claud’s vivid storytelling.
More than just blowing out the sounds for the album, the mixing process at Electric Lady also provided the album with something a bit more demonstrable: a title. After the studios’ manager discovered a lost Daniel Johnston painting called “Claud And The Super Monster,” the undeniable coincidence snapped the album’s true meaning into focus for Claud and encouraged them to drop the album’s working title and run with Super Monster. In that moment, “it really hit me,” they recalled.
“The reason why I’ve been a fan of Daniel’s for so long is because I really have been fascinated by the themes of the way he talks about monsters and creatures in his work. I liked Super Monster because it felt like superhero, but also monster. It was a really interesting pairing. I asked the family if I could use the title and they let me use it. Then I did my own artwork for it. I wanted to draw my own artwork, because Daniel drew his own artwork and that’s what he would have done. And also, I just felt the most authentic thing that can come from me is my music and then also my own artwork.”
All told, Super Monster is a piece of work that is 100% Claud, from the lyrics to (most) of the instrumental tracks, even down to the artwork. They have been carrying around all of the pieces in their head for nearly two years, and it is a cathartic moment to nearly have them out in the world for others to experiences.
As our conversation winds down, Claud pauses for a moment to consider the album’s central focus, and what they want listeners to take away from their first full-length project. After a few seconds of silence, they are very deliberate with their answer. Super Monster is an album about love, “a reminder that to myself and to other people that you’re capable of being loved. If you open yourself up enough and remind yourself that you’re worthy of it, it’s possible and that you deserve it.”
Super Monster is out February 12 on Saddest Factory. Pre-order it here.