Interview Claud: “This is a declaration of honesty”

The first signing to Phoebe Bridgers’ label Saddest Factory, Claud Mintz makes relatable, intimate indie-pop about growing into yourself.

“Sorry…” says Claud Mintz with a smile, flipping their laptop around to show a postcard-worthy panorama of the glistening California ocean as DIY phones in from a sodden South London. “I haven’t left the house for weeks,” Claud tells us - and, with that view, it’s not hard to see why.

Living a nomadic life for much of their teens, moving between their parents’ homes in California and Chicago with stints in New York and beyond as well, the stasis of 2020 probably came as more of a shock to the system for Claud than most of us. “My dad kept telling me I needed to slow down a bit anyway,” they say, “so it probably came at a good time for me.”

Though debut album ‘Super Monster’ - out this month as the first release on Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory label - tells stories of romantic fumbles and late-night adventures (all largely non-pandemic activities), lockdown has been a particularly fruitful time for Claud in terms of songwriting. 50 songs were originally on the table for the record, and the pile is stacking up once again for what comes next.

Before they recorded under their own name, Claud played music as part of the duo Toast, formed with Joshua Mehling, their classmate at Syracuse University. When the pair’s priorities clashed - Joshua stayed studying while Claud craved the touring lifestyle - the songwriter went out alone, taking on their first name. While simply a logical step for many solo songwriters, naming the project this way stood as a deeper, more symbolic move for them.

“I had started going by Claud in my personal life shortly before I made it my artist moniker,” they explain. “Claud was only something that my family and really close friends called me, and when I started asking people to call me that, it felt like everybody that did that was a really close friend right away. They were calling me something that basically only my mum called me.

“Claud felt like the right option for the name, because then all these people on the internet would also feel like my close friends,” they add. And the intimacy and openness that defines their debut makes certain that this closeness will be felt both ways.

“Your first album is as raw and shaky as your first words.”

‘Super Monster’ is an album of great contrasts. On ‘Pepsi’, Claud manages to craft a yearning song of romantic regret that welcomes its chorus with the sound of a can of the titular drink being cracked open, delivered with the playful swagger of a full-blown pop star. Elsewhere, the bruised ‘In Or In Between’ is set in the giddy-yet-frightening uncertain early days of a newfound romance, while ‘That’s Mr Bitch To You’ is a surf-pop gem as silly and fun as its title suggests.

While largely crafted in bedrooms across America, the album was mixed at Electric Lady Studios in New York - an experience that was at once a personal dream come true for Claud, and one that gave the album its title.

The night before they were due to leave Electric Lady, Claud was presented with a sketch by the late, great Daniel Johnston from studio manager Lee Foster, who handles the songwriter’s artwork in wake of his passing. Johnston had named the piece ‘Claud the Supermonster’. "I write about feeling like a creature or a monster a lot in my own work, and so did Daniel," Claud explains, taking the title for the album and creating their own artwork from Johnston's inspiration.

Already falling into a lineage of great American songwriters past, present and future, Claud then linked up with Phoebe Bridgers, becoming the first signing to her new record label, Saddest Factory.

With initial plans to stay independent, and especially to stray from the often dangerous major label path ("It's really awful the way labels take advantage of smaller, younger, less experienced artists,” they say), Claud says they only signed due to wanting a team of like-minded people around them, and for Phoebe’s understanding of the artist’s side of these relationships. "The first time we met, we got breakfast and she wore a suit,” Claud remembers. “Very much a businessman vibe!"

Though ‘Super Monster’ is a supremely exciting and revealing first step, Claud is keen to point out that it is indeed just a first step. "Your first album is as raw and shaky as your first words,” they say, and the loose genre restraints on the album leave the door wide open for the singer to choose whichever path they want as they continue to grow.

“This is a declaration of honesty,” they confirm, “and I want it to be an introduction to me, more than anything else I’ve ever released.” Nice to meet you, Claud.

As featured in the February 2021 issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.

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