Claud Mintz, known professionally as Claud, wouldn't necessarily describe themself as a poet. The alternative indie artist tries to approach songwriting as literally as possible, without any sugarcoating or unnecessary embellishments. Each song they write acts as a vehicle for expressing themself more directly and openly. “I think for the most part, when I write songs, it's things that I want to say to somebody but don't know how to,” they said in an interview with The Harvard Crimson.
Perhaps that's why songs like 2019’s “Wish You Were Gay” appear so honest. When Claud sings, “I wish you were gay so you could just hold me / Call me your babe instead of your homie,” their voice light and lifting over a driving piano melody, they mean exactly that. Speaking about their straightforward approach to songwriting, Claud said, “In a way, that makes it more accessible to people who aren't English majors. They sometimes just want to hear what I'm feeling.” That authenticity is what Claud has been striving to develop over more than four years spent writing and releasing music.
After self-releasing several bedroom pop EPs under the names Claud and Toast, Claud became the first artist signed to Phoebe Bridgers’s record label, Saddest Factory, an imprint of Dead Oceans that has since signed other indie artists like MUNA and Sloppy Jane. And just last month, Claud released their debut album “Super Monster,” a vibrant and self-aware coming-of-age album that served as the followup to their 2020 EP “Gay and Bored,” and their first album release on the new label. The album — which features the ’90s-inspired, lovelorn single “Soft Spot” and other standouts like “Gold” and “Pepsi” — was critically acclaimed and set the stage for a headlining tour that has kept Claud on the road since late February.
The album proved a crucial opportunity for Claud to grow as an artist and musician, helping them further cement their sound and aesthetic process. “Finding my voice and my vision as an artist has been a never-ending process, but making an album really helped me,” they said of writing “Super Monster.” “I think I've learned a lot about myself as an artist…. [Because] if you're releasing an album and you don't know what you're saying, then why are you releasing an album, you know?” Most of the songs on the album are pulled directly from real experiences. They were written largely in private, and Claud said that it often “felt like nobody ever was gonna care, or relate, or hear [them].”
Of course, Claud's recent experiences as the supporting act for Bleachers fall 2021 tour and now touring “Super Monster” as the headlining act has brought those songs directly to thousands of fans. “I've done like a ton of support tours to the point where I wasn't even sure if people would even come to my own show,” Claud said of their current touring experience, adding that “it's been a very grounding experience.”
Claud has taken a lot of what they learned while album-making, lessons about what it means to create art meaningfully and with purpose, on the road. The priority is to make each show on the nearly three-months long world tour across North America and Europe unique, special, and inviting. Speaking of the planning that goes into each stop of the tour, Claud said, “I realized, like, 'Okay, I have a responsibility for the people coming to my show and the type of show they're going to experience.’” That means thinking beyond the actual music as it was recorded on the album in order to get at a more cohesive and exciting concert experience.
Due to a catalog that is heavily reliant on synths and other digital production elements, live shows also bring with them an opportunity for Claud to rethink their music. They said that putting on a live show isn’t that different from producing an album; it’s an inherently creative and dynamic process. “Sometimes I have to find ways around or find alternate ways or just sacrifice parts of [my songs] for the live show to make it more epic of an experience,” they said. “My mind goes wild over the endless possibilities of what the song could turn into live.” While a lot of their music isn’t in the rock genre, Claud still finds a way to rock out on stage; “I've turned a lot of them into rock songs for like a live version of it.”
Touring has its difficulties — Claud said that they’ve seen a lot of catcalling at their shows and their friends’ shows, and they recently had to remind fans to wear masks — but it also provides an avenue for meaningful connection with fans beyond streaming services and social media. (Of the latter, Claud said that while they like posting and documenting their life, they think it would be healthier for all involved if “everybody could experience it more casually than they do.”) Performing in venues across the country means that Claud is able to interact with fans in a more intimate way. If even one person really connects with the music, if one person gets to hear a song that means a lot to them, Claud considers it a success. “As cheesy as it sounds, it's like a very real thing to be able to, like, experience that with that one person,” they said.
That relationship between a writer and their audience is especially important when honesty is the goal, as it is for Claud. This drive for sincerity can even get in the way of their songwriting process. Often, Claud says, “I'm like, 'I don't know what's right for the second verse because I've said everything I needed to say, so I'm just gonna like tap into some creative writing here.'” The result is lyricism that is beautifully candid and heart-achingly relatable, perfectly balanced with sparkling pop and lo-fi melodies.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Claud’s career over the past couple of years could best be described as a whirlwind — though they don’t necessarily see it that way. “When things are gradual, and everything is like a small step, it's hard to be like, ‘Oh my god, like, this is crazy.’ Because I've done so much work to get to it,” Claud said of the trajectory of their career so far. They’re so close to their work that it’s difficult to see outside of it sometimes — that’s where their parents come in: “They're so far from the music industry or any sort of entertainment industry that, to them, everything is a really big deal.”
Indeed, Claud’s parents serve as grounding forces when Claud starts to lose track of how far they’ve come. When Claud performed at L.A.’s The Troubadour earlier this month, it was their mom who reminded them what a momentous occasion that was. “She was like, this is really special and a big deal that a lot of people don't get,” they recalled. “I feel really lucky that my parents appreciate those things that sometimes I would forget to appreciate.”
So, what’s next for Claud after a new album and several months on the road? “I think I've always wanted to get a dog. So every tour. I'm like, after this tour ends I'm gonna get a dog! And I’ve been saying that forever so we’ll see.” It’s important to note that their dog of choice is a “tiny little rescue dog.” They also look forward to seeing their friends and spending some time at home. In the meantime, they’ll be ‘going wild’ on their last week of U.S. shows and “trying to like soak it up and feel very grateful for it.”
Claud will perform at Boston’s Brighton Music Hall this Sunday, March 27.
—Arts Chair Sofia Andrade can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @bySofiaAndrade.