Claire de Lune on Tiny Deaths: I made songs I would listen to

Categories: Q&A

Photo by Zoe Prinds-Flash
Claire de Lune first showed up on the local music radar as a vocalist in the soulful hip-hop trio the Chalice. Those vibrant ladies caught Twin Cities listeners' rapt attention as well as the top spot in our 2012 Picked to Click poll.

Claire has shifted her creative focus to an electro-pop group she formed with producer/musician Grant Cutler, called Tiny Deaths. The bands is set to release a self-titled EP sometime very soon, and poised to play a show at the 7th St. Entry on Friday night along with Glass Animals and Maids. Gimme Noise asked de Lune about how her new project came together, the current state of the Chalice, and the band she's assembled to help bring these songs to life now that Cutler has moved to New York.

Gimme Noise: What initially led you to start Tiny Deaths?

Claire de Lune:
Originally I wasn't even trying to start a band per se. Grant and I started working on some songs together right when the Chalice was at our busiest, so it was just that -- working on songs. I have always really loved this kind of music -- Phantogram and Beach House are some of my favorite bands. I really wanted to make songs I would listen to, even if just for me.

How did you and Grant begin working together, and what type of influence has he had on the sound and stylistic direction of the group as well as how you approach songwriting?

When I first approached Grant about working together, it was after seeing him do a Wolf Lords set with Aby Wolf at the Sound Gallery a year and a half ago, maybe two years ago now. I heard their music and it just resonated so deeply with me -- I felt like I had found a kindred musical spirit. I had always kind of known what sort of music I really wanted to make, I just didn't know there was anyone making it here.

At first we were just going to work on some songs for my next solo record. I had been working with a few other producers at the time too, but the more songs we made the more it just became abundantly clear that the collaboration between the two of us had its own sound and its own style, and was its own thing, worthy of its own name. So I kind of abandoned ship on the solo project and just ran with this project, because it felt right. Working with Grant is a dream. Everything came so naturally, and we just get along really well as people. I respect him so much as an artist, and it's icing on the cake that he's one of the coolest and most down to earth guys I know.

How did these songs take shape initially -- were they lyrical sketches or bits of melodies that you've had in your head for a while, or is this all new material that you started writing once the project started to coalesce?

Sometimes I'd have little lyrical ideas, phrases and stuff, that had been floating around in my head for a while. For the most part, though, I pretty much just wrote solely based on inspiration from Grant's work. He's really phenomenal, and he obviously has a gift for getting a really good performance out of a female singer counterpart -- as evidenced by his back catalog. Which I didn't listen to until after we had made an EP, by the way, on purpose. I love Lookbook now, I'm actually a huge fan. But I decided not to listen to it while we were making the songs, because I didn't want to get too in my head, or intimidated, or influenced. And I'm really glad I made that choice, because those are some of my favorite records now. And Tiny Deaths wound up sounding completely different, which is great.

You've been involved in a lot of various musical outlets with disparate styles and sounds -- what drew you toward the textured, electro-pop sound of Tiny Deaths?

This is just the kind of music I love. It's a lot of what I listen to, when left to my own devices. It's a really incredible and liberating feeling to just be making music you're proud of, and not be so caught up in what other people want from you or where it's going to take you. I made songs I would listen to. I flexed my songwriting muscles a little, pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, and am working with some people I really respect and admire. And I'm really proud of what came out of it. As a musician, I think that's kind of the definition of a successful project. It is for me, anyway. If other people like it, too, then that's just a bonus.

What is the current status of the Chalice? Obviously, Lizzo and Sophia Eris are doing their thing right now -- but is that a project you can see all of you returning to at some point in the future?

The funny thing about the Chalice is it started as just a fun, carefree side project for the three of us. We just did it for our own amusement. As it turns out, we were filling a big void we didn't know existed -- this group of women having fun and dancing and being empowered. People were really craving that, I think, and as a result a lot of people responded to us. Which is amazing! And we all feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have had that response, and gotten to have such incredible experiences during it and because of it.

But we all had passion projects we were neglecting, things we really wanted to be our full-time musical jobs, so to speak. Lizzo has always really wanted to do her solo thing, and now she has time for that, and is doing so, so well at it. I have been working on Tiny Deaths forever, and now I finally get to give it the attention I feel it deserves. We were on a treadmill going full speed with the Chalice, just trying not to fall off. And we're so young! I think it's really important at this stage so early in our careers to follow our hearts. We're currently on hiatus -- I don't think another Chalice record is on any of our radars at the moment, but it's definitely not something we've ruled out, either. Some of the most fun I've ever had on stage was with the Chalice. Never say never!

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