CLAIRO and Mallrat first met in Austin during the madness of South By Southwest.
Mallrat was making her SXSW debut at a now defunct venue called Sidewinder, and Clairo was a conspicuous attendee. Well, there was no way she was going to miss it. The Massachusetts-born singer who shot to viral fame with
They didn’t get to talk much at SXSW, but have kept in touch via social media. “She’s the sweetest person I’ve met,” Clairo told triple j’s Bridget Hustwaite in an interview earlier this year, “so adorable, such a queen.”
The pair will likely pick up their friendship IRL when Clairo visits Australia for the first time as part of the Laneway Festival line-up for 2019. In the meantime, these two kindred DIY spirits chatted warmly on the phone about quitting social media, touring with Dua Lipa, Kanye West, and a tantalising potential collab.
Mallrat was at home in Brisbane, while Clairo was in an Los Angeles studio working on new material, following the release of her debut EP diary 001 in May.
"I just thought it was a good time for me, after a tour, to disconnect and just kinda figure out what I want to write about."
Mallrat: How are you going Clairy?
Clairo: I’m good. I’m in LA right now, recording a lot.
Mallrat: Have you been working with anyone cool?
Clairo: It’s just mainly me and my engineer. I haven’t really had time to work on music during tour, so it’s been cool for me to sit down and write.
Mallrat: That’s so sick. Do you work on beats and stuff when you’re on the plane or on the bus?
Clairo: Sometimes, yeah. It’s pretty hard to do it on the road because you’re so busy on tour. But sometimes I get a few gems.
Mallrat: Did you just come off your own tour?
Clairo: I just finished my first headline tour so we did the US leg and then we just got back from the overseas tours.
Mallrat: Which show was your favourite?
Clairo: I think London.
Mallrat: London is so good, hey? I don’t know what it is, but we played one show there and we expected nobody to turn up, but it was a full room and everyone was so energetic. Maybe it’s just like the London vibe?
Clairo: I don’t know. The crowds are so crazy there, it’s awesome.
Mallrat: I noticed you deleted all your posts on Instagram. I was wondering how come?
Clairo: I didn’t really think about it that much, but it seemed like a big deal to everyone, so I found that really funny.
Mallrat: Sometimes people do it when they’re about to announce something.
Clairo: I wanted to do it because I’m working on new music and I find sometimes that social media can be really draining. And I haven’t really been on it because I haven’t been posting. It feels good to work on music and not be influenced by it [social media]. Because sometimes it can just be too much. I think people forget that at one point in time we didn’t have it and we could still live. It’s more weird to me that people think it’s weird that I don’t have any posts.
Mallrat: I think it’s really cool that you did that. I also think that a lot of the time when people come up with ideas it’s when they’re in the shower, or outside having a cigarette break. They’re not distracting themselves with their phone.
Clairo: Absolutely. It’s so easy to get distracted by it. I just thought it was a good time for me, after a tour, to disconnect and just kinda figure out what I want to write about … I’ve written some things that I didn’t think I’d be able to write. It feels really good and I think that’s part of it.
Mallrat: I listened to your Apple Music interview with [Beats 1 host] Matt Wilkinson. And it was so good. I really like something you said that you figured out, which is something I figured out a year ago as well, and it just made everything much less stressful. When you were thinking about what you want to sound like, or what direction you want to go in, there’s always an unspoken pressure to have one genre or one particular sound. But it’s actually so much cooler to not do that and just write every song from a different [perspective].
Clairo: People forget that artists aren’t one-track artists. Artists are people that should be able to express themselves in multiple ways not just in one style. You can meet a pop artist that odds are their favourite genre is like jazz or rap or something, and they’re not making the music that they actually love making. They do it because they’re going with the brand they want to go with. That’s cool, but it’d be more cool if they just put out a song where they’re rapping, which is what they want to do, and not worry about their band and how it makes them look. At the end of the day we’re all just artists and it’s cool when you step out of the box.
Mallrat: And people get bored really quickly … I think that’s why Kanye has been around for such a long time because every single album he steps it up, or does something completely left field.
Clairo: Totally and that’s the reason a lot of people hate his newer music. I don’t agree with everything he’s ever said, but I do think he steps outside the box and he makes people question what an artist should be allowed to do. He sets the bar higher every time.
"Artists are people that should be able to express themselves in multiple ways not just in one style."
Mallrat: It’s funny because a lot of people were disappointed by 808s & Heartbreak because it’s so stripped back and sad and Auto-Tuney. The Auto-Tune is so heavy. And then it ends up being one of the most influential albums ever.
Clairo: He was so ahead though. It’s crazy because now people are making sad Auto-Tuned songs. They’re looking back at his discography and they’re like, “Wow, we should’ve given him a chance.” It’s weird that we limit even the biggest artists.
Mallrat: What are you listening to at the moment?
Clairo: Um, I’ve been listening to a lot of
Mallrat: That sounds super chill. There’s a band playing Laneway that you would really love called Skegss.
Clairo: OK, cool. Text me that.
Mallrat. They are so nice. They can be your big brothers and you can be their sister, and we can all hang out. They’re so cool and their merch is the best merch. Anyway, speaking of Laneway, will this be your first time in Australia?
Clairo: Yes, my first time.
Mallrat: That’s so cool. When you think of Australia what are you expecting to see? What animals do you know? What Australian artists do you like?
Clairo: There’s like koalas, right?
Mallrat: There’s koalas, but unfortunately you won’t see any unless you go to a zoo or out bush.
Clairo: That sucks. That sucks hard. [Laughs] I’m really excited to go – I’ve never been. It’s a part of the world I’ve never experienced before so I’m honestly just ready to dive in and go explore on the off days we have. We’ve been talking about day trips and exploring.
Mallrat: So I googled when your birthday was and you’re born in August 1998. I was born in September 1998, so we’re almost exactly the same age … I realised we probably grew up watching a lot of the same movies and all weekend I’ve been thinking about High School Musical. I was wondering if you watched High School Musical?
Clairo: I have seen all of it multiple times.
Mallrat: Do you remember ‘Bet On It’ from High School Musical 2, where Zac Efron is on the golf course? That’s such a good song.
Clairo: [Laughs] When he splashes the water?
Mallrat: Oh, that’s so good. We recreated it yesterday. If you go on Instagram you’ll see it on my story.
Clairo: Oh my god I am looking now. [Laughs] Woah! She splashed the water so hard.
Mallrat: That’s Denim my DJ.
Clairo: You guys are so funny on Instagram. That’s so cute. You’re like best friends.
Mallrat: She’s so fun to hang out with. We don’t even need to talk – we can just read each other’s minds. When we do talk we say everything at the same time. Are you like that with your band yet?
Clairo: Oh, definitely. My guitarist Hayley and I are on a different level with everyone else. Just constantly doing the exact same thing without talking. It’s the best. I love travelling with a group of people. You become so close – you basically live with them. You get to know everything about them. It’s awesome.
Mallrat: Did you bring the whole band for the
Clairo: It was really fun. It was an eye-opening experience because I had never done a tour before that. So it was playing to like 5000 people every night, which was really crazy. It put me in the deep end so that when I did my own tour to 500 it was so easy and fun. It was like boot camp for me.
Mallrat: Have you ever had to play shows to five people before? [Laughs]
Clairo: [Laughter] Really early on. I’d play basement shows in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sometimes I’d be the first person on the bill, so no one would really be there yet and you’d still have to do your set. It’d just be me playing to the three people that came. But then it’d always be fun, because when the last band played everyone kinda forget that I played. So it didn’t matter.
Mallrat: Those are the hardest shows. So If you can play to five people and then you can play to 5000 people, you’re set. You’re gonna kill it.
Clairo: [Laughs] I hope that’s true.
"I realised we probably grew up watching a lot of the same movies and all weekend I’ve been thinking about High School Musical."
Mallrat: I wanna keep talking but I don’t want to take up your whole day.
Clairo: No, I’m just in the studio. It’s all good. It’s cool that we finally get to talk on the phone. We didn’t get to talk much at South By [Southwest].
Mallrat: It’s so loud at those places.
Clairo: I just felt we were yelling at each other like, “Oh my god! Hi!” [Laughs]
Mallrat: I can’t wait to see you again. Hopefully we’re in LA soon at the same time soon.
Clairo: We should definitely work on some music.
Mallrat: That’d be really fun. Let’s make a cool video, too. Cause your videos are so cool.
Clairo: We’ll make a High School Musical-themed video.