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Tiny Deaths' Claire de Lune: 'It’s a crazy time, for me personally and for the world'

Zoe Prinds-Flash

Zoe Prinds-Flash

They say long-distance relationships never work out. But don’t tell that to Tiny Deaths.

The five-year creative partnership between singer/songwriter Claire de Lune and Brooklyn-based producer Grant Cutler has always crossed multiple state lines. Now it’s truly a bi-coastal arrangement, following de Lune’s move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles last year.

“I was really itching for an adventure, a change of pace,” de Lune says over Sunday brunch, back home rehearsing for her upcoming tour. “I wanted to shake things up a bit. Some people can just find that drive within themselves to push themselves to grow and challenge themselves. But for me, sometimes it’s helpful to have the world pushing you. L.A. is hard. It’s a hard city to live in. It’s expensive. It’s huge. It’s forced me to go within my inner reserves of strength, and that always creates growth. I think I’ve become more sure of myself and stronger. I feel like I’ve grown up a lot in a year.”

That confidence and growth is evident on Magic, Tiny Deaths’ new record. Though recorded in Minneapolis at Humans Win! Studios in the summer of 2017, before de Lune’s move, it pulses with restless energy, the diaphanous electropop of the band’s earlier work now both more refined and more propulsive, and de Lune’s lyrics more expansive and empathetic then ever.

“This is the first time that I’ve written a record that is not predominantly about relationships,” de Lune says. “Historically, I’ve just been more inspired by love and relationships. But on this record, I wrote about a lot of other things. There’s no way that after the election, and after some of the experiences that I had with the Black Lives Matter movement and the #MeToo movement—unless you’re consciously trying to avoid it, I just don’t think it’s possible to be an empathetic person and not have that inform what you are inspired to write about.”

The simmering opener “Us” calls out those who build walls around themselves, hiding from the unfamiliar and failing to recognize the humanity in others, and the title track captures what it’s like to be young during apocalyptic times. De Lune wrote the elegantly fragile “Stop the Stars” about an emotional moment in a bar late on election night 2016, as she watched the results terrify a family of undocumented immigrants who worked in the kitchen.

“All the boundaries just fell down that night,” de Lune says. “It was this thing where we’re all in this together. It felt apocalyptic, and all the rules about what was considered normal had gone out the window. I just went up to the dad and hugged him, and he fell into my arms and started crying on my shoulder. I was just holding him and telling him that everything was going to be OK, and in my heart I didn’t know if I believed it. But I just felt like that’s what he needed at that moment. It was two strangers offering comfort to each other, and I wanted everything to be OK for him so bad. That song is about that experience with him, really wanting to protect him from the evils of the world—and not really understanding how people can be so cruel and be so dismissive of other human lives.”

The remote creative camaraderie that de Lune and Cutler share plays to the strengths and artistic traits of the duo. Cutler remains a silent partner who is most comfortable behind the scenes, while de Lune has taken on the responsibility of marketing, booking, and managing the band after they parted ways with their management team.

“The whole idea of this band was that everyone does what they want to do and what they are good at,” de Lune says. “I love performing live, and I like talking about our music, and I’m fine being the face of our band. Grant just really wants to be holed up in his studio making music, and never talking to humans and never seeing them. So, I go out and present our music to the world, whether it’s talking about it or performing it, and he stays hidden and safe in his little lair and just makes really beautiful music.”

Cutler’s textured, electronic arrangements for Magic are moody, dynamic, and evocative, while also spare enough for de Lune’s vocals to shine through, and for the first time, they worked with an outside recording engineer, Brett Bullion.

“That was really interesting because we really know our sound, but he [Bullion] obviously didn’t, because he’s new to us,” de Lune explains. “Having to explain to someone what about you makes you you, in order to get that sound out of them, really makes things more clear. It makes you feel more sure about your identity as an artist, versus just intuiting it yourself—to have to be able to put into words for another person that this is the type of sound we are, and this is what makes us us.”

The mixing process wasn’t completely smooth at first. “We ended up using the word ‘feminine’ a lot, like ‘feminine energy,’ as feedback for Brett,” says de Lune. “It wasn’t quite right, the first round of mixes that we got. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I said to Grant, ‘What is it about this that feels so...’ and he said, ‘masculine.’ And that was totally it. That’s not us. This project has such a feminine energy. I never would have thought to put it in those terms or think of it in that context if we weren’t trying to find ways to explain to someone else how to get closer to what we sound like.”

De Lune is more proud of Magic than anything else she’s made in her career. “Call me old-fashioned, but I love albums,” says de Lune. “It’s the closest I’ll get to making a film. It’s a fully realized piece of art. An album really gives you a chance to say something, to make something that is like a moment in time and really self-contained. I think it takes you a few songs to find out who you are in that moment. When I look back on this record and this moment in time, I’ll see that yeah, that’s me in my late 20s navigating the world. And it’s a crazy time, for me personally and for the world—and it took me a few songs to work through that.”

Tiny Deaths
With: Gully Boys, DJ Sarah White
Where: Icehouse
When: 10 p.m. Thurs. Oct. 4
TIckets: 21+; $8/$10; more info here