The whole concept of the sophomore slump is a pretty cruel one—that you can never live up to that first creative exploit with your subsequent effort. Which is why it’s always so nice when the opposite happens, especially in music, when you can hear a band getting so much more comfortable with their sound that their collective voice comes through so much more clearly and confidently. That’s the case with Minneapolis-Brooklyn duo Tiny Deaths, composed of vocalist/song-writer Claire de Lune + producer/instrumentalist Grant Cutler. The new full length, Magic (out next month), pushes their creativity beyond the whispering wash of your traditional dream pop into a new, more decisive, more compelling realm of music.
We took some time to talk with Claire about the band and their forthcoming sophomore bump (likely would have gone with ‘trump’ had things panned out differently a couple years back).
raven + crow: So, first off, thanks for talking. We really like what we’ve heard from the new album so far. I feel like I’ve got my own opinions on this, but wondering how you feel like your sound has evolved since Elegies.
Claire de Lune: Thanks so much! This album means a lot to us. I think we’ve become comfortable enough with our sound that we’re able to push the boundaries a bit about what a tiny deaths song sounds like. Some of the songs on this album are a pretty big departure from the “dream-pop” label and I like that about it. We’re not scared to explore.
Yeah, we’re definitely hearing a lot more of you in these new songs, which I love. I feel like it reminds me of early noise pop vs later noise pop (e.g. Velocity Girl), where you can actually hear the settling into a sound and maturing in the music—it’s great. I’m wondering though—this shift in sound, is it something that came about pretty naturally for you both or was it something you more set out to do in deliberate manner?
I think it came about really naturally. We’ve been making music together for 5 + years now, and I think at first we were more conscious about trying to create a world for the sound to live in and to stay within that. Now that we’re sort of firmly living in that world it gives a lot more space to stretch that and the evolution sort of just happens over time. Also, lyrically I was super inspired by things that aren’t relationship-based for this record, so there aren’t as many “love” or “breakup” songs on it, whereas the last record was basically entirely a breakup record, an “elegy” to a relationship.
How do you all break down song-writing responsibilities between the two of you?
Grant makes the instrumentals and I write the lyrics and vocal melody.
You’re split geographically speaking, right? How does that affect your song-writing?
Grant moved to Brooklyn before we’d even officially become a band, and it’s really never been an issue. We just bounce ideas back and forth over email and when it comes time to track vocals, Grant is always in the studio with me. It’s still super collaborative, it’s just long distance.
Yeah, I heard an interview recently with a band we’ve long loved, Wye Oak, and they were talking about how used to living apart and writing in that manner they’ve gotten that, now that they live in the same place for the first time in a long time, they think they’re going to have to manufacture that distance to keep the song-writing strong. I could see how that’d really develop into a healthy creative pattern for two people, weirdly enough. So, I’ve always felt like it can be a challenge for some electronic bands—especially duos, where the responsibility is split between just two people—to create a compelling, engaging live show where it doesn’t just come off as someone singing over pre-recorded tracks. How do you all approach your live sets?
That’s actually something that’s always been important to me, because I feel like a lot of electronic based music is super boring live and you’re just distracted by the light show and I really didn’t want to be that band.
Grant actually doesn’t play live with me but I play with a group of really amazing live musicians for almost every show (I play solo, stripped down versions very rarely). I’d way rather invest resources in making the songs sound the best they possibly can than invest in some crazy light show or costumes or something like that. Music is #1, always.
Nice. Are you all planning to tour to support the album?
We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for you when you’re in Los Angeles. Can you talk about the band name? I’m guessing it’s a reference to the French expression for an orgasm, but wondering what the story behind it is.
Yes, that’s what it’s referencing. I guess it’s not much of a story, I just thought the name was a perfect balance of sexy and sort of dark and macabre, which I feel like fits the vibe of the music pretty perfectly.
That balance, in general, is very French. And the new album title? Magic—is there a story behind that?
The name of the album comes from the title track, a song called “Magic”. It’s a song about being a youth during this crazy time in history, and the fear but also the freedom that comes with that. When I wrote that song I knew instantly that it was sort of the perfect mission statement for the album, which I really feel is at its heart, a growing pains, coming of age record. So it became the title.
Yeah, crazy times indeed, but they do tend to bring out the best of us at times, creatively—I feel like there’s a lot of that going on here. We always like to get an idea from bands we like of other bands they like since you’re out there playing shows and maybe hearing a lot of what we aren’t—who are some lesser-known or up-and-coming musicians you’re liking of late?
My friend Katy makes music under the name “Morly” and she’s so great, I’ve been listening to her music a lot.
I’m also really into this sort of crew of young women coming up and taking over indie right now. Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus. They’re all making really great music with really incredible lyrics.
I’d never heard Morly or Lucy Dacus, but they both sound great, thanks. And Julien Baker + Phoebe (fucking) Bridgers are superb. Awesome. Thanks again for talking and, again, love the new work.
Thanks so much! Thanks for chatting.