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When we call Claud Mintz it’s another day of amped-up press interviews as their debut record, Super Monster, is taking over the charts. They admit they’re feeling a little anxious, but excited more than anything. You might recognise the name Claud or seen their name scooped up with a collection of other Gen Z bedroom pop youthquakers (Girl In Red, Clairo, mxmtoon) plastered all over Tik Tok and social media, but this young artist has been in the game for a while. Working under the artistic pseudonym Toast, Claud had an EP and separate project blossoming in 2018. After receiving some friendly advice and encouragement from a friend, Claud left everything behind to chase the music.

At first, college student Claud didn’t want to drop out, in fact, they almost didn’t. “I really wanted to stay in school. I was scared of being on stage, and I didn’t want to do it,” they tell me over Zoom. It wasn’t until their close friend, and fellow musician, Josh Mehling gave them the nudge they needed that they really considered making the most of it. “He was like ‘You should do it and you should go try it for a few months, and so I went, and I got offered a tour and another tour and I just never made it back to school and then my project evolved into Claud.” Away from their friends and family, Claud definitely found the transition from school to touring a jarring one. “I was so nervous. The whole first year I spent away from school was really scary, and definitely took me a while to feel grounded and to feel like I knew what I was doing,” they admit. “Especially after leaving all my friends, it was really hard, but I’m glad I did it because I don’t think I would have figured my voice, what I was trying to say as an artist, or who I am as an artist if I didn’t do that.”

In 2019, as a solo project, Claud released Sideline Star EP which was well adorned online. After receiving bouts of success and emerging as a rising artist, I ask Claud if they feel the same affinity with a collection of tracks that once meant so much to them. “Now I look back on it, I’m like, ‘Wow, I don’t feel like that at all. I don’t relate to this person anymore’,” they explain. “My life has changed so much, and we grow a lot, as human beings do, and at the time, it was my second EP, but it was my first EP as Claud, and I was out on my own in the world. It was scary, so I’m proud of myself for that. It definitely feels like a totally different version of myself.” While they no longer feel like they can fully resonate with the old version of themselves, they do occasionally flip back to parts of their past projects. “Sometimes I’ll go back and watch the music videos but very occasionally. It can be hard for me to watch myself or listen to myself. Sometimes it’s even hard for me to read interviews, but I have to read them in case I said something so stupid,” they laugh. 

Outside of avoiding interviews and following in the footsteps of their mentor and label boss Phoebe Bridgers, Claud sparked their own rounds of virality with their hit song I Wish You Were Gay. At the mention of the track, Claud smiles and begins to explain the meaning behind it. “I had a crush on somebody who’s straight and that tends to happen to me. I have a lot of unrequited love songs that are about the same thing, but this was the first song where I said it. I sort of wrote it as a joke. I never really intended to release it and then I performed it for the first time,” they reveal. While the infectious single spread like wildfire online, Claud first tried and tested it in New York during a show. “I was opening for Girl In Red and I was like this audience seems pretty gay… let’s try it out and see if they like it. People really liked it and were taking videos of it so I thought I’ll just release it for a few people and then the video went crazy online.” While I Wish You Were Gay was clearly queer, Claud tells me they hope their music helps build a community of listeners. “It’s hard to tell. I think releasing Wish You Were Gay definitely, attracted a lot of LGBTQ+ people,” they say. However, they were aware that it only one of their tracks that was explicitly gay. “It’s like a bonus way that people can feel more connected to me and resonate with my music more so I find it is beautiful.”

As they mention Girl In Red, I wonder if they’ve considered the wave of Gen Z artists rising in profile. “I don’t even think about it that way, that’s interesting,” they reflect. “I think it’s awesome. The Internet has given so many people an outlet and a voice and a place to express themselves creatively, and that’s beautiful,” Claud tells GAY TIMES. “From an artist’s perspective, I’m very attentive to what everybody is doing, and I don’t really see similarities, but I do understand, a lot of us are around the same age. We’re all holding guitars, we brought the guitar back, so I see how that could be interesting. I wonder, sometimes, how we would be perceived without the internet?”

Now released, Claud’s debut record, Super Monster, is a bedroom pop record saturated with unique visions of love flitting between self-discovery and healing. For Claud, signing to Saddest Factory Records was a dream opportunity. “In my first year of university, I had a radio show and I played Phoebe’s music on it all the time,” they recall. At the time, Bridgers’ debut record, Stranger in the Alps had just been released, and the young artist struck a deep affinity with the artist. “I remember playing Georgia on my radio show so when [Phoebe] reached out to me, a few years later, I was so flattered and moved that somebody who had been such a big part of my life and my musical journey, wanted me to be part of theirs. It took a while to get to know her, but as Super Monster started to come together, our vision started to align, and then I signed to her.” Choosing to sign to a label is no small feat, but Claud was attracted to Saddest Factory Records as an artist-grown production: “I know that the music industry likes to look at it differently, but artists have a completely different perspective on the music industry than any business person does. And, for me, it was really important an artist was able to see it and get it from my perspective, especially with this album.”

Throughout Super Monster, Claud’s emotional frankness is endearing. It’s a quality, similar to Bridgers’, that entraps the listener. Whether it’s benign details of an ex you recognise in a stranger or falling for a straight friend, the indie-pop artist’s stories strike a chord of personal relatability. “There are parts throughout the album where I am talking to myself, making fun of myself, or trying to remind myself of something,” they explain. [Guard Down] was one of those instances. When I found out somebody I had feelings for was involved with somebody else, my first instinct was ‘Oh, I don’t care, whatever. It’s fine. I don’t care’, but that wasn’t the truth. The truth is that I did care, I was upset about it and I was sad. And I clocked myself right away for that. I was like, ‘oh, but I don’t let my guard down. I kept thinking ‘Don’t let your guard down Claud, or bad things will happen’. So, I decided to make a fun song out of that.” Alongside much of Claud’s work, you’ll find self-designed animations penned by the singer. A wide-eyed cartoon illustration of Claud is the chosen artwork for Super Monster, and you’ll find the same drawings appear across their music videos and Tik Tok content. From designing album artwork for their album to vinyl covers, you can see Claud’s digital creative imprint across the breadth of their art; an action that makes an already intimate album distinctively their own.

For the singer themselves, Super Monster has been an opportunity of release. Reflecting on the record, Claud dwells on a particular track where they were getting pretty “sick of [their] own life”. Mindful of their own habits (“I tend to be more of an observer of love than a participant”), the artist wanted a change of pace. “I was like, ‘Let’s write about something else, somebody else.’”

Establishing a balance between personal narrative and fictitious storylines was easy enough and in little time they had a finished record. “On a personal level, I’m very excited. I’m really proud of myself that I wrote an album, and that people want to hear it,” they smile, pulling their phone closer to their face. “It’s so sudden. [There’s] this thing that was only mine and now it’s for everybody else.” But, now, with their milestone record out there, Claud is eager to see what fans think of different aspects of the album. “There’s a middle chunk of the record that I’m really excited about. I haven’t really put out a sad song yet or a ballad yet, so I’m excited for my fans to hear that side of me and understand that I’m a multidimensional person.” More than anything, Claud hopes their fans can find some warmth and validation in their art. “I want them to take away that growth is not linear. It’s okay to mess up and it’s okay to change and grow, but throughout it all, you’re still worthy of love, and you still deserve it if you want it. Things aren’t gonna magically change overnight, it takes time and to be patient with yourself, so don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s okay!”

You can listen to Claud’s debut record, Super Monster, on Apple Music here or below.