CLEWS talk Crushed, collaborational writing and supporting LAUREL
The Sydney duo have a big year planned, loaded with shows and releases. First up, supporting LAUREL this month.
It's really not hard to understand the appeal of CLEWS. On their two break-out singles, last year's Museum and Crushed, the Sydney-based, Mollymook-raised sisters united emotionally-charged hooks with guitar-backed instrumentals that feel like a modernised take on 90s rock, bringing together soaring vocals and thick guitar harmonies as they make a two-for-two impression straight off the block. It's almost like what you'd expect from a Blur x First Aid Kit x Moaning Lisa songwriting session; capturing Damon Albarn thick instrumentals, First Aid Kit's intimacy and approach to songwriting, and Moaning Lisa's haunting emotiveness; swirling them all together in a songwriting pot to create breezy, but heavy-backed singles which make a solid punch.
In 2019, they're gearing up for what may be perhaps their biggest year yet. Last month, came its first tease Crushed II - a stripped-back, acoustic-leaning take on their second single which sees the intimacy in their soaring vocal really fleshed out and spotlighted, layering their joining harmonies amongst dizzying guitar work and subtle licks which make a listen almost as good as an original. From here, they'll support LAUREL this month (following on from support slots for Portugal. The Man, Middle Kids and more), and release a pair of double A-sides - one in a month or so, with Crushed II being its B-side; the second later this year - going a different route to most as they avoid the EP path for something more minimalist and as a result, perhaps more impactful.
There's a lot going on in CLEWS camp, so before it all goes down - and to introduce yourself to an act amongst Australia's most promising - read our interview with the two sisters below, and catch them in Sydney/Melbourne this month - full dates below, more info and tickets HERE.
So last time we caught up with you two was with the release of Crushed, in November last year. That was six months ago now, and with a bunch planned for CLEWS for the rest of the year, that time must’ve been pretty flat-out busy. What have you been up to since Crushed’s arrival?
I can’t believe that was six months ago (!). We wrapped up 2018 with a support slot on Holy Holy’s tour, played some summer festivals to bring in the new year and have been scheming non-stop about how this year is going to pan out. Unrelated to music, in case you’re interested; I bought a cool old car that is falling apart but looks fly af, and Grace has left her teenage years behind and turned the big 2.0.
Two weeks back, you put out Crushed II – a more acoustic take on the single, which accompanies an A-side coming soon. Can you tell us a bit about the acoustic take on Crushed, how it was made, and the thought process behind putting it out alongside a new feature single?
Country songs have a very special place in our hearts. We love being in a rock band - it’s a dream come true - but folky music feels very homely to us and Crushed II was a chance to indulge that side a little bit. Honestly, most of our songs sound like sad ballads when we write them, before we wrap them in rock arrangements. So for this one, we swapped the major chorus chords for their minor counterparts and had some old and new friends play double-bass and pedal steel for the arrangement. Grace played all her lead parts on her tele strung in Nashville tuning, which was a trick we picked up from Nick DiDia in the sessions recording the original version of Crushed.
And on that topic – the A-side. Is there anything you can share with us on that, or is it all tightly under wraps?
No secrets here my friend. We’re releasing the A-side in a month or so. It’s a song we’ve been playing live for a while and has become one of my favourite parts of the set, so we’re looking forward to it being out in the world.
Then, after this incoming new single, you’re releasing another with another companion B-side. It’s a bit of a different release strategy in comparison to the single-single-single-EP-esque style, was there anything in particular that drew you to release this way?
For some reason an EP didn’t really feel like us, so we went with the idea of these next releases having companions and coming out two by two. We’re hung up on those sort of things - patterns and symmetry and leaving breadcrumbs, even if it’s only for Grace and me. Plus I get really into who is releasing what and how, it’s really interesting. The record industry has been around for a hundred years now, and streaming changed everything again. At this moment in time, we can release music however we want, so why not.
I was reading a past interview just following the release of Crushed, and you talk about how you’ve started co-writing songs together. Is this something you two are still experimenting with? How has it changed the writing process and dynamic of the band?
Yes, great question. We’ve been co-writing together a bit more now. I usually write the wordy verses and then Grace comes in and sweeps me off my feet with a big chorus melody, so it’s working out pretty well so far. Now I purposely leave songs half done after I start them so Grace can come over and fill in the blanks or take the melody somewhere else before I get too stuck in my ways.
CLEWS have done a lot of support slots in the past, for some pretty big artists too – Portugal The Man, Middle Kids, Albert Hammond Jr and now LAUREL this month. Is there anything you’re drawn to in supporting slots?
We’ve been very lucky in terms of the bands we’ve opened for, some true heroes in there. If we get to support people that we are genuinely fans of - which by the grace of gawd is what seems to have happened so far - then we’re happy. And all the big fish we’ve swum around with in the past couple of years have been absolute sweethearts.
What else have you got planned for the year ahead?
We have a show coming up in June (it hasn’t been announced yet, sorry, we DO have secrets) that is a bucket-list gig which we’re really looking forward to. Then we’ve got three more songs to put out as part of our sets of singles. We’ll be putting on shows to support those releases and to hang out with the crews who come to our gigs, so excited for all that too. Winter is my favourite time of the year to write songs so we’ll be cooking up more demos for the next little while.
Tour Dates (tickets HERE):
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