Local Minneapolis band Tiny Deaths’ dark and dreamy pop sound with catchy beats that’ll compel you to dance has not gone unnoticed. Several of their songs, including their single “Ocean”, have played on 89.3 The Current and Radio K, and with the recent release of their second EP Night Flowers, Tiny Deaths will be playing a show in Duluth at The Current’s Launch Party with Babes in Toyland, Astronautalis, and more.
But, Tiny Deaths isn’t another electro-pop group without substance. Lead singer and songwriter Claire de Lune injects thoughtful and deeply emotional lyrics to the mix, giving a slice of her life and smoothly guiding you along with her ethereal vocals.
I had a chance to sit down with Claire over coffee and talk about her journey as an artist, what her struggles are, and where she is taking Tiny Deaths in the future.
Minnesota Connected: So, you were in the group The Chalice. What lead to that stopping and your desire to start Tiny Deaths?
Claire de Lune: Well, it was kind of a mutual thing. Lizzo was in The Chalice as well, and she really wanted to work on solo stuff, and I had been working on these songs with Grant Cutler, the producer of Tiny Deaths, in my free time for fun. The Chalice was really busy, so I didn’t really have any free time to do anything with them. So, when we started talking about taking time off indefinitely — well I was like, oh that’s kind of perfect because I have these songs I’ve been working on and would love to have time to do something with them. Also, The Chalice wasn’t really my vibe. It was really fun, but it wasn’t very fulfilling for me. We put it on hold at a crossroads when things were becoming pretty serious.
MC: What drew you to the dreamy, poppy sound that you have at Tiny Deaths?
Claire: Well, that’s always what I liked. Like, what I listen to. I love Beach House and Grizzly Bear. I started listening to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arcade Fire in high school. I’ve always loved pop, I guess, but on the experimental side of that. So, it was sort of, reflective of what my personal tastes always were, and I just never really had a musical outlet for them before. Mostly just because I got through the music scene through hip hop, just by chance actually, and so it took a long time to lead to a place where I could just choose what the music I was working on sounded like. So, Tiny Deaths, I feel like, is the first time I had any clout, or leg to stand on, and recruit people to do my own vision.
MC: Was The Chalice hip hop?
Claire: Yeah, it was Hip Hop. It was sort of a TLC kind of vibe.
MC: What’s been your biggest struggle as an artist?
Claire: My biggest struggle as an artist in general? All of them. Pick one, okay. My biggest struggle would be kind of learning what I want to sound like, trusting my intuition. Kind of like having enough faith in myself that I feel like my voice is worth hearing and that I have something to say, you know? I’ve been doing this for ten years now and am just now feeling like I can take myself seriously as a musician and as a singer and deserve a place at the table.
MC: What was the big moment where you felt like Tiny Deaths was where you wanted to be?
Claire: So, The Chalice was doing really well and then we just walked away from that. Tiny Deaths was… obviously, no one knew the hell that was. I kind of made that my full time gig before it made sense to do that. I started making it priority before anyone was listening to it and then eventually people started listening, which was the opposite in the past of how I’ve done it with everything else. We’ve had two EPs now. I think the first one did better than I expected, but it still was small and mostly localized. We got a little bit of national something, but not much. This second EP seems like it’s starting to get a little big more, like more people are starting to find out about it. I guess I don’t really feel like, “Oh it’s really starting to pop off.” Like I feel like we have a long way to go.
MC: So your songs and style have a little darker edge. Does sadness inspire you to write those songs or does it come naturally?
Claire: Yeah, I would say dark, sadder things I find more inspiring than happy things. That’s just like me. I mean that’s my style. I’ve always have been a darker songwriter, I guess. I think like heartbreak and breakups are the most inspiring for me, so I think most of the songs end up being about that. Luckily, I’m in my twenties so no shortage of those to go off of. Yeah, I think even in the dancier tunes, I think they’re still pretty dark. And yeah I don’t know if that’s like me as a person or me as a song writer but I’m more drawn to the darker side of things in the kind of music I like and the kind of music I make.
MC: It seems like in general music history, sad things tend to make more songs than happy things.
Claire: Yeah, well I think you can kind of go one of two ways on a broad sense. Like music to try to make people have fun, dance, and be happy, or music as like therapy. And I just have been drawn to the latter, even though I feel like our songs are still pretty dancy and fun to listen to. Even the dancy ones are still kind of dark and creepy. Somebody was describing one of our songs “The Gardener” as irresistibly dancy. And it’s just funny to me, because it is that, but it’s also a really dark narrative about this pathological cheater who’s just a really crappy partner.
MC: Usually you lean toward more synth pop, but “The Gardener” felt more stripped down with more guitar. Was that just for fun or are you leaning toward that kind of that sound in the future?
Claire: I don’t know. We have more music coming out hopefully later this year. I think we are incorporating more of those sorts of sounds. More of the organic sounds into the new stuff. I think it’s just more like kind of tweaking the formula and experimenting with it. The first EP was sort of like the stuff of Grant’s that I was drawn to and then the second EP was like “Okay we have an EP so this project of itself has a sound so where can we go from there?” I feel like experimenting from taking things away. Like taking layers of production away while still maintaining the sound and vibe of it, interests me. So there are some songs in the pipeline that maybe aren’t quite and stripped down but sort of similar. I think we got put in the electronic music category mostly, but I think that song and more of the newer songs are just indie dance. It’s not super premeditated. You just naturally get more experimental.
MC: How did you meet Grant Cutler?
Claire: I met him because he used to live here. He lives in Brooklyn now. I was at a show. He was playing. He did a record for Abbey Wolf. They were playing a show at Sound Gallery, an underground venue that closed. I saw their set and was like “Oh my god, this is the kind of music I listen to, and I love his production.” I didn’t even know anyone in Minneapolis who made music like that. So, I walked up to him point blank and was like, “Hey, my name’s Claire and I really liked your set and I love your music and I’d love to collaborate sometime.” Luckily he had heard of The Chalice, so he knew who I was and wasn’t just like some crazy weirdo. I mean I was that, but I had some kind of established music thing going on. So we just got together and hung out and kind of made songs just for fun.
MC: How do you collaborate with him since he lives in New York?
Claire: Generally speaking it’s kind of like a ping-pong over email. For this last record I sent him a bunch of songs that were inspiring me at the moment. I sent him a Little Dragon’s song and a Grimes song, and a few other things. So, he made a bunch of skeletons of beats and sent them over to me. I would choose what I liked, write over those, and send them back a version with really scratch vocals on it. And based on what I wrote he finished the beats. He would send them back to me and I’d be like, “I really like this thing, but can you make this longer.” So they go through a bunch of rounds of editing back and forth. It’s similar to what it would be in person, but just through email.
MC: Night Flowers, the new EP, did you feel any pressure putting that out?
Claire: I don’t know about pressure. But I definitely was more conscious of it. The first was just like a free for all, and the second one was like, “Where do I want to go?” “What does Tiny Deaths sound like and how do I grow from there?”
MC: So you had a wave of inspiration? Some artists dry out and don’t know where to go next.
Claire: I always would be writing if I had stuff to write or a reason to write; I feel like I’m a songwriter first, and a singer second in a lot of ways. I identify as a songwriter. I had a lot of material this time as far as inspiration in my life because I went through a dark time when I was writing this. I wrote a lot of the lyrics when I was on tour in the East coast last summer. Something about just driving around and being in New York I find super inspiring.
MC: How many tours have you been on?
Claire: Three tours last year. None this year.
MC: And they were nationwide?
Claire: Yeah, so, first one was from here to San Antonio, TX. Second one was the west coast and the third one was the East Coast. It was just myself, which I don’t plan to do again.
MC: You just used tracks?
Claire: Tracks and I did the same vocal kind of stuff I do with the band, like live looping. People didn’t seem as bored as I thought they would. Cause I thought, that’s really boring, right? Like someone with tracks and singing, but people really liked it but I don’t think I would do it again. It was really funny and a good learning experience. I just think the songs are a lot cooler live with a band.
MC: And you have a band now?
Claire: Yeah, I’ve actually had a band the whole time pretty much. I just couldn’t bring them with me. Hopefully now we’re going to hit cities more than once, I’ll be able to afford to bring them with me. I have a three-piece band that plays all the regional shows. They add a lot to the live show. I personally don’t like going to see a lot of electronic music because it’s a dude in a laptop and it’s really boring to me.
MC: So, what’s next?
Claire: We just started writing new stuff. More music.
MC: Which is good.
Claire: Yeah! I mean it’s funny the pace of thing in this industry. It’s so slow. Even the songs that would come out this year, it would have already been a year since I wrote them.
MC: So, you probably feel distant to them?
Claire: Yeah, a little bit. I mean I’m still excited, but things just take so long. I think it’s important to just keep writing. I’m trying to find a way to expedite the process. It just seems crazy it takes so long from the time when you’re really excited for something brand new and when people get to hear it. But that’s just kind of the nature of the beast I think. Hopefully touring again, but we’re just being more careful now about that because like I said I want to bring the band. I could go back out solo again, but I want people to see the best possible version of the set.
Photos courtesy of: Zoe Prinds Flash — Tiny Deaths — Markus Akre