Formerly one-half of the dream pop duo Toast alongside Josh Mehling, Brooklyn-based artist Claud has spent the past year writing and performing synth-pop bops as a burgeoning solo artist in New York City’s queer scene. Their songs are stories of life and love for non-binary and genderqueer people like themself. In the dreamy song "Wish You Were Gay" on the 2019 album Sideline Star, the singer imagines a reality in which a love interest possesses the same sexual orientation as them: “I wish you were gay so you could just hold me / Call me your babe instead of your homie,” the singer professes over gentle piano.
Since the release of “Wish You Were Gay” and other hits like “Just To Forget” and “Miss You,” Claud, now 21, has performed with Clairo, girl in red, The Neighbourhood, Bleachers, and girlpool, and was included in this year’s Dazed 100. Here, Claud talks to Adolescent about making music and queer representation.
Adolescent Content: I first heard your music about a year ago when you opened for ROLE MODEL on tour in Brooklyn. What have you been up to since then?
Claud: Since then, I've been in lockdown working on music and making TikToks—LOL.
Adolescent: Walk us through your debut album Sideline Star. What is it about? What was the thought process behind its creation?
Claud: Sideline Star is about this feeling of always being pushed to the side, being labeled as "other." The title was sort of meant to be a joke, like instead of being the star of the football team, I'm the star of the sidelines. The waterboy, who's equally important, just in their own way.
Adolescent: “Wish You Were Gay,” as the title suggests, is a story of unrequited queer love. Can you talk about the song’s message and reception?
Claud: It's just a ballad about wanting someone to like you back even though you know they never will. I definitely remain hopeful even when I shouldn't and I think a lot of people ended up relating to that feeling quite a bit.
Adolescent: Its music video pays homage to the indie flick 500 Days of Summer. What about the movie resonates with you?
Claud: Growing up, I loved that movie and I loved Zooey Deschanel so much, except she always played a straight person. There was never any LGBTQ+ representation in my favorite shows and movies, so I took this opportunity to make one of my favorite childhood movies a little more queer.
Adolescent: There’s a scene in the video where you deliver a plate of toast to your love interest, a subtle reference to your former alias of Toast. I hear there’s an interesting backstory involving a lawsuit from Wonder Bread...
Claud: That was a joke! I was never sued by Wonder Bread. They could care less about a little gay kid making music as Toast. I was just ready to start going by Claud so I changed my project name.
Adolescent: As Toast, you collaborated with fellow Syracuse University student Josh Mehling. What are the differences between creating and performing music as a duo and on your own?
Claud: Josh and I were only an official duo for about two months, but we still make music together all the time. Not much has changed other than the photographs are just of me now.
Adolescent: Who do you look up to creatively within the music industry?
Claud: I'm all across the map. I grew up listening to bands like Death Cab for Cutie and The Killers. My queer icons are the xx and Tegan and Sara, and now I just really look up to my friends. They're all so creative and inspiring.
Photos by Lana Parrilla for Billboard.