Boston’s lo-fi artiste Clairo says she will not stop singing about her experiences
Back in 2017 when Clairo Cottrill uploaded the synth-pop track Pretty Girl on YouTube with a makeshift video of her singing to it in the bedroom, she had no idea about what was in store. The internet soon predicted Clairo to be like any other teenager with an accidental hit—to be gradually forgotten in a world full of genres and releases. This was especially after her follow-up video to Pretty Girl named Flaming Hot Cheetos—a commercial clip featuring a group of dancers dressed like cheese puffs and bags of Clairitos—didn’t appeal well to her fans. But barely two years later, this 20-year-old singer is out with her new album, Immunity that has 11 songs that showcase Clairo in a new light and tone. She has produced this album alongside Rostam Batmanglij, a former member of the indie rock band Vampire Weekend.
Meanwhile, Clairo was also diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis about a year back, something that could easily slow down a performer at her age. But Clairo is on her way to do greater things. Pretty Girl now has over 36 million views. With Immunity, that has officially promoted her status from just another YouTube star, she is fearlessly raising standards. Indulge speaks to the singer on an exclusive interview about life, music, and plans.
How was the experience working with instrumentalist and song-writer Rostam Batmanglij?
Working with Rostam was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I’ve looked up to him for so long, and he was a big part of my musical upbringing. To be able to create new music alongside someone like Rostam, a legendary talent, and now friend was amazing.
How does music stem from you? What comes first?—the the tune, the beat, or a troubling thought that you cannot wait to pen down?
Music comes to me all at once. When I start on guitar, I can usually get out a whole song—chords, and lyrics at the same time, building on top of one another. It is an interesting technique but it’s the way it’s always worked for me. That’s the way Bags and North were written.
Would you agree if I say lo-fi is a state of mind?
It can be. I was always really attracted to the way it sounded. I have been listening to bands like Makeout Videotape, Andy Boay’s solo work, sans AIDS, Sean Nicholas Savage, early Alex G, etc. These people were all really important to me in high school and I felt like I could connect with them through their ‘demo’ feel. I started from there.
Your songs speak about heartbreak, feeling flustered and all the pain that comes with adolescence, and also about friendship and how it can save us (4EVER and alewife). Were these subjects deliberate? Does it liberate you as an artist to speak of these things?
I think it’s important for me to recognize and vocalize the experiences I had growing up. Looking at the audience I have, I need to be able to show the world that their own experiences can connect them with others. They’re not always alone in feeling alone if that makes sense. I plan to keep talking about my own experiences as they change and evolve with my age.
You've been diagnosed with arthritis, and you have barely let it stop you from doing all the fun things a 20-year old can imagine. What keeps you going now?
Lucky for me, I’m currently in remission! It’s been a blessing to be able to move more than I could before. I feel great. The thing that keeps me going now would probably still be music. There is no greater rush than creating a song that you believe in.