Michael Di Iorio sits down with Grace and Lily Richardson of CLEWS, the soaring Sydney sister duo who are taking over the country with their unique brand of passionate Rock and Roll.
Sydney sister duo from Mollymook, Grace and Lily Richardson, have been carving their place in the music scene for months now, dropping by whenever they so please to drop an incredible single, and then returning to the studio to work on more music.
The discography of CLEWS so far is something to be admired, only six tracks in total at the moment, and yet anyone who knows Australian music has heard of their name.
First single ‘Museum’ put the girls on the map, showing the world that contemporary indie music can still sound fresh and fierce in 2019. What drives the band to new heights however is their lyricism, each song spilling out like a beautifully crafted poem, where the listener becomes adrift on a river of pure magic.
Currently, the unstoppable force are touring the UK, and are set to perform an opening show for Tash Sultana in the middle of December. This all follows their Halloween trek around Australia titled the Spooky Pageant Tour, which was an incredible tour de force, showcasing the band’s incredible live prowess that is constantly getting better.
I sat down with the duo to discuss the origins of the word CLEWS, the impeccable bliss that is ‘Crushed II’ and the incredible behind the scenes story of their video for ‘Hollywood’.
You’ve just released New Age, and just like all of your other singles, the cover is incredible. When you have a new single what goes behind the cover?
Grace: Whenever we do a cover, all our visuals and online content are done by my housemate and best friend Maya Luana. She does all our videos and photoshoots.
Lily: She does all of our visuals. Every time we have a new single out, we will do a content shoot with her. We just pick a solid visual vibe. Revolving around the world that the video and song exist in.
So, it usually starts with the video. We will brainstorm a video idea then the cover. It’s about painting the world of the song.
Where did you get the idea for the ‘Hollywood’ video?
L: That was Maya who storyboarded it. We shot a different idea at first. It was going to be a dancing competition. We didn’t like it as much, so we redid it to the big theatre in Newcastle.
G: We did one really big shoot for it as Lily said. It was going to be a dance competition where we lose and kill the people that beat us. Then we looked back on it and it looked way more linear than we had imagined. So, we ended up using the fight scene in the video. It turned out to be so much better.
Where was that incredible desert background shot?
G: Cronulla. It was bucketing down with rain. It was so cold.
L: We were covered in sand, rain, sticky fake blood. Our crew were all under an umbrella. Between shoots, we had jackets thrown at us we were all huddling together and shivering. It was so much fun. You know when you get so drenched that you just give yourself over to it?
G: The fake blood was dripping down our faces
Are all the singles released so far going to end up on an EP or an album?
G: We didn’t want to do an EP. The idea behind doing all these singles is that. By the time we release six singles, it will equal an EP.
L: We have always said that if we want to do an album, we would like it to all be recorded in the same place and thought out, both the narrative and the sonics of it.
G: It’s a daunting project. We have never done anything like that before. It’s exciting. It’s going to be a really different experience only recording one song at a time.
L: Because we have been doing it by singles. Each song is like an isolated project and all of your energy is going into that one song and how it sounds.
G: I picture that going into an album, you will have to keep the context of the whole catalogue of songs in the back of your mind to make sure there’s a contrast in it as well. You don’t just end up recording the same song.
When you go into recording a new song. Do you subconsciously think that you have to do something new or do you just do whatever you feel at the time?
L: Up until this point we haven’t thought about that but in our newer singles we’ve had to think about that more. We were starting from scratch and no one knew us. We had like three singles and they were all different from each other. But now we’ve done a few different songs with a few different sounds, because we can’t keep repeating the same sounds.
G: A part of not thinking about making the early songs sound too different is that it’s very much about solidifying our sound. If people are going to be hearing us for the first time, they don’t know what CLEWS sound like yet. We’ve now shown ourselves and everyone else what CLEWS at its core sounds like. Now we can go crazy.
CLEWS have definitely skyrocketed in popularity over the months. Do you guys feel that popularity or do you still feel smallish?
L: I don’t know. I have no sense of our popularity. We don’t follow ourselves. Once you release a song it’s out in the world like a little bird.
You don’t feel like checking on it sometimes?
G: No, you spend so much time listening to it and making tiny notes and over-listening and you put so much energy in it before it’s even released that you actually forget people are going to be listening to it when it’s out there. Once it’s out it’s out you can’t change anything.
L: Whatever will be will be.
G: That’s why I really enjoying doing singles. Finish the song, boom, on to the next one.
Are all the instrumentals and vocals in CLEWS all you?
G: Lily and I both play live and record the two vocals and guitar. Lily is on rhythm guitar and I’m on lead. We have a drummer and bassists as well who are great friends of ours.
L: It depends on what the songs are. We’ve had someone come in and play for ‘Crushed II’. We’ve had people come in to play extra guitar lines or cello.
I have to say ‘Crushed II’ is amazing. If I had to pick a favourite from the singles released, it would be ‘Crushed II’ all the way.
G: Everyone says the same thing and I agree. Matt Mason from DMA’s came in and played pedal steel. It was the most amazing thing ever.
And where did the name CLEWS come from?
G: I was walking into school one day. Lily was in Sydney I was still in high school and said hey if we are ever in a band together, I think we should be called CLEWS and bam.
And the spelling?
Both: I have no idea
G: The word looks cool. This is kind of cheesy, but you think of band names like Blur. That’s a great name. One word that doesn’t really mean anything. I like the one-word thing. It’s very strange because originally I thought CLEWS would be more of a collective thing between us.
L: When we started CLEWS, Grace had never touched a guitar in her life. She was an amazing piano player, but I didn’t want that to be our thing. The piano is not our version of rock and roll so I said ‘Grace, you’re going to have to learn guitar’.
G: I still haven’t learnt guitar. I write individual parts of songs, but I still don’t know what ways up and what ways down when it comes to a guitar. Adrian, the producer at Sony said that maybe if you are trained theoretically in music, it can be restrictive. There are certain rules that you can’t cross. I was playing bass at first then I moved on to the guitar.
This interview will be featured in The Brag Magazine Q4.