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July 13, 2019 | by  | in Arts Interview | [ssba]

Interview with Claudia Jardine

Digital platform-au fait musician and poet Claudia Jardine talks about her new EP, North, and her sister’s pug, Frank the Tongue.


Taylor: When did you start playing music? 


Claudia: I grew up in Christchurch where I taught myself guitar. I was 11. I came from a musical family. I’ve been singing since I was really young. And I started writing songs when I was maybe like twelve. They weren’t very good.


T: Do you remember some of the things you wrote about?


C: It was usually about nature. Leaves and trees and grass and that kind of stuff. I remember my dad being like “oh gosh it’s very John Lennon”. I was like, “Yay!” because at that time I thought the Beatles were the best thing.


T: You’ve been promoting your music on YouTube and Facebook since you were 14, which is almost a decade. How have those platforms affected you as an artist?


C: When I was like 15 or 16, I was on Tumblr. Everyone was on Tumblr—this sort of shrine of adolescence where you were figuring yourself out. Making opinions without your parents hanging over you. I used to post videos of me doing covers of songs by the Arctic Monkeys or the Beatles, or Bob Dylan—or the Strokes, my favorite band. Fan blogs would pick up on them, and they’d get a bit of traction overseas. You know, just people like me. Nothing serious, I guess. But it was enough to see people’s opinions and find them gratifying.


So I started to put the covers on YouTube. They were pretty often well-received. I think there’s a good hundred videos out there, and I’ve always wondered whether I should take them down now because now I’m 23. But I guess it’s important for people who are interested in pursuing careers in the arts to know that it doesn’t happen overnight.


T: Let’s talk about your “Hide” music video and Frank the Tongue.


C: Frank is my sister Lisa’s dog. He just has this enormous tongue, purely by mutation. I reached out to Martin Sagadin, who is quite famous, and I was like, “I have this hilarious dog and I have this song and I think that the two could go quite well together.” So I sent Martin a video of Frank doing a poorly executed forwards roll. And Martin, thankfully, was so keen. I made boy scout uniforms [for Frank and me]. 


As the ideas for the music video whittled down, we were like ‘Boy Scouts’, ‘Wes Anderson’, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’. Frank and I feel like we’ve had enough of the world and going off camping by ourselves. Meanwhile, Cilla (supporting actress and black labrador) was the scoutmaster who’s trying to get me and Frank up to code.


T: And how was it, working with dogs? 


C: Frank is Frank, and he has a very short attention span. We were trying to get him to sit and stay for shots, and he would always fidget. Or hear noise. I got a little bit frustrated with Frank because, I guess, a dog is a wee bit like a sibling and you’re kind of like, “You dickhead, stop doing that.” Thankfully, Martin was so patient. 


Sometimes it was really easy to get Frank to do stuff on cue with treats. He loves apples. So if I had an apple in my hand he would just be on me like a magnet. And he quite likes being held. So the shots where I hold him were easy. Other times we just let Frank do his thing and Martin just kind of followed him and filmed him. 


[It was] a bit of trickery and a bit of free will. And every now and again there’s an added chaotic element of a cat.


T: As a poet and a musician, what comes first: the poem or the song?


C: Often I get an interesting thought. I write down and kind of juggle it around in my head. If a melody doesn’t come soon, or if I can’t see how the thought could turn into a song, then often I make it into a poem. 


Poems tend to give more freedom to explore more than one kind of thought, whereas I feel like with a song, you have to start with a core idea and build a narrative.


T: What ideas and themes do you tackle in your music and in your poems?


C: A lot of the songs that are coming out on this EP are from a few years ago, so they’re a lot about relationships and emotions. Often confusion. The song “Hide” that’s coming out the music video is sort of about me. It’s my complicated relationship with self-esteem and self-image. How you always want to be growing and learning, but also sometimes it gets a little bit tough always hearing criticism. 


And you kind of just want to roll away into a ball and take a break. But then with poetry, I write about all sorts of stuff: nature, sex, relationships, pets, family. It would be kind of weird to write a song about my family. But they seem to fit into poetry quite well. You know. These are things I’m still figuring out and maybe I’ll surprise myself. Maybe I will just start writing songs about my family, and it’ll be fine. But for now, it feels a bit more complicated than what a song can get across.


Claudia’s EP North is now available for streaming and downloading on Bandcamp. Her new music video can be found on her prevailing YouTube page. 


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