The More the Merrier: Claire Thérèse Wants You To Be There
Last weekend, I stood outside the bar with Claire, my eyes so hot with tears that I forgot how underdressed I was for the mid-October night. Claire wore a long, army-green coat—the golden arches of the Sherbrook Street McDonald’s glowing above her head.
Then, a patron joined us on the diamond’d sidewalk and immediately broke into song. Modest Mouse’s “Float On” played from the bar’s sound system, and this guy knew every word.
No, don't you worry, we'll all float on…
I watched Claire sway in place to the impromptu performance—eyes sparkling, smiling with all her teeth, as if this stranger were an artist she'd waited her whole life to see. Soon, I was doing the same.
I often find myself in these moments of enchantment with Claire. I think it’s because Claire is so generous with her wonder, and so quick to welcome anyone and everyone to dance.
This is reflected most clearly in her work with Claire Thérèse and The Lockdown. Her first full-length album, Villainy!, drops this Saturday, October 29th, and from its production to its release show, Claire has opened the door and invited others to share in this achievement with her.
“I had been playing solo for a long time and was just needing to take a step back from that. I was feeling too naked and too vulnerable to be the only person out there,” the interdisciplinary artist tells me.
The Lockdown (a name that predates the pandemic) was built around fluidity, allowing various combinations of musicians to join Claire on stage for any gig.
Before recording their debut album, The Lockdown locked down a core group, including such talents as Ava Wray, Vince Andrushko, Ellen Grace Friesen, Jaime Carrasco, Maxwell Harrison, and Sarah Constible.
“You reach this different level of connection in [the recording] process,” Claire explains. “I think that we've really been able to build a sound together, build an aesthetic, share a language.”
Claire admits that the sound they’ve built is still undefined, though she likes it that way.
The self-proclaimed lover of sad, epic songs says the album is not-quite-punk and not-quite-folk, but rather a haunting concoction of the two, all seasoned with purposely unpolished murder ballads and rock lullabies.
“We've played country shows and we've played pop shows, and I feel like we're not out of place at either. So maybe we're a lot of different things.”
Villainy! features a decade-worth of Claire’s most personal music. The album's name was pulled directly from Shakespeare’s Othello. More specifically, from the dialogue of Emelia—a loyal wife who is ultimately murdered by her husband.
“I think that there's something about the album that is about villainy—but also mixed with a lot of love and redemption.”
The cover, designed by Suzie Smith, depicts this beautifully: delicate hollyhocks poking out from behind the wicked word, each letter like a pillar.
The album’s release show is set to blend a plethora of multimedia art, with supporting performances from Blond(e) Goth, DJ Lucky Sharms, and Hollow Bones Performance Collective, plus video by Sarah Constible.
“I'm of the opinion that we need to broaden how we work together to really survive and thrive as artists and musicians…I love the idea of ‘the more the merrier.’”
The very construction of the album was a community effort, too. The vinyl covers were screen printed by hand at Martha Street Studio, where Claire received mentorship when she was young. The screens themselves were donated, and Claire says friends have even offered to hold an album assembly party to put the final pieces together.
“When you ask your community to be generous, and people come out for you, that means that lots of diverse skills come with that. Let's celebrate and all have a hand in this. And then, hopefully, I can do the same for other people.”
Claire refers to The Lockdown as a project due to its constant creation and recreation. It’s all been molded by many hands: from the found family band and DIY album covers to the plaster mask that Claire rocks at every show.
“I've been an arts educator for a long time, and that mask was actually made on me by a young man who I was working with years ago,” Claire explains. “That mask is also a kind of protection: this thing that I can wear on stage that makes me feel like I'm channeling something in someone else.”
On October 29th, Claire invites her audience members to don a mask as well. To join her in a room that is big enough for us all. To celebrate that the world is big enough for kindness to exist at the same time as villainy. With songs that let us ache over this terrific life, all while reminding us that we will float (or dance or trudge or claw) through it with people we love by our side.
The Villainy! album release and masquerade ball is happening at The Good Will this Saturday, Oct. 29th! Get your tickets now!