Not long ago, Claire George was faced with the musician version of that scene in The Matrix where Morpheus asks if you want the blue pill or the red pill.
The blue pill — turn her remote part-time job in San Francisco as a CPA at a tech company into a full-time gig. The red pill, double down on her dreams to make music and leave the city for isolation near Seattle and teach herself the production to complement her already captivating songwriting skills.
In case you couldn’t tell, this isn’t a blog where I rate tech company CPAs, so Claire George clearly chose the red pill. It’s worked out as good as she could have ever hoped. She spent a year taking classes to learn production, watching YouTube tutorials. She submitted a demoed version of the trip-hoppy “Orbits” to Kitsune when they were looking for unsigned, unreleased talent and was able to get the song included on one of their compilations.
It was the first song she’d ever completed.
“I was in complete shock,” George told Pass The Aux of having “Orbits” accepted by the brand.
“It was one of the biggest moments for me. Because I think I had something in me that felt like, there’s a little bit of I’m never going to be able to do this on my own. And I’ve been a long time fan of Kitsune even back when I was younger and they were doing a bunch of releases. I’ve been following them for a long time so that was extremely exciting. That was the moment where I was like, ‘OK, I’m gonna keep doing this.’ It’s been kind of a north star.”
George worked songs up through trial and error, learning production on the fly, with help from engineer Kessiah Gordon. She wasn’t even sure yet what kind of music she wanted to make, but figured it out along the way, putting out the multi-faceted debut EP Bodies of Water in November. The EP was born out of isolating herself away from the big city life she had become accustomed to in SF.
“I think I had to go really quiet to get to a place that’s honest,” George said. “I think it was very hard to do it because it was so isolating and very intense but I’m glad that I did because it brought out my deepest truths and kind of pulled this out of me, as painful as it was.”
Some may know George from her days fronting SF indie pop band HEARTWATCH. As time grew on with that project, George said she felt something was missing and there wasn’t as much fulfilment than what would later come on her own solo project. HEARTWATCH was making jangly upbeat pop songs and George found more authenticity when dealing with darker, ethereal and atmospheric grooves.
That authenticity led to her landing a label, Cascine, just as the singer was ready to go the DIY route and order her own vinyl. Those label and PR services have certainly paid off. I discovered Claire George on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist back in November or so, and did an inbox search for her name and found I had already received three e-mail blasts about her music.
In a crowded landscape of dark indie pop, Claire George stands out amongst the rest. It’s impossible to pigeonhole her music into one box. “Orbits” has a bit of a Portishead vibe to it. And then “Second Guesses” has a ‘90s workout pop feel to it. “Lonely Or Alone” reminds me a bit of one of my other favorite indie pop acts on the rise right now, British duo Litany. EP opener “Where Do You Go?” was the most likely to get stuck in your head.
Claire George has been LA for nearly a year now, and has a SOLD-OUT “hometown” show opening for DRAMA on Wednesday, February 6 at The Echo. It’s quite a combination, and the two acts are no strangers to each other.
“The best thing about it is, they were like my most listened to band this year and so I’m like a superfan of them and getting to play these shows with them is a dream come true,” George said.
“They’re from such Chicago, they have a DIY Chicago scene vibe. The people that they work with, they treat them like family and it just feels so communal and it’s really awesome and rare. They make me feel like I’m a part of it and that’s really incredible. There’s no one I’d rather play shows with right now.”
Even though she’s playing these shows in support of her first EP, Claire George is already getting to work on the follow-up. She hasn’t yet decided what route she will go, but she’ll certainly do one thing that’s taken her this far: trust her instincts. You can’t argue with the results so far.
Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Svet Jacqueline