Claire Quartz was sitting in the shop she ran one day in Fitzroy when she woke up in her own body. That was the day that she started working on her current project, Witching Hour, and as they say, the rest is history. Creating what can only be described as dark pop, her new single ‘Hell Hath No Fury Like’ proves out what happens when an alt kid grows up in a time like this one, smiling and laughing as the world becomes more and more dystopian. Claire’s sound is uniquely shaped by her synaesthesia, which essentially results in the merging of senses that aren’t normally connected. For her, it means visualising colour through sound, which has turned out to individualise the way that she both creates and perceives her art. There’s so much more to Claire and her career than that, from her occult influences to her Buffy podcast to her experience in design. But with limited time and limited words, we caught up with Claire about how synaesthesia came into play on her new single, with so much more to come from the force majeure of Witching Hour.
How does synaesthesia affect your writing process?
I mean, with being assigned sort of a mild, basic understanding of it, it’s that the sensory nerves in the brain intertwine in places that they usually don’t. So if you perceive one thing, you’ll experience a different sensation to usual. So I mean, I’m not as [advanced] as this, but there are some people out there that smell words or taste numbers. It just gets all mixed up. And so for me, I have kind of two parts of it. The main one I have is grapheme-colour synaesthesia, which is where letters, numbers, words, etcetera, have perceived colours in my mind. So it’s not a physical thing. If I’m reading a regular book, I can see that it’s black text on white paper. But somewhere along the way, there’s this perception or this association that has the colour. So like A is pink, B is brown, C, is yellow – always. And then the other way that it happens in my brain is with music. So it’s a similar thing, certain sounds and certain textures and stuff in a song will have a certain colour. So it’s ridiculous in the way that it manifests sometimes because I’ll be in the studio with my producers or whoever I’m working with and they’ll be talking about the song in a very normal technical terms and I’ll be like, “Look, this is sounding very grey and I need it to sound pastel blue. And that’s as much as I can give you.”
Your new song is angry, but the music is poppy. How did that manifest to you, through the frame of synaesthesia and in general?
Well, in terms of describing the song, it’s definitely kind of an angry, kind of sassy, kind of like, “Well, fuck you” kind of song, to put it simply. And in terms of how my synaesthesia manifests with that song, it was a bit of an interesting process writing it because the melody is a lot more monotone than what I usually write. It’s quite controlled…I wasn’t 100% satisfied with it in the first session because that limited melodic range made it quite black and white in my head. And I was like, “No, no, no, my songs are colourful, they need to have a lot of movement.” Which, obviously doesn’t really make much sense if you don’t have synaesthesia.
And so we worked on the song a bit to spice up certain parts and throughout the process, it became more colourful until I was like, “Okay, this song is an acceptable colour palette.” Which sounds ridiculous. And so I guess the perception I have of ‘Hell Hath No Fury Like’ is very black and white in the base of the song, but sprinkled with fiery colours, which I did to match in with the hell themes. This makes no sense, but it makes a lot of sense in my brain… So when I hear the song, I see in my mind’s eye oranges and reds and pinks – all the good stuff. Angry, fun colours.
What was it that happened that made you write that song?
Basically, I guess the gist of it is I had ended a relationship with a shitty guy, as we all have. And I was going through this experience in the aftermath of that breakup of realising that it was quite an oppressive and toxic relationship. And that he really thought he knew me and he kind of…I had to behave a certain way. And so I was liberating myself from that. And then when I moved on and started hooking up or seeing someone else, that person, my ex, was very upset about it. But he didn’t say a single thing to me about it and just made my life really difficult without ever talking to me. So all of my friends were stuck in the middle of this whole dynamic that was actually never directly addressed. He would leave the room if I ever was at a party with him or he couldn’t make eye contact with me. In a group chat, he would just leave whenever I said anything. And so it was just this feeling of, “You can’t decide who I move on with.” He controlled me in certain ways in our relationship and I was like, “Well, you can’t still do that now.” And I think the big thing about it that came through in the song was that whole idea of…I was sitting here like, “Okay, if you’ve got a problem, say it to me”, and he never, ever, ever had the guts to say it. So that’s why the themes come through in that song of not saying a word and the silence.
Do you think that he’ll listen to the song when it comes out?
I wonder. I think it’ll be quite clear to him that it’s about him. So I hope he does. But I don’t know, because he didn’t even have the guts to talk to me or look at me for a very long time. I also feel like he might never listen to it.
Witching Hour Single Launch
Thursday 22nd April
Stay Gold, Melbourne