Having released 33 albums, it’s fair to say that Claire Welles is Merseyside’s answer to Robert Pollard.
Welles is an outsider in every sense. From her left-field artistic voyages to her football team of choice (not Red, Blue or even Tranmere Rovers – Marine F.C., of course), Welles is the vanguard of underground artists in Liverpool. A rough diamond for crate diggers and oddities alike to discover and treasure.
While openly having reservations on the quality of her earlier records, over the past five years, Welles has well and truly honed in on her songcraft, producing her finest work. Releasing two records in 2020 (Fluke and In Quarantine), Welles has continued this stellar run of form with her new album, Dazed – arguably her best yet.
From the opening song Daze, to the downright excellent Yoga Nationalism (who’s coming up with a better song title in 2021?) and emotionally charged cuts, Day in the Pub, and Learning How to Die, for the listener, Dazed fully encompasses the Claire Welles remit.
To our ears, Welles occupies a similar stratosphere to Sleaford Mods and, more recently, Billy Nomates. Welles has always possessed a dry sense of humour and unafraid to call it how she sees it and, in effect, we need more artists like her.
If we get to experience live music in 2021, Messrs Williamson and Fearn could do a lot worse than making room for Welles to join them in the tour van.
It would be some spectacle and a benchmark to prove the naysayers of Welles‘ music wrong, for she is the most underappreciated artist on Merseyside. A tag most would bristle at and perhaps even give up the ghost. In true Claire Welles fashion, however, she just takes it in her stride, using it as more fuel to burn.
We caught up with Welles at the beginning of January to talk about Dazed.
Sun 13: 2020 was tough year for you with a lot of things going on outside of lockdown. How have you been lately?
Claire Welles: “I’m a lot better now, thank you. It was a very traumatic and sad year losing my mother in August but I’ve been keeping myself busy, playing darts, watching Marine F.C. and writing songs so all is well.”
S13: You’ve been so prolific in releasing new music. I’d go as far to say that Dazed is your best record yet. Does it feel like that to you?
CW: “It really does, you know in your bones if an album is truly good or not and this one feels like the real deal. I can’t wait to share it. Saying that, I thought the same about my Transpose album from 2019 and that largely sank without trace despite being chocka-block full of would-be hits.”
S13: Was Dazed written during lockdown? I feel like I heard Daze at your gig with Jade Hairpins, but I might be way off the mark there?
CW: “Dazed began in June 2020 and was finished in mid-October so none of it has been played live yet, which is a great shame but we’re all in the same boat, though some bands have it worse, like Jade Hairpins who were just starting out when lockdown halted everything. Hope they’re okay, I really enjoyed that night.”
S13: Daze feels like is such a big opening song. That must of been an easy choice to open the album with?
CW: “Daze was the first song I recorded for the album and it was a definite step away from the guitars which dominated the previous album (In Quarantine). I wanted to make a synth-heavy opener as a reaction to that.”
S13: Yoga Nationalism might just be the best song you’ve written. Maybe the angriest, too. The drums sound massive – how much input did Stephen Cole have as a producer?
CW: “I wrote the lyrics for that in one go on my typewriter, then the next day I recorded the music really fast. I knew I needed proper drums and a BIG mix on it, so I didn’t hesitate to call Ste because he’s the guv’nor! For me, over the past couple of decades, Ste Cole has been one of the biggest heads on my version of the Liverpool music scene. He’s always involved in incredible gigs and every track a.P.A.t.T. put out is a banger.”
S13: You’re kicking against current trends on Yoga Nationalism, which is kind of the embodiment of your music. It must have felt good getting it all out with this song?
CW: “It certainly does feel good getting it out. The far-right have managed to capture the minds of weed-addled hippies and self-righteous yoga vegans. I’m not sure it’s kicking against current trends, because although these false hippies and cosmic skallies are operating under the guise of freedom-seeking, peace & love movement, people are increasingly aware that this is a simply fascism with a smiley face.”
S13: It feels as if social media in particular is in your ire on the song. What are your thoughts how society is utilising social media?
CW: “It’s not about social media and I don’t have a problem with it. Social media is a prism and we see what’s going on through that prism, but it’s really about the people who have been so addled that they take everything at face value and share dangerous false information.”
S13: Different Lives seems like a song about growing up and feeling detached from your past, the people we used to be and growing apart from. Was that the thinking?
CW: “You’re right, Different Lives is an open letter to friends from the past who are no longer present or people I can’t be bothered knowing anymore. Musically, it’s one of my favourites and is a nod to Brian Jonestown Massacre, whom I love. I touch on the themes of people from the past often, regularly with kindness but as you see in other songs sometimes not.”
S13: Your sense of humour has always been your greatest strength, in my opinion. Songs like Spend the Day in the Pub and Flagship Supermarket pull all those elements together it seems. Would you agree?
CW: “Flagship Supermarket, definitely. That was written in about 90 seconds and recorded almost as fast. Spend The Day In A Pub was written during the summer whilst I was caring for my mother and escaped to the local boozers to get away from the grief, so less jolly.
“The humour sometimes backfires, once a long time ago I recorded a song called Bido Lito and then decided to submit it to a ‘call out for submissions’ compilation. Ever since then I haven’t been featured in the pink papers.”
S13: Learning How to Die must have been one of the hardest things you’ve written so far?
CW: “It’s a heavy duty song, for sure. The first draft of it was half-taken from an NHS pamphlet I was given about what to expect when a loved one dies, but then I elaborated on it to fit with what we experienced ourselves towards the end. It was easy to write but hard to live through, Stephen Cole did the drums and mixing on this too at WhatStudio, which made it magical… especially the outro.”
S13: Having been in the city for almost four years now, it’s baffled me at the lack of exposure your music has received. Why do you think that is?
CW: “I’ve been recording for 25 years now and have made 33 albums. The first 10 years I was rubbish, the next 10 years I was mostly lo-fi and a bit mental, but it’s only been the past five years that I’ve truly come good, certainly the last six or seven albums.
“The problem I think I have is that some people accommodate me with my early work which is quite esoteric, but also being a transwoman hasn’t helped, either. It does baffle me how I’ve not been covered in the press more, however like I said earlier about Bido Lito!, I enjoy being Liverpool’s best kept secret and I’m very much here to stay.”
S13: Bandcamp has arguably been the biggest winner out of lockdown. How much of an influences has it made for artists with DIY influences such as yourself?
CW: “One of the best things to happen during lockdown was Bandcamp doing the monthly no commission Fridays. It gave artists and fans a way to really connect with each other and people who are buying know they’re not just consuming media as this never ending product, but they’re connecting with an artist they know. Bandcamp reminds us that when you listen to music there doesn’t really need to be a middle man.”
S13: You’re on Tim Burgess’ Listening Party and I know he is a big supporter of yours. That must be a massive confidence boost for you?
CW: “It’s a big boost, he’s a good friend and a class act in every way. One of the incredible things about meeting Tim, he loves music and is just one of these people who wants to hear everything and share everything he’s into. It’s a buzz doing one of the listening parties, I’m looking forward to reaching out to new people. That’s what music is about.”
Dazed is out now. Purchase from Bandcamp.
Listen to Dazed on Tim’s Twitter Listening Party on Friday February 5 at 9 P.M. U.K. time.