Photo: Jade Sadler
From working as a merch manager to becoming a full time artist, spill tab, the moniker of Claire Chicha, has a unique perspective that clearly shines through her music. With the release of seven tracks during quarantine, it's been an interesting ride for the singer, songwriter, and producer.
Nevertheless, spill tab and her main collaborator David Marinelli have been channeling uncertainty into music, from releasing her debut EP Oatmilk to experimenting sonically on her 2021 release, "PISTOLWHIP." We got to chat with Claire about songwriting in multiple languages, navigating being an artist during a pandemic, and her newest dreamy release, "Anybody Else."
Let's start off by chatting about your new song "Anybody Else," which is definitely a sonic departure from your previous release. How did the process of making "Anybody Else" differ from "PISTOLWHIP?"
spill tab: I think, in general, it’s always a little bit different. I work mainly with my collaborator, David, and he is just so flexible and talented. We always try to have as much fun as possible making songs. With "Anybody Else," we were just fucking around with the idea of this '70s or '80s kind of vibe. I was going through this phase where I was singing like an '80s frontman on everything. I just started singing the melody to the chorus and he was like, "Oh, wait, that's kinda sick, let's expand on that." So we kept building it out and then it naturally had the form of feeling like a retro vibe. We didn’t want to force it out of that, so we left it that way.
One of the standout elements of your music is the unique production; how do you feel the added production elevates your songwriting?
I think the reason why it works and is additive instead of just present is because I’m working with a really good friend. David is one of my best friends and there's a lot of trust and time that’s been spent together. We just understand each other’s tastes and preferences. It makes it so much easier to have a successful session. It translates that the production is a huge part of the song that ebbs and flows with the lyrics and the metering of the words, where it doesn’t feel like it’s just an instrumental that I top lined.
Tell us a little bit about the creative process between you and your main collaborator, David Marinelli.
We started making music one summer while I was still living in New York but I was in LA visiting. When I left, the only way we could successfully continue working together was sending each other stems. For a long while we would just send ideas back and forth. Like for example, I think "Santé" was just a baseline that I sent to him and "Cotton Candy" was a song that I’d written on the uke and then brought to him. Now that we live in the same city, it’s still back and forth but we’re just in the same room. It definitely, as a result, made me a better producer. I still track and comp all my own vocals, and I’m getting into the production side of vocals. I think it all came out of the fact that I just had to in the beginning. It’s been super rewarding and David has been so supportive and helpful.
Something that stands out about your discography is the cover art, which is so different for each track. Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the single art for "Anybody Else?"
As of recently, because it gets busy, the cover art has come from a moment of, "Oh, shit, we need cover art." I’m sure a lot of artists can relate. The "Anybody Else" cover art came about when we were editing the video and I got an email from my manager. He was like, "Sick, let’s submit the song and the cover art next week." We were watching that orange scene in the video during the second chorus where the lighting looks so sexy. Jade, my friend who's a visual artist, said "Why don’t we just pull this still for the cover art?" My other friend Gabby is a sick graphic designer, so we sent her a couple of stills to choose from. I love leaning on the women in my life, they're all so talented. It’s such a nice way to get back in touch and catch up with the people that I used to be really close to in New York. Everyone’s so busy, but when it’s about work it gives you an excuse to spend an hour or two talking.
Since you were the merch manager for Gus Dapperton's 2019 tour, has that given you a different perspective as a musician?
Definitely yes, but I wish it came from a place of you know, "I’m an artist but I want to be humbled by the work of a day to day industry person." I was so broke, just out of college, and was blessed enough to get this job offer from Gus and his tour manager Mac. I did not know what I was getting into and it happened to be one of the sickest experiences of my entire life. I was downright shook by how kind, down to earth, and smart everyone on that tour was. It definitely gives you appreciation for every job, no matter how small or large. I feel like artists always get so much appreciation and there are so many harder jobs that get a little bit overlooked. It was nice to get that perspective.
We have to talk about the fact that you write in multiple languages. How is your writing process different when writing in English versus writing in French? Is it different at all?
Since it’s my first language, I try to carry my emotions and experiences through the vehicle of the English language. But with French, it’s a different tool or paintbrush that I get to paint with. I love the way the words sound, I love the stories I can tell. It's definitely more abstract, the stuff in French, because it just sounds cooler. French is so sexy and badass and it’s so much fun to step into the shoes of a different character.
It’s such a flex, being able to write music in two different languages.
Honestly, sometimes I forget that I write in another language. I’ve not been doing it as much and should definitely, like, get back on my French bullshit.
How has the pandemic impacted your songwriting process and the overall experience of making music?
I mean the pandemic gave me my career in music because, a little over a year ago, I wasn’t doing music full time. It was a hobby and something I was aspiring for, but I wanted to tour manage. That’s what I wanted to do with the next couple years of my life. And obviously the world stopped, which gave me the chance to just write. It gave me the chance to work a lot with David and hone in on my songwriting and production skills.
Now that shows are slowly starting to come back, are there any venues that you're most looking forward to playing in the future?
I really love this venue Baby's All Right in New York. I've been to some of my favorite shows at that venue, like Still Woozy. I’m trying to push out that venue at some point.
At this moment, which artist would you want to collaborate with the most?
Alice Phoebe Lou is super tight. I love her songwriting, it's so haunting and beautiful. She has a song called "Only When I," which I love. Also, there’s this French band called L'Impératrice, they make the sickest music ever.
What’s next for 2021? Can we expect a full project or are you just taking things day by day?
Absolutely taking things day by day. I might just move to the Dominican Republic and start a coffee farm or something. I look back to two, three months ago and I'm like, "What the fuck? That felt like a year ago!" It feels like so much is happening at a very fast rate with everything opening up in the world. I have no idea, but I’m excited to see what happens.