The most uncomfortable circumstances force growth. Rather than being a choice, evolution turns into a need. CLOVES vaults over sonic and emotional walls in her music. Melody seeps through the cracks of discordant electronic production and off-kilter bleeps as lyrical self-deprecation breaks under the weight of newfound confidence in her delivery. All of these elements ultimately converge upon catharsis. After generating 100 million-plus streams and attracting acclaim from Pigeons & Planes, i-D Magazine, Noisey, Complex, Consequence of Sound, and many more, the London-based singer and songwriter finds release on her second full-length, Nightmare On Elmfield Road [Interscope Records].
“In terms of a mental place, this record came from a dystopia,” she explains. “Throughout the album, there are little glitches, creeks, and slimy greens. The songs are different pockets of feeling that come under an umbrella of a dystopian discord playing out in your mind. Think of it like a playlist representing the complexity of emotions you experience when you can’t pull yourself out of a spiral—or an entire other world going on behind the eyes that only you know about. There was a lot of genuine sadness in my life, and it’s easy to feel frustrated by your own negativity and lose all effort to care. I’m trying to poke myself throughout this record and ask, ‘Hey, are you still alive?’ I put the negativity into something productive. For me, it proved to be the best way of coping.”
Born Kaity Dunstan in Melbourne, music always provided solace for her. She spent all of her time writing songs and performing in bands. Relocating to London at 18-years-old, she introduced herself as CLOVES stating, “As a very introverted person creating somewhat of a persona for myself felt like the most free way to fully express myself without my tendency to over analyze myself kicking in, it felt safe.” The single “Don’t Forget About Me” clocked over 64.9 million Spotify streams as she graced the stages of Coachella, Lollapalooza, and beyond. Her first full-length, One Big Nothing, followed during 2018. She made her late-night television debut with a performance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, while The Line of Best Fit called One Big Nothing, “an all-encompassing, fearless record that pushes a sincere melancholia to the forefront.” Not to mention, she landed syncs in Me Before You and Vampire Diaries.
Along the way, CLOVES pondered her next chapter.
“The first album was really difficult to make,” she admits. “By the end of it, I felt really down and quite lost in myself. So much of my self-esteem revolves around my work and how well I feel I’m doing. I wasn’t in a good place. I started understanding what I wanted out of my second album before the first album cycle even ended.”
The title Nightmare on Elmfield is a nod to the location of where she made a large majority of the record and her spin on the classic Nightmare on Elm Street. Seeking inspiration, she obsessively curated playlists of nineties favorites such as Portishead, The Cardigans, Sneaker pimps, Nelly Furtado, alongside more obscure choices like Morcheeba, Zero 7, and FC Kahuna. She also pulled together collections of descriptive words and films that she wanted to visually associate with how the record would sound. She adds, “It was honestly the most random collection of things, but in my head, they trigged the right emotions, things like rotting apples, and being given the cold shoulder and films like the The Fifth Element, 2001: Space Odyssey and Blade Runner. I wanted every corner and texture of the record to be an experience of the Elmfield Road world.”
Working with producers DetoNate, Coffee, and Hudson Mohawke, she fashioned her own vision of “dystopian, introverted sci-fi pop.” Recorded everywhere from Abbey Road to Elmfield Road (the location of DetoNate’s studio and inspiration for the title), she translated unsettling feelings of being lost into glitchy pop darkness.
“The record is uncomfortable with how it feels about itself,” she elaborates. “It feels exactly like I did though.”
Now, the first single “Sicko” slips from airy guitar towards snaps of 808s before coiling around a hypnotic hook that barely registers above a whisper.
“It’s like the soundtrack for someone sitting alone in the corner of a room with no furniture and just crying,” she states. “It’s the creepy critter inside of your mind constantly nagging away at you. The voice tells you you’re not enough. A lot of Nightmare On Elmfield Road is an internal dialogue.”
Continuing this dialogue, “Dead” swoons towards a glassy chorus as she reminds, “I’m not dead…yet.”
“‘Dead’ is the moment you don’t care about yourself anymore,” she exclaims. “It’s like walking in the street by yourself drunk. It’s brutal and honest and helped cultivate what the record would really be.”
In the end, CLOVES emerges from the darkness stronger than ever on Nightmare on Elmfield Road.
“It’s cathartic,” she leaves off. “When you go through failures or difficulties, you gain confidence. Going through a lot of ups and downs made me feel like I didn’t have anything to lose, because I was only doing it for myself. It gave me all the drive I needed. Time being lost isn’t always time wasted. You’re constantly learning and getting better. There isn’t a moment where you stop and say, ‘This is my sadness’ or ‘This is my happiness’. Life is always revolving. If you’re lost, it just means you’re finding yourself.”