When “Drone Superstars” Go Hyperpop: An Interview With Claire Rousay & More Eaze

Katherine Squier

When “Drone Superstars” Go Hyperpop: An Interview With Claire Rousay & More Eaze

Katherine Squier

The Texas-based experimental musicians embrace mall punk and emo rap on new album Never Stop Texting Me

Claire Rousay and Mari Maurice (aka More Eaze) are two of the most beloved and ambitious experimental musicians to emerge in the past few years. The best friends have teamed up for a handful of releases that blur the lines between ambient, indie rock, and musique concrète. While the Texas artists’ work together is usually pretty oblique and bizarre, their latest album, Never Stop Texting Me, embraces the tropes of hyperpop and emo rap. “We’re very big Third Eye Blind fans,” Rousay playfully admits, after I comment that moments on the record strike me as borderline mall rock.

In 2021, San Antonio-based Rousay dominated the avant-garde music scene. She released three full-length records and a handful of singles, some of which exceeded the 25-minute mark. A lot of that output heavily relied on emotive field recordings and elongated drones. Her collaboration with More Eaze, An Afternoon Whine, was the most approachable of those projects. It featured withdrawn strings, alluring clicking noises, and spacey guitar chords.

Maurice, from Austin, is an accomplished musician in her own right and a member of bands including Lomelda and Alexalone. She’s currently on tour with the former. “There are more things in common with what we do than are necessarily apparent,” she says, comparing her own music to Lomelda’s. “As I’ve worked with the band more and more, we’re doing different things stylistically but approaching it in a similar way.” Maurice’s involvement with more straightforward acts shines through on her latest collaboration with Rousay, which sometimes flaunts a shoegaze energy that evokes Alexalone.

Never Stop Texting Me is united by a sonic palette that heavily utilizes overdriven guitars, propulsive percussion, and crystalline synthesizer sounds. “floor pt2” is melodic and euphoric, pairing a trap drum machine groove and arpeggiated keys. “camille” is blippy, warm, and pleasantly hazy. With its acoustic picking and swelling chords, “iphone2” brings to mind a goofy take on Lil Peep or Bladee. Some of the tracks on Never Stop Texting Me feel a bit like inside jokes between Rousay and Maurice. That’s exactly what makes it their most fun endeavor to date.

Today Rousay and More Eaze are sharing a third advance track from the album, “stairs.” The song is centered on a crunchy drum machine groove, sharp synthesizers, and jangly guitar chords. Rousay and Maurice trade verses and duet on the track, their voices shrouded in warm, distorted Auto-Tune. It’s one of the hardest-rocking moments on Never Stop Texting Me, recalling artists like Slowdive and the Stone Roses. Below, read our conversation and check out “stairs.”

You two are famously close friends. Can you tell me your personal backstory?

MARI MAURICE: We met initially because I had an old band and was looking for a drummer. One of my bandmates was going to play drums, but at the last minute was, like, “You know what, I don’t physically own a drum kit and also I’m not very good. You should just just ask my friend Claire to do it.” We started playing together through that and eventually started collaborating on a more equal level as the years went on and our interests became more and more aligned.

You two work together a fair amount, but the outcome has previously been pretty ambient and experimental. These songs are comparatively super poppy and feel more straightforward. I’m curious what inspired the sonic shift.

CLAIRE ROUSAY: I feel like Mari and I are both writing the same kind of songs at the same time. We have this thing where we’re always into the same thing at the same time, but sometimes we haven’t communicated it yet. This is one of those, where we both started making the same kind of music at the same time independently. I’m not good enough to make a whole song, so I’ll send songs to Mari and be, like, “Can you fill in the back half of it?” The role wasn’t necessarily reversed, but we both started working on that similar kind of material in that same kind of way. It led us to a more poppy territory. Each half on the record [was started by one person or the other]. Half the tracks are Mari tracks and half the tracks are Claire tracks.

MAURICE: They’re both equally co-produced, but one of us starts the idea and the next will jump on and flesh it out and work on the arrangements. We didn’t really dive into this territory until Claire sent “kyle.” Then we were, like, “This is so fun,” and just kind of kept fleshing it out. We’re always working on a bunch of projects at once because we were making An Afternoon Whine while we were working on this album. Everything was informing each other, and some things went to An Afternoon Whine, and some things went to Never Stop Texting Me.

Katherine Squier

Can you provide some examples of “Mari tracks” vs. “Claire tracks”?

MAURICE: “same,” “stairs,” “floor pt2,” and “camille” are definitely songs where I started or mostly produced them. Then there are a couple of tracks that are pretty equal. Like, “arms” is a song where the first half of the song is something I did solo and the second half of the song is something Claire started. We produced “missed” together just hanging out one day, where we also recorded at least one of the tracks from An Afternoon Whine. The Claire songs on the record are the more pop-punk sounding ones.

There’s often been a playful edge to Claire’s music, even though it’s always very poetic. That said, these songs often strike me as straight-up exuberant. You even mention Bandcamp Day on one. I’m wondering what your writing process was like.

MAURICE: It’s definitely more lighthearted and fun. I feel like there’s a lot of celebration of friendship throughout the songs. The song that has the Bandcamp Day lyric was the result of us hanging out and releasing a tape on Bandcamp Day. The chorus of that song is “We’re on that Kali Malone shit.” We were really feeling like we were drone superstars in that particular moment. It was a very funny attempt at feeling like we were balling out in the experimental music world. Like, making enough money from Bandcamp Day to order Uber Eats.

ROUSAY: It’s mostly playful. Like Mari said, a lot of the songs are a celebration of friendship and just about relationships in general.

MAURICE: There’s a lot of yearning lyrics. A lot of crush vibes and breakup vibes.

There’s something hyperpop-y about the record. I’m wondering if it was an active decision to make a record that felt that way or if it was a bit more serendipitous.

MAURICE: I think a little bit of both. Some of this material we were working on, but then it was further informed by hyperpop stuff. We both love hyperpop and emo rap and all these things that we’re throwing in here. So it was definitely a conscious influence, trying to blend that world with whatever it is we do.

How did you split the vocal duties? Also, what were you using for vocal processing?

MAURICE: The vocal duties were largely split by who starts the song and weaving the space for verses or choruses that way. And then there were certain moments, too, where we’d be, like, “Oh, it would be really nice if I harmonized with Claire here,” or, “Hey, it would be really nice if you doubled me in this moment, Claire.” And so we’d go back and add those things as well. A lot of the vocal stuff is just a kernel of an idea in each song and then by writing our verses separately and then putting them together it becomes this conversational narrative.

In terms of the vocal effects, we use a free Auto-Tune plugin called MAutoPitch by Melda Productions. Both of our voices are treated with that and then usually processed with some other stuff. I’m really fond of this Ableton plugin that adds spectral harmonics. It’s nice for a quick octave-up, octave-down pitch shift.

ROUSAY: I just use a ton of distortion. I just want the Kanye West voice. I also can’t sing, so it’s nice to use as much as possible.

You work with How To Dress Well and Bloodz Boi on this. I’m curious how those collaborations came about.

MAURICE: Bloodz Boi friended both Claire and I on Instagram on the same day after we were obsessing over this song of his.

ROUSAY: It’s called “Across The Sea My Dreams Are Born In Silence.”

MAURICE: I added him on Instagram and then he added me back and then Claire added him on Instagram and he added her back. And we started working on this track and we were, like, “I wonder if we can convince Bloodz Boi to appear on a song?” Claire posted an excerpt of “Mist” on her story and he reacted and Claire was, like, “Uh, this is actually for you.”

ROUSAY: And then we kind of trapped him. We were talking to him about it and we were, like, “We’re doing this record for Orange Milk,” and he was, like, “That’s one of my favorite labels.” It all ended up working.

MAURICE: And then How To Dress Well got involved because Claire had done a remix for him. We reached out and he was, like, “What with Bloodz Boi?” And then he did a little version of Bloodz Boi’s verse with some spoken word harmonies on it.

ROUSAY: All via Instagram. The world is Instagram.

Based on the album title and the cover, it seems like you two are on your phones a lot. How often do you two text each other?

MAURICE: Every single day. All the time. You know how you scroll to the end of your iMessages and then you have to keep scrolling to keep going? That happens four or five times a day, usually, with Claire.

ROUSAY: I’ve also made a point to start telling Mari “I love you” every day. It’s a really good part of our friendship that I get to do that. So now even our texts have “I love you.”

Never Stop Texting Me is out 2/11 on Orange Milk. Pre-order it here.

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