An Interview With Grant Claytor

WRGW’s Kate Twomey got the chance to sit down with independent artist and multi-instrumentalist Grant Claytor to riff about life, recording, aesthetics and more. The New Jersey native’s music has an emotive quality which feels both melancholic and light-hearted; Grant’s songs combine laid back surfer instrumentals and contemplative lyrics evocative of grey days on East Coast beaches. Since graduating from the University of Delaware last May, Grant has been focusing on honing his sound and building his own label while figuring out how to navigate the liminal spaces of growing up.

Film stills from Grant’s photoshoot for “Bayla Veeta.” Courtesy of the artist. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Kate: I wanted to start by talking about your experience with music in college, even though it’s in your past. If you could run down how it was making music at University of Delaware, a school that’s not particularly associated with music, I’d be interested in hearing about that.

Grant: It doesn’t seem like college is ‘in my past’ at all! A lot of my friends are still at UD, so I’m still going back and forth here and there. When I went to college, I didn’t think I was going to make music, I was just playing guitar. Then, when I started to make music, I had friends that told me to go to house shows, and I was like, “I don’t even know what that means.” I went to a basement show and realized there was this whole scene, and it was awesome. I met a lot of people through those shows, like my friends Doug and Henry, and started asking around if they would wanna help me throw together a band. I had already played two shows before with a band I was just jamming with, like doing covers, but then it became more legit when I realized I was going to be playing songs that were getting put out and I wrote myself and I was a lot more proud of. 

Later I met my friends Drew and Nick, who play drums and bass. Also my friend Cullen who also plays left-handed guitar, so it was sick jamming with him because we could actually share guitars. He ended up moving to Philly and couldn’t do the band anymore, so we got my friend Ramiro and suddenly I had this five person band that hasn’t changed since, like, April 2019. We were practicing every week, getting everything down, playing a lot of shows…and then when I was writing it was something for me to start thinking about, cuz I want something everyone’s gonna have a good time playing. Earlier, I didn’t know how to play drums or bass, I couldn’t play the keys very well, but the band was a big push for me to get committed to all those instruments. The first album had a lot of acoustic stuff, but now it’s all better suited to a full sound.

Kate: It feels like everything fell into place sort of serendipitously.

Grant: Yeah, it’s pretty cool that it’s all just friends, and we started with the goal of playing a few basement shows and now we’ve been together ever since. 

Kate: So does UDel have a pretty solid house scene for you to be plugged in like that?

Grant: Yeah, totally! Every weekend there was one or two shows, but it was still a pretty small community. I mean, Newark is pretty small. But, it really started to grow right before COVID. Fall 2019. That was right after the Aid to Navigation video (a video profile on Grant), and as we were just getting full band music. We were playing shows with Rosie Tucker and Arthur from Joy Again. 

Kate: Wow! So a really solid scene! Did the house shows really hold up after COVID? 

Grant: Not really, actually. The one place that always had shows hasn’t had anything since March 13th, which was the last show I played there too. The show was that day, and the next day everyone got sent home. I’m not sure when it’s gonna happen again, but now it’s only school functions. Open mics and stuff. 

Kate: How are you transitioning to life outside of the community then? Now that you’re in New Jersey, what’s it like being more of an independent artist rather than existing in an established space to work in?

Grant: I prefer to have my own place. Right now is hard, since I’m living with my parents and I can’t mix things super loud. But my friend Doug has a recording studio out here, and that’s a big help to be able to have solitude when recording. I’d like to have my own place pretty soon, I’m planning to move to New York pretty soon. I have a lot of friends in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and I’m always meeting musicians out there. My label, Breadhouse Records, is based there as well. My bandmates have also expressed interest in moving out there, so it’s definitely where I’m leaning to. Hopefully, in the next six months, I’ll be out there with them. 

Kate: That’s a perfect segway into my next question about Breadhouse Records. Did it become a project of yours while you were in school or was it more of a post-grad thing as a way to keep musicians together?

Grant: It was technically, like, December 2018 when we coined the name. It was basically just a website so I could look more legitimate if I was applying to playlists and stuff, and so I could stop getting fake record label emails. If you still have the generic, independent and undistributed name under your Spotify, you get all these emails about record labels saying they’ll pay you for X or Y. So we just put “Breadhouse Records” there, and through 2019 I was the only person on Breadhouse. In 2020, we started putting all our friends’ music out on the label, then we did a release with Lab Tea, Skate Stance, Wasp Factory, John Roseboro. . .

Kate: It seems like your relationship has really changed with it. Like it’s metamorphosed into this serious thing.

Grant: Yeah, it was just something that started to make me look legitimate, and now it actually is really legitimate. We do a lot of mixing, we take care of distribution and PR, we do as much as we can. It’s still only five people, and I still used it to fulfill graduation requirements for a music management internship, but now it’s a lot more real than we ever thought it would be. We do live streams with a bunch of artists- like our last one had Beach Bunny, and it was really sweet to do that collaboration. 

Kate: In past interviews, you’ve talked about using location as a creative tool. Is New Jersey shaping your sound right now?

Grant: Uhm, yeah. I think where I’m recording– the room I’m in, how I can record– ends up working its way into my writing. Like now I’m writing a lot about nostalgia and feeling stuck. Now, when I listen back to my stuff, I’m put into the room I was in when I was writing it. Like Caprice, I wrote half that album in my bedroom and the second half with my friends in Greenport. It definitely had a huge impact on how I was writing, this coastal little town. What you see on the daily is what gets subconsciously absorbed and inspires your art. Even when I see my old highschool, or a beautiful picture of a really cool ship on the ocean. 

Kate: So the EP you’re working on now, that’s really influenced by the nostalgia around you on the day to day?

Grant: Yeah, I think so, and not necessarily in a super positive way. I’m thinking back on all the stuff I’ve done recently, and it’s all perspective, a looking back sort of thing. The EP’s gonna be super short, only four songs or something. Yeah, one of them’s like, not about me but about this guy, “Dead Surfer,” who does the same thing day in and day out, doesn’t  do anything or go anywhere, and they find his dead body walking around the city with a surfboard. It’s a one-chord song too, so it’s literally repetitive. The other one, “Loose Leaf,” is about finding a letter I wrote myself when I was a teenager. One: super embarrassing, and two: I’m not that kid anymore when I come back here. 

Kate: A lot of your videos are shot on Super 8s and VCR camcorders. Are you intentionally building that nostalgic ambiance there too?

Grant: Oh, yeah. Before I got really into making music I was into photography. With the “Bon” video, that was shot on the Super 8 camera I had right when there was the overlap of my music and film interests. It was the first song I did totally by myself, and I had the footage from shooting in like 2018. I just love how it looks, I love analog photography and videography. In the future, I would love some nice 16mm film. I like the look of film pictures, aesthetically. Similarly, the last album had an oil painting as the cover, which my friend did, and I wanted that more than a digitally created thing. 

Kate: Yeah, and now there’s the “Bayla Veeta” music video with the pink mop on your face. For that visual, how did you decide on those aesthetics or that particular vision during the song’s creation?

Grant: The song was kind of like a little letter to myself, and it’s related to a health condition I have which I had to get an 8 hour surgery for at the end of 2020. It’s a long story, but it was a really big surgery where they had to go through my neck and into my heart and out my legs and all that. It always kinda puts me down that I can’t do stuff that my friends do; skiing, snowboarding, contact sports– well, none of my friends really do contact sports but you know. I was always just upset about it, being like a hemophiliac now, and this song is me telling myself to calm down, to stop going after myself about it. It totally doesn’t sound like that’s what it’s about! But the whole point of the video was to have this alter-ego chasing after me that, you know, is still me. Originally, we were thinking a morph suit, but it just wasn’t working. The mask was so iconic and perfect, it had to be it. We might keep using it for other projects afterwards. The song’s a lot more vulnerable, directly, than my other music and I want to keep leaning into that. So mask man might end up being a recurring character. 

Kate: Just to wrap up, I always like asking what everyone’s listening to. What’s spinning on your Spotify right now?

Grant: I don’t have an AUX cord in my car, so I actually end up listening to a lot of CD’s. It’s a high quality sound and usually the cheapest merch at a show. I have Men I Trust CDs, and I’ve been listening to those lately. On Spotify, it’s been a little bit of Duster, Slow Pulp, a lot of the new Good Morning album Barnyard, If I Am Only My Thoughts by Loving. 

Watch Grant’s new video for his recent single “Bayla Veeta” below! 

Grant Claytor – Bayla Veeta (Official Video)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *