For a hot minute now, spill tab has been sliding out practically perfect alt-pop gems. Back with a brand new single, ‘Window’, and a new EP on the way, she’s fast becoming one of the best in the game. But first… anyone for a game of pickleball? Check out our latest Dork Playlist cover feature.
Words: Martyn Young.
Photos: Jamie MacMillan.
“I’m in Glendale, California. It’s a nice location. I live in a building where it’s mostly retired grandparents. It’s a good vibe.” It’s fair to say life is pretty idyllic right now for Claire Chicha, aka long-time Dork fave spill tab. “I’ve just been working on music and finishing up the last two songs for the EP. It’s really nice to be home and reconnect with my friends and just be in one spot for a while.”
While she had the luxury of a little bit of time at home, Claire spent a good proportion of it getting involved in two distinctly different yet equally rewarding activities. You see, these pop stars are multi-talented. “As of late, like a little grandma, I’ve been getting so much into crochet and knitting,” she smiles. “It’s one of those things that once you’re relatively decent at it, you can pop on a TV show in the background. It’s sort of an added thing in the multitasking world, which is nice because I’m always just on my phone or laptop watching something and doing something else, so it’s a nice addition to that flow.”
Perhaps Claire can use her knitting skills to create an outfit for her other newfound passion. Pickleball. Hold on, let Claire explain. “There’s a huge trend in LA right now where everyone is getting into pickleball,” she enthuses. “It’s like a smaller version of tennis. You’re using these little paddles, and the balls are bigger and plastic softball size. I usually play doubles. It’s taken Los Angeles by storm. I’ve found myself constantly in that storm.”
Somehow within that storm, Claire has managed to create a new spill tab single, though, and it’s more than a bit special. ‘Window’ is a gorgeous slice of bewitching woozy pop that’s a reminder of just why spill tab is one of the most exciting artists in the world of alt-pop. Full of attitude and confidence, it’s the sound of an artist revelling in their melting pot world of pop experimentalism. “I was listening to a lot of Talking Heads and Unknown Mortal Orchestra,” she explains of the track’s genesis. “I was really into an organic drum thing with layered vocals and that kind of mood. I worked on it with my two friends, Austin and Wyatt, who I also did ‘Splinter’ with, so we had a working flow and we know each other a lot better musically now. It feels like a really dynamic trio. We like to switch roles a lot. It felt really good making it.”
The track is going to be included on a forthcoming new spill tab EP that collates the stunning singles she released last year – ‘Splinter’, ‘Sunburn’ and ‘Creme Brulee!’ – as well as more new songs. It was clear, though, that as soon as she wrote it, ‘Window’ was going to be a key track. “It felt right,” says Claire. “Within the first few seconds, I knew that I really wanted it to come out, which is always a good feeling.”
The song is a typically ear wormy spill tab lyric that details a hugely relatable feeling in an evocative whip-smart, clever way. “I like to pool from very real experiences but at the same time I’m a huge embellisher so I like to take something that’s not such a big deal and make it the biggest thing in the world,” she laughs. “It’s coming from a place where you miss the beginnings of the partnership that you’re in and that early on excitement of recklessness and risk-taking and all-around scary but exciting feeling. The concept was, ok, if I’m in this relationship that is monotonous and heavy with a lot of baggage, then I’m reminiscing on the beginnings of it and how it used to be. The push and pull between where you are now and where you used to be.”
Claire has been releasing songs as spill tab for exactly four years now, and as the project has grown and developed and the excitement has ramped up with each release, she has realised the importance of staying in the moment and not looking too far ahead. “I really take it one song at a time,” she explains. “I’m trying to be a little more intentional and making sure that what I’m putting out is representative of how I’m feeling and the sound that I want to put out. Not that I release 30 songs a year or anything like that, but it can be quite difficult when consistently releasing music because it can get away from you.” For Claire, it’s always about trying to connect to that original feeling of inspiration that got her making music in the first place. “That’s where my head is at. I don’t have any direction beyond that, but I’m learning to be ok with that, and that’s cool.”
“I like to take something that’s not such a big deal and make it the biggest thing in the world”spill tab
The peace of mind of being content in the knowledge that she’s free to follow her own path making exactly the music she wants to make in new and inspiring ways, allows Claire to keep spill tab feeling fresh. Her restless creative nature finds her looking to adapt her creative process with the demands of trying to make a full-length project after a number of striking EPs and single releases. “I definitely have deep commitment issues,” she laughs. “At least with music, but I guess with everything else when I look at the patterns in my life. I have a terrible time just committing to one thing. I’m honestly surprised that I’m still doing music now. I love to try new things, and I love to explore new ideas and possibilities. I love the idea of newness and continuing to expand the universe in my mind and with my music. I love the idea of being able to try anything and everything at all times.”
The idea of a full album, though, where it once might have been dismissed, could perhaps be becoming more appealing. “I think the idea of an album, I used to not think this, but now I do, seeing artists around me who I’m inspired by creating bodies of work, there’s something to be said about sticking to a concept or idea and fully exploring that and really going to its absolute length. I think that’s really cool and badass,” says Claire. “I would hope one day too to be able to do something like that and execute it well, but we shall see, we shall see,” she says intriguingly. Exciting stuff.
“I love the idea of newness and continuing to expand the universe in my mind”spill tab
Claire is very conscious of the fact that she’s working in a time when it feels like anything is possible. “There’s so much music, and there are so many people doing exciting things all in their own way, there’s the internet and Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and there’s literally an audience for anything anyone wants to do which is so cool and different from how things used to be in the past,” she says excitedly. “For me, it’s just about creating something that feels new and fresh. It’s usually just a feeling, something in your gut that says, this feels really new. What’s exciting to me is finding ways to observe the rules that are being set and break them a little bit and go against the usual norm. Sometimes it’s easy to just say, ‘oh, that’s working for somebody else, maybe I should do that’, but no, it’s working for them because it’s a representation of themselves, and that doesn’t mean that that’s going to work for you. I’m trying to follow my gut and what feels right for me. If people connect with that, then great, but if not, it’s ok.”
One of the things that characterises spill tab as an artist is the ability to have both massive pop hooks and warped oddball sounds and stylings working in harmony. She perfectly traverses the ground between accessible pop and more idiosyncratic sounds. There’s still an element of doubt, though, that makes her entirely relatable and human and informs the highwire act of her music. “I still have imposter syndrome like a lot of people have. It feels weird saying ‘I am this artist that produces and writes’, when literally in my mind I’m just doing my best,” she confesses. “I’m doing my best to create stuff that feels true and honest. It would be really cool to be seen as someone who’s a bit experimental and a bit weird. That’s the seasoning I like to put on the music.”
“It would be really cool to be seen as someone who’s a bit experimental and a bit weird. That’s the seasoning I like to put on the music”spill tab
In the first few months of 2023, Claire has used her downtime to be musically creative, but she’s now looking forward to going back out on the road and bringing the whole spill tab experience to life. “I find so much joy playing live and so much excitement in putting together a live set and sharing it with people and interacting with people even if they have no idea about the music or who the fuck I am,” she exclaims. She’s currently in the middle of a tour with Dork cover star and undeniably very massive big deal Sabrina Carpenter that promises to be a landmark occasion for spill tab. “I’m so excited for the Sabrina tour because, in terms of long-term dates, I’ve not done that for a female act. I’ve had a lot of guy friends, which is really sick and I love them all but I’m so excited that it’s going to be a woman-heavy crew. I cannot wait to be up there.”
The rest of 2023 looks set to feature more experimentalism, more weird pop, more festivals, more knitting, more pickleball, more collaborations; Claire cites Empress Of as an artist she loves and would love to collaborate with in the future. “She’s really fucking cool. I’ve been listening to one of her songs so much, so that’s all I can think of right now.” There is one big ambition for this year, though. An ambition she needs to come back to the UK to fulfil. “I really, really want to go and have breakfast at Dishoom,” she laughs. “Someone told me that as much as there’s a lot of hype about the lunches and dinners but, apparently, the breakfasts are absolutely banging. I hope that I will be there soon.”
With a stunning new EP and a string of killer live sets under her belt, we’re sure that they would love to have one of the hottest names in alt-pop sample one of their breakfasts. Just make sure you remember to give us the star rating and review, though, Claire. ■
Spill Tab’s new single ‘Window’ is out now. Her new EP follows in May. Follow Dork Playlist on Spotify here.