Chelsea Claire had no idea she could be a musician. But since last summer, she’s gone from composing private poems in her room to screaming those words on stage with an audience singing along.
It’s been a powerful personal transformation, one aided by the other two members of her Mesa-based punk group, General Anxiety. Claire has embraced her identity as a vocalist and frontwoman. And although she’s parting ways with her bandmates, Claire is determined to keep developing this new version of herself.
“Right now, basically, everything’s kind of up in the air,” Claire says of the recent lineup change that left her the sole member of General Anxiety. On March 7, two days before the group was scheduled to perform at Palo Verde Lounge in Tempe, drummer Hunter Royston decided to leave the band, due to personal disagreements and scheduling conflicts. Bassist Jameson Mars announced he was likely quitting, too.
Claire is hanging on to the band name and songs, which originated as her compositions that she put to music with Mars and Royston’s help. She has started working with keyboard player Casey Clark and drummer Brent Craddock. And she’s auditioning new instrumentalists to rebuild the band.
In the midst of these changes, Claire decided not to cancel General Anxiety’s upcoming shows, even if it means she has to fly solo or call in friends to cover.
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“I don’t want to bail on them, so even if it has to be me or I have one person playing with me, it’s going to be what it’s going to be,” she says. “It’s punk rock, like, what are you going to do? It’s okay if it’s fucked up, because there are some people out there that are going to really dig it.”
Part of what keeps Claire going is how listeners have personally connected with her lyrics. She started writing as a way of coping with anger and grief she carried from the death of her father, custody battles with her ex over their daughter, and sexual harassment she endured. At first, she thought her experiences would be too idiosyncratic to be relatable, until she started getting messages from people who said she was voicing their feelings, too.
It’s easy enough to relate to the lines that open General Anxiety’s debut EP, Self Harm: “You make me so mad I want to claw your eyes out / Put on my boxing gloves and punch your lights out.” Claire fills five songs with this sweeping angst, with a vocal delivery reminiscent of Kathleen Hanna and Cherie Currie. Fans of classic riot grrrl and female-driven punk acts Bikini Kill, The Runaways, and Sleater-Kinney will see them reflected in Claire’s style.
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“Look, this is important to [keep making music] right now,” she says. “As a female in this time in the world, it’s important that I do this. As a mother, too. I have a unique voice just like any other person.”
Another five-song EP is in the works, and Claire says she might hire session musicians to fill out her material, which focuses on her relationships and struggles. She’s not sure yet what that process will look like, but she knows she will figure it out, the same way she taught herself to fit her words to a beat and wail them out.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate because I’ve been seeing a lot of people sending me private messages like, ‘Don’t give up on it,’” Claire says. “People want to see you persevere, and that’s definitely my personality, so I’m going to do that.”
General Anxiety are scheduled to perform a free show at Tempe’s Yucca Tap Room on Wednesday, March 28. See yuccatap.com.