By the time you reach your mid-30s, you’ve probably been around various blocks enough times to have a fairly good idea of who you and where you are. For multi-instrumentalist Claire Hecko, her present was predicated on moves from one coast to the other, as well as the various trials, obstacles, and letdowns that are parceled with the journey of figuring out one’s self. That process of understanding turned into her own solo project, culminating in an eponymous debut album called Frosty.
Hecko’s path to Frosty started with a move to Los Angeles, where she ended up after living in Austin and Denton for a while. Before that, she’d spent five years living in Brooklyn following her graduation from UNT.
Unfortunately, her sojourn to SoCal wasn’t all that great either. To cope, she started writing songs, and they evolved into a project she dubbed Frosty.
“It was my way of dealing with things that sucked,” she said. “Nothing really spectacular, just shit goes wrong, and you feel like a failure: relationship problems, just dealing with a lot of crappy feelings. Frosty was a way of trying to work through that.”
Her project’s genesis came at the end of 2010, and most of it was written in Los Angeles, initially with Hecko’s friend and roommate, Jason Amos. But then, on a visit home, Hecko met singer-songwriter Clint Niosi while getting beers at the Chat Room Pub. Time went by, and the two fell in love. Hecko moved back to Fort Worth, and they got married. During that time, she shared her vision for Frosty with Niosi, and he was able to help her realize it.
“When I first heard the Frosty demos, they were really thought-out as far as Claire’s vision,” Niosi said. “What was interesting, I’m used to writing on chordal instruments like piano and guitar, and Claire had written these really elaborate pieces on bass and strings. So the chords were there, but they were spread out on these multi-tracked stringed instruments. I’d never approached something that way before.”
Along with Niosi on guitar, keyboards, and drums, Hecko assembled her album (playing bass, viola, and singing) at his home studio, Orange Otter Audio. Finishing the record took about six years. Bookended by two tracks, “Mojave Part I” and “Mojave Part II,” Frosty unfolds like a single piece of music divided into five movements. Each track seems to build on musical themes from the previous ones, establishing a singular, somber mood built on plaintive strings and minor key piano melodies –– occasionally shattering into a cacophony of clocks and cymbals or the growl of a distorted guitar. Hecko’s vocals are spare, measured, and economical, almost as if she is rationing her words. At times she is shrouded in reverb, and the echo on her voice effectuates a sense of loneliness and solitude. That’s by design. Hecko said the biggest theme in Frosty is isolation.
“I spent some time in the desert, which I found to be a healing place to go, just be alone,” she said. “That level of isolation is kind of distressing, but it’s also kind of wonderful.”
Frosty is a personal document for Hecko’s reflection on a phase of her life. But as a recording, its panoramic soundscape offers plenty of musical scenery for the listener to contemplate –– the notes unfurl with zen-like purpose. Given that each part of the composition is integral to the whole, Hecko and Niosi have never played the music live.
“We determined we would need a bare minimum of three more people,” Hecko said. “A couple of string players, a drummer, and Clint would play guitar. I would probably play bass, though I’d like to play some strings.
“My feelings about it, though,” she continued, “if we’re going to play live, we are going to present it the way it was meant to be presented. I want it to be all or nothing.”
Frosty is available in digital form on Bandcamp and as a cassette released by Brooklyn-based indie label Psychic Mule (available at Dreamy Life Records and Music, Good Records, and Recycled Records).