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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

stop writing on my pet cloud

What’s in a name? For a band it is the foundation of their identity, yet there is no worthy of note anecdote behind “Cloud Nothings”. Whilst trying to come up with the perfect moniker Dylan Baldi eventually settled on two arbitrary words that he thought sounded good together. Yet though Cloud Nothings may conjure connotations of insubstantiality and froth, it is more the carefree methodology behind the band’s baptism that is infused in their achingly heartening lo-fi power pop.

What started with nineteen year old Baldi in his parents’ basement in Ohio with a four track has expanded to a full live band due to embark on their first cluster of European gigs, the latter of which are support slots on the Les Savy Fav tour. He explains; “the recordings are all just me because that’s what I do in my free time when I’m bored, but eventually I had to find a band so I just got some of my friends (TJ Duke, Jayson Gerycz, Joe Boyer) who play music around Cleveland and asked them if they wanted to be in a band”. To date, Baldi’s recordings include a 7” single, a very limited run of split cassettes with Campfires, and an E.P, Turning On, the tracks from which are being sold for a mere 80 cents each online, as an attempt to combat illegal downloading, a way to make available Cloud Nothings’ music to as many people as possible, or both? It turns out to be an awkward question; “I didn’t even know about that. That wasn’t any part of my plan, that was the label! The guy who runs it is definitely rooted in the DIY scene and I would love for as many people as possible to hear it because it’s a very limited vinyl release so I think getting it out there digitally is the way to go” And the reason there wasn’t a CD release? “There’s nothing cool about a CD”

Cloud Nothings’ first full length LP, also titled Turning On, is an assemblage of Baldi’s previous recordings. Released at the end of October through Wichita, he notes the leap that has been taken from releasing a run of 100 tapes to putting out a record with a highly reputable label (signees have included Bloc Party, The Cribs Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bright Eyes). “With releasing the cassette I sent the guy who wanted to put it out MP3s of the songs and he was like ‘alright, you’ll have your tape in a week!’. With Wichita it felt like doing something real, I didn’t just send them low quality files of the songs”.

The songs themselves are garnering acclaim for their hook-loaded melodies. The instrumentation, reminiscent of early era Pavement endears itself like a crooked smile and the doo wop vocal harmonies are like a Phil Spektor girl group with more testosterone. With testosterone full stop. Baldi is being hailed by many as a precocious talent, his music as throwback to the future; whilst managing to sound fresh and exciting, laden with promise, the songs too are nostalgic sunbursts coloured with flourishes of ‘60s psychedelia, ‘80s punk and ‘90s pop. “That’s my main influence”, Baldi acknowledges, “the poppier elements of everything I listen to- I listen to the radio all the time.”

Yet despite Baldi’s endorsement of mainstream pop and the tongue-in-cheek anti-hipster stance on Cloud Nothings’ 7” single “Hey Cool Kid”, they have been adopted by the same ilk he light-heartedly lampoons; “my band’s not very big, you’d have to read Pitchfork or blogs to kind of know what’s going on, and the people who read those, you could describe as hipsters, so it (Cloud Nothings’ music) kind of speaks to them.” And at the contentious suggestion that said hipsters (at this stage an abstract appellation at best) have been saturating modern music with interchangeable simplistic fuzzy guitar pop and lyrics Baldi is ever the diplomat, noting his friendships with Oberhofer and Beach Fossils, fledgling lo-fi outfits championed by Pitchfork and making reference to Christopher Owen of Girls; “If I grew up in a cult I would probably just want a pizza too, or if I was an orphan or whatever he was”

In the last couple of weeks in July Cloud Nothings travelled to Baltimore to record their first full length LP of entirely new material, working with producer Chester Gwazda (Dan Deacon, Future Islands). Baldi has spoken before of his desire to experiment with a less lo-fi sound, and he confirms that it’s something that was achieved with the forthcoming album; “It’s definitely cleaner. It’s not super polished produced sounding, but it’s definitely cleaner […] It ended up sounding a little bit different than how I had envisioned it but it still sounds good”. Is he worried that the fans he has gained off the back of his early, more rudimentary recordings will bristle at his latest, less raw studio effort? “I think that’s pretty stupid. That (production) isn’t really what I listen for. I think it’s good that bands are wanting to go get themselves produced, get their music out to more people; there’s too many niche markets. People are too into their own thing”

Endearingly, Baldi strongly believes that if a song is inherently good, it shouldn’t be judged on its production whichever end of the spectrum. Reiterating his love for late ‘80s, early ‘90s punk, he references Hüsker Dü. Candy Apple Grey, the band’s first album after moving to a major label was criticised by many fans for its gloss. It seems a fitting point to raise. Baldi’s own opinion on the matter is pointed; “they got a lot poppier, but who cares. It’s still a good album.”

1 comment:

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