Cloud Nothings: "Who knows, maybe we’re monks?"
Cloud Nothings’ new album sees them ponder the wider world and beyond.
Published: 10:00 am, January 27, 2017
“It’s been done since March, so I’m ready for it to come out now. I don’t really care if people like it at this point." Cloud Nothings' founder and frontman Dylan Baldi opens with a bold statement, through laughter mind you, about forthcoming album ‘Life Without Sound’. "We finished it in March and I was like, maybe it'll come out in the fall or something. Everyone at our label was like, ‘Ehhh, maybe January'. Like okay, whatever."
The band's fourth outing sees more of a melodic edge than their previous efforts. "In my mind, we’ve always been writing ‘pop’ songs, since day one," he continues. “That’s always been my goal, so maybe the fact that with this one so many more people say it sounds more catchy it just seems like I’m getting better at writing pop songs?”
It’s certainly worth the wait. The moment you set eyes on the cover - featuring a vast oceanic space viewed from the coast, perfectly complementing the highs and lows found within - you understand that ‘Life Without Sound’ is a wander through the larger aspects of life. Dylan explains: “I started thinking about things that were bigger than just like, ‘I’m depressed’ or ‘I’m sad today’. I started thinking about the world a little bit more. My actual place in the world." One example can be found on the album's aptly titled finale, ‘Realize My Fate’: “I believe in something bigger / but what I can’t articulate / I find it hard to realise my fate / An eternal seeing clearer / a mind, a fear of being blank / I find it hard to realise my fate."
Vocalising such grand ideas is no easy feat. Dylan found some help in someone whose ideas resonated with him: “I got really into this writer, Peter Matthiessen, he helped found the Paris Review. He’s pretty important, a really great writer, and also a pretty intensely studying Buddhist. I was intrigued by a lot of that while making this record, and I think that comes across in a way. I wouldn’t say that I am religious, but I was fascinated by that man and his take on a lot of things."
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It would also appear that a connection like this hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Dylan describes an interaction he found himself in recently. “There was a real crazy monk that my friends know. He used to sell drugs to Dinosaur Jr in the nineties, somehow he’s still around, but he came up to me at one of our shows and was like, ‘So… I listened to your record, and all your lyrics are… you know, I think we have a lot in common. You should come to India with me and help my friends build the biggest temple in the world." Through laughter, he says: “I was like ’Uhhh no? Thanks for the offer, though, man’. Who knows, maybe we’re monks?”
Drug dealing monks aside, ‘Life Without Sound’ is clearly an album filled to the brim with large ideas and the melodies to make them resonate. “They’re about that realisation that it’s important for you to think about things outside of your own sphere," he says, before elaborating: “I wanted every song to be its own little world, and each song starts somewhere and ends somewhere different from where it started. It’s not as repetitive as some of our other stuff; it's more of a trip that each one takes you on."
And what a trip it is. The sound morphs from savage nineties rock to mid-naughties indie, with ‘Realize My Fate’ holding the largest curveball - a seven-and-a-half minute build up to chaos. “It’s like a cliffhanger at the end of a good TV show or something you know? Like, maybe you’ll watch the next episode." On these stark contrasts in sound, Dylan reveals it was all very much intentional. “I also wanted each song to sound different from each other, rather than [2014s) album] ‘Here And Nowhere Else’. The one thing I wasn’t super into about that record is how it all blended together, and it’s all kind of one sound and one tone throughout."
With the album concerning grandiose subject matter, it’s given Dylan a chance to reflect on exactly what Cloud Nothings has given him. “The band gives me a sense of purpose," he ponders. "I was pretty directionless as a young kid. I didn’t know what I was going to end up doing, or what I wanted to do with my life. Then it turned out this band was the thing that makes it feel like I’m giving back to people in some way rather than just going through the normal motions; going to college and not being able to get a job because I was majoring in saxophone!
"The fact we can still be on a fourth record and I have people wanting to call me from England to talk about the band [That's us! - Ed], and any effect it’s having on people at shows, it’s great!”
Give all this a try
It's the first track to arrive from a new EP, 'Crying in the Prettiest Places'.
Check out the intimate, acoustic track as performed at some small US radio 'thingys'.
Seemed as good an excuse as any to get the BRITs Critics' Choice winner on the blower to tell us more.
The second track from a forthcoming EP, 'Life Was Coming In Through The Blinds', you can check it out now.
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