Five Minutes With Cloud Nothings

On the blower with Dylan Baldi…

Cloud Nothings are back, y’know. The Dylan Baldi-fronted Cleveland trio, whose 2012 album ‘Attack On Memory’ achieved all that Best New Music business on some stateside site or other and attracted a whole bunch of acclaim besides, release ‘Here And Nowhere Else’ through Wichita Recordings at the end of March. We collared Baldi on a call to glean some information on the new LP.

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‘I’m Not Part Of Me’, from ‘Here And Nowhere Else’

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The very first track of the album, ‘Now Hear In’, contains the line “There’s nothing left to say”. So, what’s changed on this LP, compared to the last?

We’d not thought about that lyric, actually. But yeah, obviously we’ve plenty more to say. A lot has changed – in the lyrics, especially – between the last album and this one. Age plays its part, although I don’t actively think about being older than I was then.

‘Attack On Memory’ was very personal, informed by things that I was going through. Now, I’ve got that side of my life figured out a little better, so I wanted to make something that wasn’t just a solid burst of anger the whole time. I wanted to do something a little more human, I guess.

And I just think these songs are better – I always do, on a new record. This record feels a lot more like the work of a band, compared to the last record. The last record allowed us to mix things up a bit.

You toured ‘Attack On Memory’ pretty hard. How much of ‘Here And Nowhere Else’ was written while on the road?

Quite a lot of it was, yeah. I would start songs while we were touring, travelling around, and then everything came together properly in the couple of weeks before we went in to record with John (Congleton, engineer). Nothing was properly finished, really finalised, until then.

So when you went in to work with John, everything was in its right place? The studio didn’t affect any of the songs?

We went in with a pretty good idea of what was going on, yeah! We knew how to play the songs. John pretty much just recorded us playing, to sound as good as possible. I don’t think this band needs a producer as such – just someone to capture that energy.

You’ve said that ‘Here And Nowhere Else’ isn’t an “in your face” album, but it’s certainly pretty lively. What is your own yardstick for what comprises a heavy album, then?

(Laughs) There are thousands of albums heavier than what we’ve done, so I wouldn’t even know where to start with that. But I think this album is a lot less dark than its predecessor. It’s got more of a warm tone to it. Last time, the record was just about this one, negative thing. Now we’re encompassing a range of things, of emotions, in the songs.

It’s a melodically rich record, too. Which is pretty important when it comes to accessibility, whatever the weight of the music…

Definitely. Usually I’ll start a song by working on the melodies, just writing on my guitar. I’ll do that until I have something that sounds cool, and then I’ll sing something over it until lyrics come. And they usually come at the very end – I only had the lyrics to this album locked down the day before we went in to record. I think the melodies are the most important aspect – and then, when you’re singing, to actually sing, you know?

It sounds like you aren’t one to overthink lyricism. Is it better that the audience doesn’t try to overanalyse the band’s output, too, and why it’s relatively stripped-back in terms of arrangement?

Absolutely. I think – I know – that there are plenty of records like that, where you have these other levels to the music. But they’re not often relatable records to me. I want ours to sound like there’s actually some guys playing together in a room, making this music. That physicality. I want listeners to see that. That’s why we do things this way.

‘Attack On Memory’ was a critical hit. No pressure on the shoulders to repeat that acclaim this time?

Obviously, that was crazy. It was pretty cool. But it’s also very easy for me to not care about that stuff. Those are just some songs I thought were good, and honestly I didn’t worry what other people were going to think of them. That’s what I’ve been doing since I started writing songs – and it works out. If I did think about what someone thought about a song, I wouldn’t be able to play it in the same way.

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‘No Future / No Past’, from ‘Attack On Memory’

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Words: Mike Diver
Photos: Pooneh Ghana

‘Here And Nowhere Else’ is released on Wichita Recordings on March 31st. Cloud Nothings (website) tour as follows:

May
22nd – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
23rd – Stereo, Glasgow
24th – Button Factory, Dublin
25th – Cyprus Avenue, Cork
26th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
27th – Scala, London

Full dates here

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