Ahead of the March 3rd release of their new single ‘Blackout!’, Clash caught up with J Stuart, singer with New York cool kids The Cloud Room.
Having a song famously used on a Pepsi ad while still unsigned, the band has worked hard to build a solid fan base and have just released their self titled album in the UK, a souped up version of the previous American release. It’s a long way from their appearance on the very first Clash Ones To Watch cd!
Clash fired off an email to lead singer J Stuart who prompted clicked that reply button.
Q – Origins. How did you get into music?
Speaking for myself, back in middle and high school I used my lunch money to buy cds at the local chain. First it was Red Hot Chili Peppers, then Sonic Youth, then Pavement and Radiohead. I was a pretty skinny kid!
Q – How did the band form and what drove you on?
Jason and Jon were in a friend’s band that had just dissolved, so I snatched them up 2 for the price of one. Craigslist has always played a big part in finding bandmates through the years. I had originally moved to NYC to pursue a glamorous life in film, but the reality was much more grim: Running errands, picking up trash, being a target for frustrated cinematographers and assistant directors, surreptitiously replacing water with vodka in actors’ water bottles. It was all very uninspiring and not a fulfilling outlet for creativity, so I drifted back into writing music.
Q – The name refers to the Prohibition-era speakeasy at the top of the Chrysler Building? Is there anything we should assume from the origin of that name?
Oh, we are pro-alcohol, definitely. Almost to a fault. I’m also just intrigued by the idea of speakeasies and have been seeking them out in NY and Brooklyn for a few years.
Q – How do you approach writing the songs – group effort or are you the driving force lyrically?
I am a fairly unaccomplished musician, so I usually sculpt the songs in my head and then try to translate them to my band either with elaborate hand signals, melodies unattached to a key or set of chords, comparisons to colors or other visuals, or all of the above.
Q – You’ve overcome some substantial obstacles to get to where you are now (J’s studio unfortunately burning down). Did you ever feel cursed?
Ha—no! Definitely not. I actually consider myself pretty fortunate with the hand I was dealt.
Q – When your track was chosen for the Pepsi ad, and as an unsigned band, did you think “We’ve made it!”? Were you tempted to all go out and buy Ferraris?
I guess it makes sense that people might think that, but the reality is markedly less money. I was able to buy my cat the expensive wet food, get myself health insurance, record some new songs and not much else. I hope we never “make it” because the striving seems to be the source of most creativity.
Q – The album’s out this week in the UK. How happy are you with it? Did you enter the studio with a masterplan, or was it a more organic process?
I’m definitely happy with it. The UK version has some stronger songs and a much better tracklisting. We’re still developing, crazy as it sounds, so this is the start of a long, strange trip.
Q – The internet’s been pretty good to you, where do you stand on the whole Radiohead ‘pay what you feel the music is worth’ sales model?
Being that I’d rather buy cds than eat cafeteria food, my reverence for music is probably a little out of the realm of what’s normal these days.
Q – You’re appearing at a number of festivals this summer? Any UK appearances? Glastonbury by any chance?
I have no idea but I sure as hell hope so.
Q – you’ve done your fair share of touring, do you feel it’s a necessary apprenticeship for new bands?
Playing to an empty club is great for building character and moral fortitude. But hopefully a new band won’t amass too much of it.
And now enjoy the fruits of the band’s labour, new single ‘Blackout!’, out March 3rd.