Music Features

Cloud Nothings (Interview)

Radiating the spirit of an ever-growing millennial culture, Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi cannot just create by matter of impulse and taste. With a keen knowledge about how our Internet era works, he understands how the current musical climate is all about getting your foot on the door as hasty as possible. Curiously, that impetus was born thanks to some good ol’ luck of the Irish.

“It started on the Internet right after I recorded my first two songs for the band, Hey Cool Kid and Whaddya Wanna Know”, recalls Baldi. A couple of blogs picked it up after I added them as friends on My Space, then a guy named Kevin Greenspon from California, who runs a label called Bridgetown Records, offered to release something if I had more songs. I didn’t, so after coming home from college, I recorded six more songs and put out Turning On. Things snowballed from there with Internet press and steady touring.”

With that same sense of urgency, Baldi carries every project he sets out to achieve. After releasing Turning On in a limited run in 2009, his crunchy, guitar centric sounds caught the eye of Carpark Records. And although previous releases were initiated with a ticking clock nagging on his side, one would assume he now has more time to spiff up his spotty garage tunes. His first full length, titled Cloud Nothings, is just as tight and concise, holding that same spirit from past recordings.

“I think what makes Cloud Nothings a true full length is that it’s the first record I’ve released for which I’ve had an audience in mind”, states Baldi. “With Turning On and anything I recorded prior to it, I was creating music the way I knew how to, with little recording equipment and no real goals in mind. Once I knew I was going to make an album that would be more widely circulated, I thought it should be recorded in a proper studio, have a bit more of an edge, and flow better than anything I previously released”.

Evoking All-American indie bands like the Replacements and Husker Du, Baldi’s more defined sound is a logical step towards favoring a structural set instead of simply adorning a melodic assortment of hooks.  Now twenty, he teeters at the brink of maturity but stops right as he’s about to lunge into that cesspool. The new songs that comprise Cloud Nothings are all about making a prompt first impression, rollicking through two-minute punchy tracks without looking back.

“All my favorite records are brief and compact, so I like to keep my own personal output that way as well”, says Baldi. “They were all written very close to the actual recording session, nothing I’d been sitting on for too long. If I keep a song around too long I grow to dislike it, and it loses any of the original energy it had when I wrote it and was excited about it. I love working quickly and under pressure of deadlines – it’s the only way I can get things done.”

Just like Husker Du's transitional phase from New Day Rising to Flip your Wig, it only took a matter of months to tweak this more approachable studio sound. Depicting an earnest record collector, his new songs breeze through like cleaning an alphabetized compact disc collection of punk’s evolving personality. These songs recall both the sheer sonic force of classic punk and the wistful sensibility of college rock, both sharing a connecting chord of tightly crafted, melodic pop songs.  More than anything, this morphed blend is mostly a response to avoid a personal artistic monotony.

“It’s a way to avoid tedium", Baldi admits. "Even just a week before I went to record the final album I was convinced it was going to be a record of slow, pretty songs I had written. I write lots of songs and listen to lots of music, so I feel the need to change styles and incorporate new sounds fairly often. I’m sure the next record will sound a lot different than this one”.

Growing up from self-recorded bedroom songs to a full on studio approach, Baldi is decisively invested in favoring a newfound production to see where the songs take him. This meant crossing out his murky, hazy lo-fi, but he guarantees how the production is mainly an evolutionary reaction to test a distinctive approach.  “The structures are largely similar to the structures on Turning On", he attests. "I was just trying to perfect the formula I started with that record. Make it less lo-fi, a little more energetic”.

Musical aesthetic aside, Baldi sounds in high spirits, eager to share his early creations whilst looking forward with humble expectations.

“I’ve visited cities and entire countries that I thought I might never see in my entire life, and met countless incredible and creative people - including some personal heroes of mine”, Baldi recounts.

“I didn’t have high expectations when this band started, so just to know that I’ve already done so much is really enough for me. No need to set any unreasonable goals for the future – I’m happy with whatever happens."