Cloud Nothings forge their own path

tom morgan
Cloud Nothings interview

Some bands just don’t miss. Cloud Nothings are one of them. The trio, headed by vocalist/guitarist Dylan Baldi, have grown from a one-man college project into a staple of contemporary indie rock. Their prolific output has oscillated, taking occasional detours into noisier post-hardcore, such as on 2018’s Last Building Burning. However, the trio’s distinct vision never shifts far from a core brand of breathless, soulful rock, punctuated by Baldi’s unique voice and vulnerable, intelligent lyrics.

Out April 19th on Pure Noise, Final Summer is the band’s latest in a steady flow of releases—eight albums (nine if you count a 2015 collaboration with Wavves) released across the last 13 years. It’s a remarkably consistent run, particularly when you compare them to their indie/alt influences, many of whom combusted well before amassing such a discography. This equilibrium is built on a stable lineup which, alongside Baldi, features long-standing drummer Jayson Gerycz and guitarist-recently-turned-bassist Chris Brown.

One look at the name and cover art of their latest release is enough to ascertain its melancholic tone. Baldi is reckoning with some big ideas on the life-affirming Final Summer, which bolsters its introspection with some of Cloud Nothings’ most layered, transcendent and thrilling music. We spoke to the affable Baldi about his new album’s unique worldview, Cloud Nothings’ cover art and his love of drone metal.

Treble: You’ve built up a formidable back catalog and covered a lot of ground. What’s new or different for Cloud Nothings this time around?

Dylan Baldi: From a technical aspect, this is the first time we’ve recorded a record separately. It’s something we discovered during the pandemic as a necessity. But it turns out, it’s kind of easier. You’re just doing your thing alone and it doesn’t feel like you’re letting everyone down if you screw up. As for the music, this one feels like it touches on a few different things for us such as some slower, lurching songs. In terms of production, I just wanted there to be lots of guitars (laughs). I wanted everything to sound huge.

Treble: I want to ask about the album’s worldview. While listening to it, I wrote down the phrase “melancholic hope.” How does Final Summer see the world?

DB: That’s not a bad description. The title track felt like it captured what I wanted to go for. This album is about “this is what life is, you’ve got to accept the way things are and just go forth on your own little path.” That’s kind of been a theme of all our records, although when I go back and listen to our earlier records they’re kind of depressing (laughs). The same themes are being touched on here, but in a more mature way, for lack of a better word.

Treble: Something I love about your band is that, we know what Cloud Nothings are, but the tone and worldview of your albums always shift. Is this metamorphosis a reflection of your headspace, the band’s or the world’s? Or all of the above?

DB: Yeah a little from each column I think. Generally, when I’m writing lyrics, I don’t necessarily think about what they’re “about.” I’m just writing about stuff that feels OK to sing, and something I can do over and over again on tour. But eventually I go back and realize that “oh this is what I was thinking about and how I was feeling at the time.” It’s after the fact that I come to these realizations. Every record is a picture of where I’m at.

Treble: I’m fascinated by your citing of Earth and drone metal as influences on this album. The energy of your band feels so different to drone metal. Is it a more textural influence?

DB: It’s definitely a textural thing. I listen to all sorts of stuff that doesn’t sound like Cloud Nothings. But yeah I was going through a deep Earth phase when writing this. I also really like Bell Witch. Slow, heavy things have an energy to them that, to me, sound different than maybe they do to other people. I can listen to something slow and repetitive and hear lots of little melodies in it. I want our little pop songs to have similar journeys to an hour-long drone.

Treble: Minus the aforementioned tonal changes, I feel like you guys have, across your last few albums, really settled on a sound. What role do you yourself play in the creation and production process?

DB: I still write the basic songs, then demo them in my basement. They sound terrible, but I like my little demos. Then I’ll take them to my drummer Jason and we’ll figure out how the song works from there. The cool thing about this album is, as I said, that we did it with different people. We tracked it with Jeff Zeigler in Philadelphia, where I live. Then my goal each time was to the person who mixed it to make it sound even bigger, then the same for the person who mastered it. 

Treble: This is something I’ve wanted to ask you for a while. The cover of this album and all of your previous albums are photos of wide, empty spaces. Is there any thinking behind this, or does it just look cool?

DB: They’re all photos that I’ve taken. I think all were taken on various iPhones I’ve owned (laughs). I take lots of pictures and when we’re making a record I try to find one that reminds me of it. So they do all have some meaning to me. The cover of this album actually has meaning to everyone in the band: it’s in Adelaide in Australia, when we were there last year. Have you ever been to Australia?

Treble: I haven’t. Hopefully one day.

DB: OK, so I’m gonna say that, as a whole, Australia’s awesome, but Adelaide is pretty weird. We’d had a weird day, one of those where we were all thinking, “what the fuck are we doing?” But with that photo, I look back on it and realize that at least there was one nice thing that happened. That feels like it has some sort of meaning to the record.

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