I just don’t like listening to them anymore. It’s kind of like looking at something you made when you were five
It appears that Dylan Baldi, the unassuming driving force behind Cloud Nothings, isn’t fond of reliving past glories. Smoldering embers of the project flickered into life modestly, as a solitary bedroom venture in Cleveland, Ohio, equipped with far stronger bubblegum sentiments at its core than the wickedly vicious mutation that now boasts the title in 2014, albeit expanded to a beefy four-piece band. Turning On and a self-titled LP, with every instrument manned by Baldi, showed early smatterings of promise, but he chooses to discard them, although, by his own admission, they are passable touchstones or, at the very least, frayed benchmarks. “I just don’t like listening to them anymore. It’s kind of like looking at something you made when you were five,” he grimaces.
If he opts to dismiss his first two releases, Baldi is far more positive when it comes to discussing Cloud Nothings’ latest release, Here And Nowhere Else, despite scorning it as “garbage” in mock disdain as I switch on my dictaphone. “I think this is my favourite one,” he grins. I’d tend to agree, all ten of the tracks hurtling past in ferocious, brutal fashion, Baldi substituting his syrupy American drawl for screaming himself hoarse for much of the running time. Plenty of it feels furiously overpowering, unhinged, feral. Far more complex in every way, it is an astonishingly accomplished LP of devastating magnitude.
Nevertheless, he is a little undecided as to who or where he drew influence. “Musically, I don’t know, because a lot of what I listen to really has no bearing on the record at all”. He’s right. An affinity with chart music and fresh involvement from a clutch of band members, (he’s a lot more laidback about their contribution these days, apparently), has seen Dylan snatching scraps of inspiration to assemble Cloud Nothings’ signature, scruffy sound. “I just take cues from songwriting, totally different types of music,” he ponders. “So, I think for this record, I thought of the guitar as a piano. I was listening to a lot of jazz, the way Bill Evans plays and all of that was a really big influence on the way I was playing guitar”.
“The way it works is, I always have a lot of songs”. A pause. “But I don’t like them. You know, I’ll throw them away as we go, so those songs that I make within the month that we’re recording will be the ones we go with”. If it sounds like a slightly ramshackle, thoroughly risky approach to songwriting, well, that’s because it is, but Baldi has scribbled down some of his best offcuts when crushed by pressing time constraints. ‘I’m Not Part Of Me’, our first raucous taster of the LP and its remarkable conclusion, followed in the strain of ‘Cut You’ from Attack On Memory, namely becoming realised the day before recording began.
If a fistful of similarities remain, much of the lyrical content came from a more positive headspace, in contrast to the previous LP, which was wretched up from the pungent depths of despair and frustration. “I was writing solely to make me happy. In the past, I would sometimes think about other things, like the way people would think about the song, but this time, I thought, “If I’m happy with it, that’s it””.
We reminisce about Attack On Memory, the latest record’s predecessor, and the band’s resulting surge in popularity. Dylan is still as bemused by it as he was two years ago, although he refuses to buckle under the pressure of added exposure. “I don’t really know what happened. I still write all the songs in the same way, they still feel the same. People just like them more, I guess”, before adding, “If I made something that I thought people wouldn’t like, but I did, I would just do it”.
If I’m not doing this, I’m literally doing nothing
Here And Nowhere Elsewhere may not be unleashed for a couple of months yet, but Baldi already has his sizeable ambitions fixated on the future. He declares, to my delight, an intention to write a fresh batch of songs while touring and have a new record out at some point next year. With little time between Attack On Memory, the forthcoming release and frenzied bursts of travelling, doesn’t he ever feel a little burnt out? “Not really,” he shrugs. “I enjoy it a lot more than I find it stressful. If I’m not doing this, I’m literally doing nothing”.
For the first time in too long, we have been gifted a band that understands the sheer hopelessness of the nine to five grind, of everyday life, a band that understands us. Cloud Nothings, particularly Dylan Baldi, spit the blood from their teeth and refuse to choke on the vitriolic angst that lingers in the throat, pouring generous dollops of the stagnant mixture into a collection of venomous couplets and brutal soundscapes. Here And Nowhere Else could be the release to save you this year. I’ve never been more grateful for a band.
Live: Scala – May 27th