LIFE WITHOUT SOUND
AN INTERVIEW WITH DYLAN BALDI OF CLOUD NOTHINGS
The past few years have brought significant change for Cloud Nothings, and by extension, their frontman and principal songwriter Dylan Baldi. Baldi’s newest pet-project was once a jangly, power-pop lo-fi basement project; however, it has now developed an edge and has moved in punk-influenced directions. Now with four successful studio releases under their belts and a fifth on the way, Cloud Nothings have cemented their place among the libraries of pop punk, indie rock, and post-hardcore fans.
In the time since 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else, and his 2015 collaborative album with Wavves, No Life For Me, Baldi has not been idle. “I moved to Massachusetts for a little while,” recounted Baldi “I lived in Western Massachusetts for like almost a year, just hanging out in the woods.”
While in Massachusetts, “I got this guitar at a music store there that I wanted to make the whole record on, it’s just like a shitty little acoustic guitar, and I did end up doing that. I did write all the songs on that guitar.”
Eventually, his home state of Ohio recalled him.
“I moved back to Cleveland just about a year ago, and that’s when we started working on the album. We finished the record in March and had been kind of waiting for it to come out.”
Once the songs for Life Without Sound were written, the band had to record the album. To assist with this, John Goodmanson was enlisted to produce. “He made it sound more pro,” said Baldi explaining his influence, “it’s very big sounding. I would say our last couple albums have been not lo-fi by any means, but definitely scratchier or something and this one is very full and able-bodied” This new production quality provides a cleaner and further refined album. “It’s just easier to hear everything, and you can probably understand what I’m saying for the first time too. Lucky listeners.”
Cloud Nothings’ past releases have featured the producing expertise of a few different individuals. “They all have their ways of doing things that you have to get used to in a very short amount of time,” mentioned Baldi, “You just have to throw yourself in a weird situation with someone you don’t know and hope it goes well. Yeah, It’s a funny thing to do.”
Expanding upon the production process Baldi noted, “Everyone we’ve worked with so far has their own distinct personality for sure and even just that vibe, like the vibe of them as a human, can make the recording process different in various ways.”
Understandably, new producers can significantly impact the sound of an album. Cloud Nothings worked with Steve Albini to produce their critically acclaimed album Attack on Memory, that unleashed a harsher and more aggressive version of Baldi’s punk project. Even their more recent work with John Congleton showed change as the band’s sound became more refined. Other recent changes for Cloud Nothings includes the addition of guitarist Chris Brown to their touring lineup.
Besides his instrumental elements having matured through albums, Baldi’s lyrics have evolved as well. “The last couple records have been very dark and stormy, confused young man records. This one is maybe a little more open to other moods,” Baldi continued, “That’s what the record’s about actually, like opening up your view a little bit and not being so negative, I guess, and trying to just think about all the other stuff in the world going on besides you.”
“I don’t think there’ll be anything mind blowing. There are songs that don’t necessarily sound like anything we’ve done before, but you can still tell it’s the same band,” Baldi explained about changes in the album, “It’s still the same catchy rock tunes, but there’s some neat stuff on it. There’s some good tracks. The kids will love it.”
With Cloud Nothings being a punk band, you might expect that to be the genre of choice for its musicians. However, that is not necessarily the case.
“I never know what exactly influences. With this record, I don’t think any specific bands influenced it. Maybe just kind of the general mood of the kind of stuff we were listening to or at least that I was listening,” Baldi continued to explain his listening, “I was listening to kind of dub and reggae. That’s what I’ve been listening to a lot over these past years, and our record doesn’t sound like that at all. There’s sort of a slowness, and that’s just like a nice sound. I really like a lot of the sounds they get on those records. I don’t know. I was maybe not influenced. I didn’t make a reggae record but just the sort of construction of the songs and the pace of a lot of those songs. I wanted to do something that was a little more slowed down and powerful like that rather than just fast, angry punk songs.”
Many musicians tend to maintain side projects. Cloud Nothings’ origins can be traced to Baldi’s various “virtual bands” that he created to amuse himself between classes. One of these virtual bands, complete with their own MySpace page, garnered some attention, and Cloud Nothings has only expanded since. Baldi stays active, “I’m always making things, and I never know what to do with them. Usually, they just end up on Cloud Nothings’ records. Lately, I’ve been playing the saxophone a lot actually which I used to do pretty regularly in school and all that. But I’ve been going back to it because a lot of people around Cleveland have been asking me. I’m pretty good at making like crazy noises and like weird sounds and kinda doing that whole free jazz, improv jamming thing. So I’ve been doing that a lot. That’s with various bands and those things are getting recorded and are coming out in some small for at some point I’m sure.”
By this stage of our conversation, jazz had come up a couple of times. Probing further Baldi’s musical tastes proved to be quite diverse. “I usually don’t mention it I guess,” Baldi said, “I like a lot of jazz. I mean I grew up listening to it really, and getting into free jazz is what got me into punk. Which is weird. I feel like it’s the other way around usually. But I was into really far out, like, I was listening to Pharoah Sanders before I was listening to Minor Threat. I was a weird kid.”
With such diverse musical tastes and talents, Baldi has become a well-appreciated collaborator. While his experimentation has reached into various genres, his most
famous collaboration remains firmly seated in indie-rock and pop punk with Wavves. Their collaborative album, No Life For Me, was produced by Nathan and Joel Williams, and garnered positive acclaim from their respective fanbases.
“That’s the only way I can…I’m bad at just hanging out with people like with just sitting around and hanging out I don’t know how to do that, so It’s nice to have something to do with other people. I can hang out if we’re working on something, I like doing that, so it’s good for me I think to have these projects,” mused Baldi on his collaborative experiences.
Other cooperative skills are observed in the promotion of Life Without Sound. In anticipation for the album, two music videos have been released. The first was released for their song “Modern Act”, and was “kind of last minute, cause it was supposed to be this animated thing by this Scottish dude, but he just sort of stopped responding to emails after a while. It’s a bummer. So, we had this last minute thing with this dude we know named Murph, also from L.A., coincidentally, and also from Cleveland.”
Secondly, they released a bizarre video for their track “Internal World.” Baldi expanded upon its origins, “Johnny Look, who used to live in Cleveland but lives in L.A., we got in touch with him and said ‘Hey, make something weird’, and he came back with the idea of a reptilian instructional video thing. And we said ‘okay’, and he made that video.”
Another video is reportedly in the works for another single that is to be released shortly before the album drops on January 27th.
In further support of the new album, Cloud Nothings will be going on an impressive encompassing world tour. “If we don’t tour, then we don’t know what to do with ourselves. So, touring’s good,” commented Baldi, “We’re playing new venues that I’m excited about. There’s this one in Chicago called Thalia Hall that I’ve seen a show at, but have never played there, so it’s like a beautiful big concert hall kind of place, so it looks very nice and I’m excited to play there.”
With them on tour are some exciting opening acts. Baldi remarked, “I’m excited about everybody actually that we’re bringing, but I really like this guy, Moon Bros, his name’s Matt, he’s from Chicago, and I think he’s the best guitarist that I’ve ever seen.”
Other acts include Itasca, “whose coming with us for a little bit and she’s awesome.” They’re also “doing shows with Kean Nugent, in Europe, who’s another great guitarist.”
Baldi later stated, “I’m excited to tour with all these great guitarists cause I get to watch them and ask them nerdy questions about the guitar.”
While Baldi has had a chance to experience many great cities’ music scenes through touring and recording, he still comes back to his home in Ohio. Cleveland’s music scene is “active and small. I feel that growing up, or not growing up even when Cloud Nothings started the scene in Cleveland was very fragmented or something. It was a lot of little pockets of people who didn’t necessarily hang out together ever.” Eventually, as he explains, “it’s a lot more together. Everyone kind of goes to the same things cause there are not that many people who are into music or make music, so it’s kind of important, I feel like, to have all the people who do get along.”
Ohio holds prominent significance for Baldi and is where Cloud Nothings truly got their start. Originally, recording was done in his parent’s basement, and they are still very supportive. “They’re very proud. My dad’s Facebook page is littered with articles about me,” added Baldi, “There’s a magnet of me on the fridge. I don’t even know how he did that. They’re very happy; they have all our records framed in my dad’s music room.”
The past few releases from Cloud Nothings have come out on some resurging formats, namely vinyl and cassette. On vinyl, Baldi jovially added, “It’s the only way to listen to an album.”
Cloud Nothings has been independent since the beginning, and they’ve been signed to Carpark Records since their early days. “I’m sure we could change labels if we really wanted to,” Baldi relayed, ” We’re on Carpark because the guy who runs it sent us a MySpace message asking if we wanted to be on Carpark and I said ‘okay’. At this point, they put out our records, and they’re our friends, and it’d be a shitty thing to do to be like ‘ well, see ya, thanks for all that.'”
With support from his home state and the independent music scene, Cloud Nothings continues to grow and change. Touring alongside Baldi will be drummer Jayson Gerycz, bassist TJ Duke, and guitarist Chris Brown. Cloud Nothings’ latest release, Life Without Sound, will be released on January 27th on Carpark Records.
Cloud Nothings Tour Dates:
01-26 Cleveland, OH – Beachland ballroom
01-27 Toronto, Ontario – Lee’s Palace
01-28 Montreal, Quebec – Fairmount Theatre
01-30 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
01-31 Boston, MA – Paradise
02-01 New York, NY – Webster Hall
02-03 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
02-10 Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
03-01 Copenhagen, Denmark – Loppen
03-02 Malmo, Sweden – Babel
03-03 Stockholm, Sweden – Debaser Strand
03-05 Oslo, Norway – Parkteatret
03-06 Hamburg, Germany – Knust
03-07 Berlin, Germany – Bi Nuu
03-08 Munich, Germany – Kranhalle
03-09 Cologne, Germany – Luxor
03-11 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
03-12 Brussels, Belgium – Botanique
03-14 Paris, France – Petit Bain
03-16 Bristol, England – Thekla
03-17 Glasgow, Scotland – Stereo
03-18 Manchester, England – Deaf Institute
03-19 Leeds, England – Brudenell Social Club
03-21 London, England – Koko
03-22 Birmingham, England – The Hare & Hounds
03-23 Brighton, England – The Haunt