In just a few months, CLOUD NOTHINGS have grown from being the Cleveland band that made everyone’s ears bleed to a “prolific” group that’s already released one of the year’s best LPs. It’s a noteworthy feat – especially as it’s hard to name another ample record that’s turned more heads in 2014 – and it’s deserving as Here And Nowhere Else (out now on Carpark) condenses precision, flooring lo-fi hooks, and the sort of ruthless chemistry you’d expect from Snap, Crackle & Pop or a Wilco album. During their visit to the nippy city of Toronto, we reconnected with frontman Dylan Baldi to talk about the band’s growth spurt, TJ Duke (bass) and Jayson Gerycz’s (drums) new-found fame via the Internet, and how you have to experience a few low points in life so you can understand the highs.
You’ve been making music for a while and have probably done a lot of growing up in the mean time. Are you more comfortable now given you’ve found a sound you prefer?
Yeah, definitely. It feels like I’ve finally found something that’s sort of my own and I’m not just trying to copy things which is what I did in the past (laughs). It definitely feels more natural and kind of better to play these new songs.
Did you ever think your music would progress this quickly?
No, I didn’t (laughs). I dropped out of school and I kind of needed a reason to do that because I didn’t want to have nothing to do. So I started this band to have something to do and I like doing it. I also like to travel so I thought it’d just make it easier to do that, like I never thought it’d get popular. The fact that we’re doing this is cool (laughs).
Well you’ve definitely accomplished both. You’ve made a lot of good music and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of cool places as well. What would you say is your favourite city so far?
Favourite city? Umm… Toronto.
You don’t have to say that just because you’re here.
Yeah (laughs). Favourite city… man, that’s hard. I liked Melbourne and Australia’s really cool. I kind of like going to Paris because my girlfriend’s French, so I’m used to the city and that stuff.
So you’ve said before that you weren’t in the best state of mind when you recorded Attack On Memory. Does Here And Nowhere Else represent the light at the end of the tunnel?
It’s not the light at the end of the tunnel but it’s not realizing there isn’t actually a light at the end of the tunnel – it’s just not there yet. On the last record, I was depressed and sad, and I kind of felt segregated from the rest of the world. But the record took off and things just got better as it became a job all of a sudden and not just playing music. While working on this record, I started realizing that everything isn’t hopeless (laughs). Like if you work at something, it can actually pay off and there’s positive sides to everything.
Did things like building relationships, overcoming personal challenges, and even gaining positive recognition for your work contribute to the lighter feel of Here And Nowhere Else?
Yeah, absolutely. All three of those things. It kind of just feels like I’m… growing up in a way. It feels like I’m finally understanding more about myself and realizing what I need to do to be able to be happy and feel comfortable.
When most people think of the word “angst”, they associate it with teenagers. Do you think people tend to overlook the fact that adulthood presents issues but just on a larger scale?
Umm… I mean, I don’t think it’s necessarily overlooked or underrated because everyone realizes that you’re going to have to go through things at some point and that it’s not easy to figure out what you want to do. I personally think it’s represented fairly. That angst is sort of necessary for me in a way – you have to go through that and deal with those things to get to those low points that help you understand the highs.
You and I are quite close in age, and I know the person I was five years ago is nothing like who I am today. How has your navigation through life affected your songwriting?
I don’t know… I like doing this but I’m still in some weird place where I don’t belong. Like it doesn’t feel like a real job. It’s just this crazy fun thing I can do and somehow end up making it work. But I think the things that really affect the songwriting are the things that I do. When I’m not touring, I’m travelling or visiting places. When I’m not making music, I’m not thinking about music necessarily. I just try to go about my day and I notice things that are interesting and eventually sit down to write about all of those different experiences.
I read somewhere that you basically go into the studio without having lyrics written or prepared. How does that in-the-moment feeling translate to your material?
I think it definitely translates. It’s just a very real energy and you can actually feel it compared to other types of music that people are attracted to. I kind of like that because we do everything really quickly right before we record and it’s nice to have that kind of energy on a record, especially when the band’s still sort of figuring things out, you know? I like that. All of my favourite records are like that.
You have the song “Just See Fear” and you’ve noted it’s about today’s young people not knowing where life is going to take them. Is this a bad thing? Or does it leave more room for young people to pursue less conventional life paths?
It’s a bad thing if you treat it like a bad thing. If you take that lack of direction and don’t try to do everything you can instead of just doing nothing or not trying anything new, then it becomes a bad thing. Especially when you’re young. You’re just stuck – like asking, “Hey, what’s going on?” – but also trying not to freak out all the time. I have a lot of friends in that position and I’m constantly telling them to do something, anything really.
Originally Cloud Nothings started off as your solo project before you brought the rest of the band in but now it’s at the point where the rest of the guys are getting recognized. Like in almost every album review for the new record…
They’re talking about the drummer?
Yeah, they’re talking about Jayson.
I’m so glad. I’ve always thought he was a very good drummer but nobody ever talked about it. Like even live, people just said, “he’s the drummer”. They never said anything cool but it’s been exciting to finally make a record where people realize all that stuff and find out that he’s really good and that TJ’s really good. It’s just exciting to finally have something where everyone is duly recognized for how much work they’ve put in.
When we last spoke in 2011 you told me you did all the writing because you wanted to hold the responsibility should an album be poorly received. Is that something you’ve let go of?
I kind of like that. I mean, I feel responsible for the songs in some way if somebody doesn’t like them. I guess I took it personally back then. If someone didn’t like what I did then I’d wonder, “What’s wrong with that guy?”. But now, it’s just like, “Oh cool” (laughs). It doesn’t actually bother me because a lot of people like our songs.
Does it feel weird to draw attention when you don’t intend to? For instance, your collaboration with Wavves seemed like an ordinary hang but news of an album literally blew up on the Internet.
It was a simple thing. He texted me, “Do you want to make a record?”, and I went over to record an album at his house. It was fun, I like Nathan and it was cool meeting him. I just didn’t know it was going to be “news”. It’s weird when people create stories out of things that are definitely not noteworthy yet. Like we didn’t even know what we were doing and someone was writing an article about it before we even knew what was going to happen with it. We had nothing set up and we figured we might as well do it now because…
Because now people know.
Yeah, it’s all over the Internet (laughs).
Did you like L.A.?
I love L.A. It’s super relaxing.
Would you say you like L.A. better than you like New York or Paris?
Yeah. Paris has too many people and it freaks me out. New York is kind of the same way as it’s stressful just being there but you can kind of hide in your own little spot in Los Angeles. Like Nathan’s house is this beautiful place that pretty much looks out onto the entire city. I just like the fact that you aren’t surrounded by people all of the time. You can kind of have your own place to do what you need to do and it’s not some basement.
Travelling takes you away from your current situation, whether its frustrations or boredom. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself while being on the road and away from Ohio?
I try to do something new everywhere I go, like whenever I have some time off and I don’t have anything to do. It just lets me try to do some weird new thing just to see if I like it. I don’t know… I guess the biggest thing I’ve learned is to be very serious about self-reliance and not worry too much about anyone else being in charge of my life. Sometimes I just like taking control and doing things that I want to do and need to do rather than adhering to guidelines. Once you know how to do it, you can just do that. Sometimes it works (laughs).