Monday, March 31, 2014

Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi offers a track-by-track take on his new album

Posted By on Mon, Mar 31, 2014 at 12:06 PM

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A couple of years ago, the local indie rock outfit Cloud Nothings’ manager suggested the group make an album with producer John Congleton (Modest Mouse, St. Vincent). That manager no longer works for the band, but the band finally got to work with Congleton. He produced its new album, Here and Nowhere Else, which the band recorded in Hoboken at Water Music over an 8-day period. Last week, we met singer-guitarist Dylan Baldi at his small apartment on Edgewater Dr. to talk about the songs on the new album, a poppier, cheerier effort than 2012’s Attack on Memory. Baldi had just flown in from Los Angeles, where he was writing some material for a side project with Wavves Nathan William, and he was still a bit groggy from the cross-country flight. (He also confided that he’s contemplating a move to Southern California, assuming he can convince his Parisian girlfriend to relocate).

The new album comes out tomorrow and then the group hits the road on Friday and will tour for most of the year (the band plays a CD release show on May 9 at Mahall’s) and will even play in Europe and in Asia. The bushy-haired 22-year-old walked us through the album’s eight tracks and talked about the inspiration for each tune.

1. “Now Hear In”

That one has been kicking around for a minute. I wrote it on this crappy classical acoustic guitar that I borrowed from my girlfriend’s friend. His name is Schling. They call him that because he’s so bad on guitar that when he plays, it just sounds like the word “schling.” I started writing it in Paris. I like writing on stuff that’s hard to play. It’s an extra limitation. I can play guitar but I like to have something to struggle against to get a different sound.

2. “Quieter Today”

I don’t even remember writing that one. It just existed all of a sudden. It’s about doing what I do and you find people who just like to talk for the sake of talking. I don’t do that. It’s about that more or less. It’s about knowing when to shut up and how it’s good to do that sometimes. It’s good to not talk and just observe. I think I was trying to accomplish the same thing musically with every song on the record. I wanted to have complex guitar parts that didn’t sound complex but sounded easy to play. I wanted to have the drummer just go crazy and have everything mixed together in a way that it sounds like chaos but it’s not. It’s almost like a pop song.

3. “Psychic Trauma”

I have a tendency to overthink stuff if I have too long to think about it. I don’t want to do that. I want to be able to move through things and not always ruminate on them. That song is about dealing with that. With the songs, I need to do everything very last minute or I’ll be forced to sit there and think about it. That probably came out of the writing process.

4. “Just See Fear”

There’s a lot of screaming on a lot of these songs. I like to yell. I did an interview once and I said I was continuing the family tradition of yelling at kids because my parents were teachers in Cleveland. Ths song started off sounding really poppy. It almost sounded like a Strokes song. I didn’t like it. I kept coming back to it and it worked out to become a catchy one. The guitar melody in the middle is really good. A lot of the record is just about sitting and observing people my age. I like to listen to the music they make. People do a lot of different things. There’s always the same message behind it or the same feeling behind it. There’s general confusion. People my age are just not sure where life is going to take them. That song is about that. It’s a generational thing. It’s about almost being scared of it in a way.

5. “Giving Into Seeing”

With a lot of the songs — this one in particular — I like to have parts that I can’t play at first. That’s how I get better. It’s right after the intro and the part when I’m singing I couldn’t play. But once it all came together, it ended up being really good. The lyrics came at the very last minute. There was one part where I didn’t have anything to sing but I knew I wanted to repeat one word over and over. My girlfriend is French. I asked her what her favorite word in English was and it was “swallow.” I don’t exactly know how it works in the context of the song.

6. “No Thoughts”

This is probably the oldest one. I’ve been playing it since Coachella of last year. It came together as a transition song between the last record and this one. It’s the most intense of the poppier songs. It’s heavier and there’s a lot going on. All the songs tend to be about the same thing. I don’t write it with that in mind. I don’t think I’m making a statement about what everyone is experiencing. I’m doing it about myself but it ends up being relatable. The first line is “it’s hard to move in a generation and feeling stuck in a predetermined thought.” It’s a scary thing to me to have someone predetermine your fate. That can’t be true. The chorus is “you don’t even seem to care and I don’t even talk about it.” That’s the attitude among people my age.

7. “Pattern Walks”

That song originally was going to be a short one but I thought the noise in the middle was kind of cool. There’s a lot of ambient things going on in there. It was almost a response to “Wasted Days” on the last record. It ends with “I thought I would be more than this” over and over and this one ends with “I thought” over a beautiful bit of music which is an easy way to explain the way I was thinking when I was writing this record. I wasn’t as depressed as I was when I was making the last album. Before, I felt like nobody liked the band and I was doing it for three years. I was not in a good place. Now, I had more time to think about why I felt that way. It’s a positive song.

8. “I’m Not Part of Me”

“Pattern Walks” has a really pretty ending and I wanted the last song to be a continuation of that. It encapsulates the whole meaning of the record. It’s about taking the various influences and things you’ve experienced and figuring out what makes you tick. I actually tried to sing better on this whole record. I like Attack on Memory but when I hear myself sing, I cringe a bit. I can’t really listen to my voice. With this one, I wanted to make one where I wouldn’t want to turn the record off when I heard myself sing.

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