Last week I got to speak with Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings. It was a bit like pulling teeth / getting blood from a stone / talking to a twenty year old guy who really wasn’t interested in talking me. A bit more like the latter than anything else, to be fair, and I got the distinct impression that it seemed like that mainly because it was true.
To be a bit charitable though, it was his first break back at home in Cleveland after a year of touring and then he gets to talk to some guy who runs a website in New Zealand about his record which has been out since January and about coming to play at Laneway. So perhaps expecting more enthusiastic responses was optimistic.
He’s twenty and his latest album is titled Attack on Memory – “its a lyric from on of the songs, No Sentiment, and it’s just about this album being so different than our other records, so I just wanted the album title to reflect that”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the album, but knowing that there’s a song written on the album about how the songs written on the album is just a bit too post-Meta for my liking. I kind of regretted asking.
But I persevered; “so It’s a significant change in sound for the band?”
The query met by silence.
“Umm, what? I’m sorry?”
I admit that by this time Dylan’s absence from the interview was becoming more and more evident – he seemed distracted.
“So this album sounds different…?”
“Yes it’s a significant change.”
I paused waiting for him to embellish. He didn’t.
“What prompted the shift” I tried to coax him.
“Ummmm I was really bored with writing the kind of songs I had been writing.”
Dylan’s distraction reminded me of a story where he had, not long after the album’s completion complained that Steve Albini, who produced the album wasn’t particularly engaged in the process – in fact Baldi asserted, at the time that Albini spent much of the four days they were recording checking his Facebook.
“How was it working with Steve Albini on this album? I asked
“It was awesome! Yeah! Steve’s a really great guy to work with because he knows exactly what he is doing all the time. Um so… yeah” came the response, which, I confess sounded a bit rehearsed to me. So I decided to push it and ask him about that story I had read.
Baldi sighed. “Yeah I was just joking when i said that, but the person who did the interview thought I was being serious when i said how bad Steve Albini was.”
Baldi’s previous albums were self produced – I wondered if perhaps he wasn’t into having a producer.
“Oh we probably will use a producer again. But probably not Steve Albini again….”
there’s a pause. It’s difficult to tell if the pause is Baldi realizing what he’s saying is sounding a little bit dubious, or if he himself is just busy checking Facebook. I’ve listened hard and I can’t here him typing a status update “talking to some boring old dude in New Zealand”. He eventually continues, “you know, just to see who can make us some like what.”
I ask if he’s had the chance to begin working on any new material yet and for the first time in the call he seems actually animated – “Yeah! We’re gonna start recording in April and get a new record out in 2013 – I think it sounds similar (to Attack on Memory) but other people who have heard the songs say it sounds totally different… the new songs are a bit looser; not as tight and compact as they are on Attack on Memory”.
Maybe it’s me, but “tight” and “compact” were not adjectives that sprung to mind when I listened to Attack on Memory.
“Well, to me it feels very rigid and the songs are kinda written by a set of rules, but the new songs are a lot more…. [he pauses]… weird”
Finally, though, a small bond is struck when I ask him about if he knows anything about New Zealand – after the trite Flight of the Concords reply, he mentioned that one of his best friends used to be in The Coolies – it turns out he’s pals with Fiona (now in the awesome Coasting). I remark how I’m pals with her too and I think she’s great “Oh yeah she’s amazing!” he almost gushes “she got us our first show ever, actually!”. Suddenly, although perhaps too late, as the time on my alloted interview time was fast running out ,we seemed to be speaking the same language / he didnt sound like he was talking to his dad about his day at schhol. Maybe finally, since I knew Fiona, he decided that I wasn’t quite the square-dick he thought I was. Although, frankly, I doubt it.
CLOUD NOTHINGS play St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on Monday 28 January at Silo Park
Their album Attack on Memory is out now.