Cloud Nothings came to fruition in Dylan Baldi’s basement in 2009. Dylan sang. Dylan played the guitar. He played the drums, did the backing, pretty much everything. With the success of his first compilation Turning On, it became clear to Baldi that a band would be necessary on the road. Two years later, with three new band members and a sophomore album under their belt (the eponymous Cloud Nothings) the band is back with Attack on Memory. Produced by grunge rock aficionado, Steve Albini of Big Black—who in the past has worked on albums for Nirvana, The Stooges, The Breeders and Pixies—Cloud Nothings return with a harder, more adult sound. If Cloud Nothings was about the joys of adolescence, Attack on Memory is a revelation on the adolescent who realized he hates everything and told his parents to go fuck themselves.
Your new album Attack on Memory was released today, how are you feeling? What does the first day of a record release feel like?
Tommy David: Fine, I guess. We’ve been listening to it and we’ve had it for a while. I feel like I have a different perspective than anyone else. I’m bored of it already. We had a good time making it, that’s as far as it goes. If people enjoy it, that’s great. I hope that people do. I think we’re more excited to get out there and play it. That’s the way it was made, so we could enjoy playing it together.
The album definitely has a darker feel than some of your past, more upbeat music, and from a lot of the interviews I’ve read it seems like the main influence is the fear of getting pigeonholed. What else influenced it?
Because we were all involved in the creation of the songs, we all were allowed to express ourselves. That collaborative writing process gave way to what it sounds like now. Certainly being on tour for a year and a half, doing the same two albums’ worth of songs… we’re done with that.
The first album [Cloud Nothings] was written and recorded by Dylan Baldi, alone. What was it like collaborating on this one? Was he ever hesitant to share the reigns?
We all have a great respect for one another. We all do a bunch of different stuff. I play in two or three other bands, and so does everyone else in the band. Not to take away from Dylan, he’s an incredible songwriter, even on his own he can make incredible music, but now we have the combination of all of us working together. We trust one another, and we have good instincts to make a great record together, and that’s what we did.
You guys recorded the album in four days. Do you think the manic energy of that experience is caught in the record?
It didn’t seem that much different from being at home. We recorded it live. If you can play it live, then you can record it live. It was exciting getting to record those songs and to get to work with someone like Steve Albini. Personally, I was excited because I listened to his records—the ones he did, the ones he worked on—those were my favorite albums growing up. I showed up and I had a blunt speaker, I was so embarrassed. He was just like, “No, I’m sorry.” But it worked out. We were scheduled to be there a whole week, but we had gotten so much done, there was no need to hang around.
What was it like working with Albini?
He set up a bunch of mics everywhere. He set up our amps in one room, all in a row. Jason, our drummer, was out in the big room. After that we started bashing away trying to make it through the songs. It happened surprisingly quickly. We would ask him to change things or—he had something called a “satanazier,” and we just wanted him to use it, but more often than not he said no. The album is just a good recording of us playing live. Steve’s extremely efficient. If we had questions, he’d answer them before they came, but he didn’t really try to guide us in any direction; we did that on our own.
You guys take pride in being a Cleveland-based band. What’s the music scene there like right now?
It’s insular. It doesn’t get out very much. There’s a lot of music here that sucks. There’s some music that doesn’t seem necessary to exist. There’s also some really brilliant music here that maybe doesn’t want to get out for whatever reason. It never feels cohesive.
How does it compare playing a Cleveland venue vs. NYC?
In Cleveland there are only a few. If you play there too often, it starts feeling like you’re spinning the wheels. You see the same people at the same shows. You almost feel like you don’t affect people. It’s hard to feel like you’re making any progress. New York is different, unless my friends show up I don’t know anyone there. It feels like there are different people there all the time.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the blog-based bands—the ones that have blown up on the Internet before their major releases—sort of lose steam on their second or third album because by that time, about a million other new blog-based bands have now blown up and are being touted as the latest savior of rock. Why do you think we’re so fucking ADD right now, and how are you guys going to stay on top of your shit?
Part of the difficulty of it is that the Internet generation, everything has to happen extremely quickly. If it doesn’t happen that day or that hour then it’s not good and they move on to something else. To the detriment of a lot of artists. A lot of people don’t have the patience to stick with an artist and see them turn into something great. Everyone’s losing there. I blame that on technology pushing forward too quickly and becoming too big a part of people’s lives. I think that Cloud Nothings—part of our success is because of how quickly things can happen on the Internet, but there’s a bad to every good. As far as staying ahead of that, at this point it seems like if people are paying attention to us now and we keep working as hard as we are and making better music, people will follow us because of that. I think we can make lifelong fans if we make artistically minded decisions. Not trying to maintain some buzz or fad.
Jan. 26, The Studio at Webster Hall, 125 E. 11th St,, www.websterhall.com; 7 p.m., $10 advance, $12 at the door.
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