An Interview with Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings

Dylan Baldi - Zimbio

Getting to do these interviews has been an interesting journey for me on many levels. Sometimes, I am interviewing an artist that is completely new to me. Other times, I am allowed the chance to speak with an artist that I’ve followed since childhood. While those are both gratifying and special in their own right, there is another piece of this equation for me. Yes, the third type of interview is one where I get to interview an artist that I’ve followed since their beginning. Tonight is one of those occasions.

Cloud Nothings have been around since 2009 and I’ve been with them every step of the way. I discovered them when I was around 21 years old and everything about them appealed to me. My musical world was opening up and it was truly a case of the right band, at the right time. For me, Cloud Nothings have it all. Killer lyrics. Songwriting that perfectly straddles the line between abrasive and catchy, and their live show absolutely smokes. I had the pleasure of seeing Cloud Nothings with my two friends, Joe and Brian at a very unique venue called Warsaw. Basically, it’s the kind of place that you go to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon, eat perogies and listen to Punk Rock. That’s my kind of place! Anyway, that evening was truly one of my favorite concert experiences to date. It was amazing to finally see one of my favorite song writers, Dylan Baldi, in action after following the band for so many years.

So, I suppose this particular interview feels like I’ve come full circle with Cloud Nothings. If you aren’t familiar with their music and what I’ve described to you here sounds appealing to you, I urge you to head over to their website here and check them out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few more important things. So that you can fully wet your appetite for Cloud Nothings, you should know that they have a new album out in February, it’s called The Shadow I Remember, and you can pre-order it here. Also, the band has just dropped a 10th anniversary edition of their debut album, Turning On. It’s awesome, and I personally think you need to hear it. If you agree, grab it here. Lastly, earlier this year, Cloud Nothings released an album called The Black Hole Understands. As usual, it’s fantastic! You can head over here and pick that one up as well. All of these albums rock and they’re all on sweet, sweet vinyl to boot. And so, with all that being said, I would now like to treat you to my “sit down” with one of the better song writers out there today. I truly hope you enjoy getting to know Dylan as much as I did.

Andrew:
Dylan, thank you for taking the time to talk to us! 2020 has been a weird year for sure. What have you been doing to pass the time?

Dylan:
Oh I’ve been keeping busy, making a lot of tunes. Cloud Nothings started this Bandcamp subscription service where we make an EP of new music every month for the subscribers, so that’s been keeping me occupied. Been doing sort of “internet” jamming with a bunch of different people where we send files back and forth, maybe some of that will see the light, too eventually. That stuff is a lot more experimental than Cloud Nothings.

Andrew:
Cloud Nothings has been around since 2009, right? Can you tell us more about how the band got its start?

Dylan:
Yep, it was just something I did to pass the time the summer before I started college. And then it kind of snowballed quickly into needing to become a real band once people found out about us online and started asking us to play shows.

Andrew:
I’ve been a fan since the beginning. I remember when the Attack on Memory album dropped in 2012, and I feel like you guys really began to pick up steam after that. What do you remember about the recording of that album?

Dylan:
I remember plenty of stuff about it. Did it with Steve Albini, which was pretty exciting for a little kid like me at the time. Still would be exciting today, he’s a legend. We stayed about a mile from the studio with our friend, and walked over there every morning. Our friend’s house flooded one night during an insane storm. I woke up on my bed in the basement in a pool of water surrounded by house centipedes and just nasty garbage. We had to stay up all night and take water out of the house in buckets. That was pretty terrible actually.

Cloud Nothings' Dylan Baldi Has Begun Sharing Isolation Mixtapes

Andrew:
Your lyrics have incredible emotional depth to them. Songs like ‘No Future/No Past’ and ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ feel almost autobiographical. I know often times, artists will create stories through song, and have no real connection to the lyrics, and other times they’re intensely personal. Which is it for you?

Dylan:
I think they’re mostly autobiographical in a sense, but they’re not about specific moments in time. Just sort of larger ideas that a lot of different life experiences add up to. I was 19 when I wrote “No Future/No Past,” and that lyric is pretty much exactly what a 19-year-old would be writing; it’s not super nuanced. Hadn’t really lived enough to have much of an opinion on anything grander than just “life sucks.” The lyrics have gotten a little less straightforward as time has gone on. I think at this point a lot of the songs tend to be about reconciling all the different things that make up my personality and trying to understand what it means to be human.

Andrew:
On July 3rd, you released a new album called The Black Hole Understands, which was self-released. Great album! That’s a pretty fitting titled for 2020 isn’t it? Tell us more about that album.

Dylan:
Thanks! Yeah, our drummer Jayson and I had just been sending music back and forth through email since we couldn’t actually hang out due to quarantine. We live in different cities. Eventually we realized we had a ton of songs stockpiled and decided to pick the best ones and make an album out of them. It really just started as a way to pass the time and distract ourselves from thinking about the present reality, but it turned into an album that will definitely be the standout thing in my mind when I look back on this whole time.

Andrew:
My understanding is we are going to see a 10th anniversary reissue of your debut album Turning On. That’s pretty awesome! Looking back, what are your thoughts on your first album? The first album was more or less a solo-project, right? What have you learned since then?

Dylan:
Yeah that’s true, it’s wild it’s been 10 years since I made that album. I haven’t really listened to it in awhile, but just thinking about it brings back memories of recording in my childhood bedroom. I used to do all the guitars on my shitty little Kustom amplifier, record the drums with one microphone, and then sing directly into the computer microphone in our garage in my parent’s minivan since I was embarrassed to sing in the house where anyone would be able to hear me. I’ve learned a lot about songwriting since then, and I think I’ve got a better sense of just how to make music flow in a way that feels really natural, and the band has really developed its own sound. But even in the early recordings there are plenty of hints of the general melodic sensibility that has pervaded all-of-our music.

Cloud Nothings - The Shadow I Remember - Boomkat

Andrew:
I’ve also heard you’ve got a new album set to release in 2021. Can you give us any details or insights regarding that?

Dylan:
Yeah, it’ll be interesting to release an album and then…not do anything. Just put it out and not tour or anything. This is the longest we haven’t toured or even played a show since we started as a band 10 years ago. It feels very strange. It already feels pretty-ephemeral to release an album, because the internet only cares for one or two days, and then it moves onto the next thing. But touring always added a more physical reality and knowledge that the music we make actually-exists and affects people in some way. Hopefully, I just don’t think about it too much, haha.

Andrew:
Your last album, The Black Hole Understands, was self-released through Bandcamp. You’ve been with Carpark Records since the beginning. Why did you choose to self-release for this one? What was the experience like?

Dylan:
I mean we’re still on Carpark, but they’re just not able to release an album at the drop of a hat like we wanted to with Black Hole. They have a schedule and other bands to care about, so we just put this up on Bandcamp all on our own. We weren’t even going to do a physical release, but people were really receptive to the album, so we got it together to do some vinyl and CDs. Jayson, our drummer, runs a small label called Unifactor so, he’s had a lot of experience working with people to get tapes and records made. I used an old photo for the album cover, and an artist friend of ours laid everything out, and then that was pretty much it! It was a really simple process.

Andrew:
This is a broad question, but who are some of your favorite bands and artists? Which artists have influenced Cloud Nothings the most?

Dylan:
Recently I’ve been going back to music I used to listen to 10 or so years ago, and seeing which stuff I still really enjoy. I feel like those albums are the ones that really stuck with me and influenced me, whether I was really-aware of it or not. Some of them are The Forms – The Forms, Life Without Buildings – Any Other City, Women – Public Strain, No Age – Weirdo Rippers, Deerhunter – Cryptograms.

The Black Hole Understands | Cloud Nothings

Andrew:
Cloud Nothings kind of straddles the line between a bunch of genres (Indie, Punk, Post-Punk, Emo). How would you describe Cloud Nothings’ sound? How do you feel about the idea of genres, and the need to put artists in certain boxes?

Dylan:
Lately I’ve just been calling us a Punk band, because that seems like the easiest way to describe us. We’ve had a pretty DIY approach to everything, been with the same Indie record label this whole time, we play pretty fast, loud and aggressive music, and we haven’t really done anything to try and follow any specific trend. We just do our own thing. I think all the bands that I’ve liked don’t really fit in any specific genre, and I think most music that is of value isn’t really going to fit in any specific box. If things get put in boxes then they’re easier to sell though, so unfortunately a lot of great music is under-appreciated.

Andrew:
If I am not mistaken, Cloud Nothings originated out of Cleveland. I saw you live a couple years back in Brooklyn, and behind the band was a large projection of LeBron James dunking for the entirety of the show. I have to say, it was pretty awesome! What was the idea behind that?

Dylan:
Honestly, it just sounded funny. We’ve never done anything like that before, but the people working at the venue asked us if we wanted to project anything behind us while we played. And who doesn’t like LeBron dunking??? It’s way more exciting than just watching us play with no background.

Andrew:
Do you collect records? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now?

Dylan:
I collect everything but CDs. I’ll get a CD if I have to, but tapes and records are much more my speed. Digital is kind of pointless to me unless it’s free, or if I look at the price as more of a donation to a human rather than purchasing music. Like, I’m not buying a digital copy of a Taylor Swift album, but if my friend makes a weird improv record and only puts it online for download, I’ll throw them a couple bucks because that actually feels directly supportive of another real person. But I will always like vinyl the most! It’s just the most fun. A shelf full of records is extremely satisfying to look at.

Dylan Baldi Started Cloud Nothings by Accident, But It's Going Pretty Well  So Far - Willamette Week

Andrew:
What is one album that means the most to you?

Dylan:
The album Insignificance by Jim O’Rourke has a really-special place in my heart. I listened to it a ton on our first headlining European tour in 2012, and that was just a really wild time in my life that feels like it was entirely soundtracked by Insignificance. It’s hard to listen to that album and not think of really specific scenery and moments in my life. Sometimes, it actually is difficult to listen to the record because of that, but I’d still call it one of my favorites.

Andrew:
Last question. The music industry has changed a lot over the years. That being said- it’s extremely fluid. Do you feel the industry has changed for better or worse? What advice to you have for young artists trying to get their start?

Dylan:
Y’know, I don’t know anything useful about the music industry. If I did, I think we’d be way more successful. I’d just say that young artists just need to make things that would make the world a better place for them to be in. As long as you’re making something that seems like it’s what you’d want to see in the world, then just keep doing it and I think you’ll find your way to a community that has a similar mindset as you and appreciates your work. And that’s all anyone can hope for.

Cloud Nothings // Live Review | LONDON IN STEREO

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

Published by Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.

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