Cloud Nothings have been a favorite around these parts for a couple years, ever since we charmed by the band’s ramshackle indie rock tunes at SXSW last spring . Young Clevelander Dylan Baldi (he just turned 20 in October) started the band as a solo bedroom project, but this year’s self-titled album showcased a cleaner, crisper and friskier punk-pop sound compared to its fuzzy, lo-fi predecessor “Turning On.”
With “Attack on Memory” Cloud Nothings make a very quick return — it will be released on Jan. 24, exactly one year after the previous album. And it represents another major shift in the band’s sound, which can be summed up in one word — heavier. First single “No Future/No Past” crawls along in a sinister manner, with Baldi’s polite whine of a voice now a cracking growl. It reaches a positively grungey climax and if things sounds especially sharp, you can thank engineer Steve Albini for that.
The next song is a nine-minute rager “Wasted Days” and even poppier numbers such as “Stay Useless” and “Separation” crackle with more urgency. Expect to hear much of this new material when Cloud Nothings — now a solid four-piece — perform at the Black Cat on Thursday night. Even with a more aggressive sound, Baldi is still the same quiet and agreeable dude as when we last spoke to him. Asked to name one thing that’s been a drag about life as a young rocker, the best/worst he could conjure up was, “When we go to Europe, sometimes the toilets are weird.” Baldi had a bit more to say about recording with Albini, his high-volume output and if he’d ever go back to school.
Was recording in Chicago with Steve Albini something you always wanted to do or was it a decision you made after you wrote this batch of songs?
I had these songs all written already and we were just looking for a place to record the album and Todd from [label] Carpark said that we could record it with Albini. That sounded good to me. [Laughs.] Because he’s Steve Albini.
When that suggestion was made did you think, yeah, his treatment will work well with these songs or did it make you want to change things around at all?
We didn’t really change anything. We just went in there with the songs because we knew they were a little bit harder and heavier than our other stuff we were doing so we figured he would make it sound good.
When you start so young and record so quickly, does each album feel like a huge leap?
Definitely. I still don’t even know what I’m doing or what I even really want this band specifically to sound like and that’s why I think it’s changed so drastically from album to album. Even from the first album to the second album was a huge difference and this time it’s even bigger. Just because I get excited about different kinds of music and recording. I’m not totally sure what I want to do yet. So I’m just documenting my decisions as I get older.
The second song on the record, “Wasted Days,” it’s like nine minutes long. That’s got to be at least twice as long as any of your other songs. When you wrote that one was it like, “I’m going to write a nine-minute punk epic” or when you were playing did it evolve into the monster jam?
I had that song minus the freaky part in the middle written. Then I decided it would be good if we had a jam. Because why wouldn’t you want to have a jam in your song? So we put in a five-minute noodle fest. There’s no real deep meaning behind it. We just thought it was fun.
You say it’s always fun to put a jam in but when Cloud Nothings started it was just you, so that wasn’t really an option. I mean, you could record it yourself but it’s not quite the same.
It’s hard to jam alone, yeah. [Laughs.] But yeah, it’s a lot more fun. I think that’s probably why I would even think to do something like that, because I’m playing with a band and we’re just bouncing ideas off of each other. And when I would do it alone I would never think I would record myself soloing over myself for five minutes.
So is your family cool with your [career choice]? You dropped out of school to do this. Are they ever like, You’re still young, you can go back to school!
No, they’re really supportive. I mean, I know I’m young, too, and I can go back to school if I want to.