Dylan Baldi just got a new puppy and on this snowy Philadelphian morning we catch up with him via Zoom, he has just returned from the pet store. The affable Cloud Nothings front person is in a great mood despite being out in “this gross slushy mess”. The last year has been busy for Baldi and the band despite the global pandemic and lack of touring being available. About a month into quarantine of last year, Baldi and Cloud Nothings drummer Jayson Gerycz started sending music back and forth between Philadelphia and Gerycz’s home in Cincinnati then in July released one of the first lockdown records, the great The Black Hole Understands.
In addition to that release, the two have been working on the free jazz explorations that they’ve released online together and are waiting on the new Cloud Nothings album The Shadow I Remember to drop on February 26th via Carpark Records. The band’s debut album Turning On was also just re released for its 10 year anniversary back in January and they are set to embark into their second decade as a group with a new record acts as almost a closing chapter for what they have accomplished over the last ten years. From their humble beginnings as Baldi’s solo bedroom recording project to playing large venues all over the world with six full length records under their belt. It’s been a steadily progressive climb for the pop punk foursome and one that has found them learning where they want to comfortably fit into the ever changing landscape of the music industry.
“This one feels like the closing of a book,” Baldi explains about the new album. “It’s kind of a nice statement of what we have achieved over the last ten years.” One of the bigger stories of this new record was that the band went back to record with legendary producer Steve Albini, who worked with them on their iconic third album Attack On Memory. At the time, when they had finished recording that album, Baldi was quoted in interviews that Albini didn’t live up to their expectations as a producer. He said, “I’m sure he would want to have nothing to do with us. He probably doesn’t feel that his name should be attached to our music in any way.” That was a long time ago though and through their experiences as a band since, going back to work with Albini again seemed like the right thing to do. “We needed someone who was available,” Baldi says with a laugh, “and it worked out that he actually was. The one thing that I’ve always liked about the band is we sound like ourselves. We have always been working our way to having this identifiable sound, a Cloud Nothings sound and Albini is really good at capturing a band without a heavy hand. We’ve spent so much time together as a band at this point and before all this we lived together and have known each other for a long time. I like having the four instruments in the band and want each of these things to be playing their own melodies. This way it coalesces in a way that makes them into the song. A cool thing about Albini is the way he does his stereo separation of things.
It retains the energy of a band performing together in that way.” The experience overall was one of the most enjoyable the band has ever had recording. “The songs themselves had a lightness to them that has been absent a bit in the past. It is exhausting to play stuff over and over but we just were having fun playing these songs and then coupled with going back to that studio with him. We were just very comfortable.” The lightness Baldi speaks of in the songs that make up the new record was a concerted effort on his part to break out of a way of writing. He had felt he had become somewhat formulaic and because of that the process was becoming less enjoyable. Baldi eventually had to go back to listen to the songs on his debut album for the re release and he discovered a sense of joy that he had been missing.
“I had to go back and listen to the first album, which is something I rarely do for enjoyment at all, listening to your own records and we still do play it live so much and I found these elements of the songs, they had this funny kind of immature stuff in them, songwriting wise not because they are like about farts or anything,” he chuckles. “There were things that made me laugh because they would genuinely surprise me. It was so entertaining for sure to have this kind of reaction, again not because they were funny but because I thought they were cool. Not that our newer songs didn’t have that for me but I feel I developed a structure with some of the prior records. A couple of the songs I really didn’t remember and others have been coming in and out of my life over the last ten years. It was cool to hear elements of things that became parts of my future songwriting. The main elements have remained the same, two guitars, bass and drums and I really enjoyed that some of those songs just sounded cute to me but it is interesting because there are a ton of people out there who like that first record of ours but only like that one.” The interesting thing about this looking to the past has also made Baldi question where he wants the band to go in the future. “It’ll be great to tour again as soon as we can. We had wrapped up The Shadow I Remember last year and I had actually wanted it to come out last year but Carpark had a full release schedule and, with everything that has happened since, it kind of worked out in a weird way.
It’s funny now to think about it, we got pretty popular when Attack On Memory came out. There was just something going on then in the indie world maybe. Look at Grimes, she went on to have a baby with Elon Musk,” he says with a laugh, ”and whatever that was, it allowed us to be popular for a second and we did hit a peak where the shows were really big and we weren’t super comfortable. We feel real at home in a more mid sized room and we can play those rooms all over. That is really normal and comfortable for us so it’s nice to be at this place now. “ As far as the future of Cloud Nothings on record, Baldi says, “This new record feels like the closing of a book. A nice statement of what we have been capable of achieving over the last ten years and nice to go back to work with Albini on it, which was new for us to return to a studio we already worked in. I love doing these free jazz records with Jayson. I get to play saxophone which I haven’t really done since school and that’s fun. I want to mix more of these other influences in with the standard three minute punk rock song. I want to make longer statements. Expand on the way I write and stretch.” Whatever that looks like we should know soon as Baldi and the band don’t tend to sit around for very long and whatever that all sounds like we are certain it’ll be just as amazing as everything that has come before.
PRE-ORDER The Shadow I Remember by Cloud Nothings HERE