Dylan Baldi, the leader of Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings, is the kind of man who keeps a promise. When asked to name some bands that deserve a listen, he’ll pause and fully consider the tired question. Batting away any impulsive recommendations, he opts instead to respond another time, when he can answer more appropriately.
“How about the two that I listened to the most on my drive from Cleveland to Massachusetts yesterday?” he writes. “I listened to both of those records several times through. Hope you like them!”
That drive he mentioned, from hometown Cleveland to western Massachusetts, is the beginning of a new chapter for Baldi, who’s moving in to a new home with his girlfriend. Among the many exciting aspects that come with this major change, one that stands out for Baldi is something most Americans take for granted. And that something is loud.
“I’m mostly looking forward to having a basement so I can finally make noise,” he says. “I was in this one-bedroom apartment in Cleveland, but I had neighbors who didn’t like sound. I would listen to a record and they would knock on the door and be like, ‘Turn it down!’ ” He pauses, then continues down a different (though related) path. “That’s my favorite way to record stuff, having stuff set up at home. I can just wake up, make coffee, and be like, ‘Well, let’s go make a song.’ It’s a good way to spend a day.”
A week before his migration, Baldi is in sunny Los Angles prepping for that night’s gig with the War on Drugs over in desolated Pioneertown. Cloud Nothings, initially a one-man band that now includes drummer Jayson Gerycz and bassist TJ Duke, are sequestered between their two dates at Coachella, where Baldi had a chance to see some of his childhood heroes for the first time — AC/DC — and check out various other groups the Southern California festival had to offer. Wading through the other groups and artists sharing the bill, Baldi couldn’t help but notice a trend in failing originality.
“I think there’s a lack in a lot of interesting musicianship in general,” he says. “You know, people playing in ways [that] you can tell it’s them and nobody else; in guitar, drums, and any kind of instrument. It’s getting harder and harder for me to tell who is doing what. If you go to a festival, 99 percent of the bands sound like the same thing. It doesn’t matter what’s going on and you can look like anything and have any kind of instruments but sound the same — and that kind of freaks me out.”
And did that translate to his Coachella 2015 takeaway?
“Coachella is actually a little different because they have a huge variation,” he admits. “But sometimes…there’s just no clear identity with a lot of the stuff there. But that’s just a problem with bigger festivals and bigger music, I guess, because there’s also the weird stuff going on where there are freaks in basements everywhere making cool stuff.”
A few posted tracks on Cloud Nothings’ Myspace page snagged attention in 2009, and that led to a 2012 breakout with their third album, Attack on Memory. And Baldi has become an outspoken voice on music and ingenuity. Just take the Memory track “Our Plans,” for example, where the sparse lyrics cut to the chase: “Original/It never gets old.” Last year he teamed up with fellow rock ‘n’ roll advocates Wavves for a collaborative album, the release date for which is currently up in the air. (“I’m not really sure when it’s actually coming out,” he says. “I just know we made some stuff about a year ago and it’s just been in limbo since then.”)
Cloud Nothings have been touring rather relentlessly since the March 2014 release of Here and Nowhere Else, the band’s fourth album, which was recorded at Water Music studios in Hoboken, New Jersey. Their upcoming date at the Music Hall of Williamsburg is one of the few left scheduled (with another in-town appearance, at NYU’s 30th Strawberry Fest, in early May), and with Here and Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings are still ranking as one of the more exciting, pulse-driving rock bands out there. But Baldi doesn’t like to harp on the details of his success.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do, ever since I was a little kid. Just to be able to play music and travel — it’s exciting,” he says modestly. “I’ve already accomplished basically a lot of things that I would have wanted to, and if I think too much, I might freak myself out.”
Cloud Nothings play the Music Hall of Williamsburg on April 22 with Amanda X. Tickets are available here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 22, 2015