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Cloud Nothings will release their fifth album, Last Building Burning, tomorrow. With their previous four records (and now the new one), the Cleveland band has established themselves as one of the most kinetic and hard-rocking groups that we have today. There’s a good handful of power pop-leaning tracks throughout the Dylan Baldi-led band’s discography, but the focus is largely on menacing guitars, Baldi’s intense often-screamed vocals, and no-joke tempos that will melt your face off if you stand too close.
You wouldn’t know that by looking at the band’s Twitter account, though.
“You could read me [my] tweets and ask, ‘What does the band sound like,'” Baldi said to me over the phone earlier this week. “I’d be like, ‘I don’t know, it sounds like a Buffalo Wild Wings.’ You know, that band probably sucks.”
Baldi leads one of today’s finest indie rock bands, yes, but he’s also just a guy in his mid-20s… strike that, he’s actually nearly 200 years of age: “I started this band when I was 18 which means I am now 192 years old,” he tweeted recently. Like many of his peers, he’s prone to hopping on social media and sharing jokes and pearls of everyday tongue-in-cheek wisdom, including, “Commercials during football games make me feel like I need to eat a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, drink a Bud Light, and join the army,” “It’s weird that I’ve written every Drake song and gotten zero credit,” and, “Every time I see a photo of four guys, I think it’s my band.”
He’ll also stan for Buffalo Wild Wings, “the United States Of America’s greatest chain restaurant,” any day of the week, in case you were wondering what the hell he was talking about earlier.
Baldi is clearly a guy with a lot on his 192-year-old mind, so when we talked, he broke down some of his recent tweets, an exercise that may or may not have offered profound insight into the mind of an energetic rock frontman. At the very least, it yielded a funny story about meeting Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top… and, of course, an explanation of why Buffalo Wild Wings is so elite.
Laughs aside, there were also substantive pieces of conversation related more directly to the band and Last Building Burning, like Baldi’s love of Cloud Nothings album reviews, the influence that ambient and other longform types of music had on the record, and what the album’s title and overarching theme have to do with “big ugly $600,000 condos.”
I figured that you’re probably going to be doing a ton of interviews about what the album is like and that kind of thing, and I do want to touch on that, but I thought it might be fun to start by asking some more general things based on some recent tweets of yours. Does that not sound too dumb?
[Laughs] No, that sounds fine. My Twitter is dumb… this could be interesting.
That’s the point of Twitter anyway, being dumb. That’s what I use mine for.
Yeah, I don’t know what to use it for. Let’s talk about what I said on Twitter.
Sure. During the most recent NBA Finals, you were tweeting pretty often about the Warriors and the Cavs. How do you feel about LeBron [James] heading out to Los Angeles? That’s got to suck.
I mean, it’s bad, because I think it’s bad for the city of Cleveland, and the economy of Cleveland. LeBron alone brought a lot to the city. But I understand. I think he had to go. There is nothing for him here. And he wants to start this whole media empire, and all sorts of sh*t. But LA just makes sense for him, and I’m happy for him. And he got us a championship. He did everything he was supposed to do, everything he said he was going to do.
I don’t like seeing him in a Lakers uniform, though. That’s disturbing.
It looks weird still.
It’s so weird. It doesn’t look right.
I saw that last month, you shared a video of this Japanese Cloud Nothings cover band. What is that like, knowing that that’s out there?
It’s weird, because I still don’t know the full story behind that. It just seems bizarre that there would be a band like that. I really can’t imagine that there is a band that is actively just out there playing our songs all the time. But it is really strange. I found out a couple years ago, someone sent it to me or something. And they only play songs that we don’t really play live. They play songs from the first couple records, sometimes ones we’ve never played, stuff that we just have never even learned how to play. So, I guess it’s good there is someone out there doing that. Keeping the dream of the first couple records alive.
I feel like that would be strange enough if that band was playing your more known songs, but the fact that it’s your more obscure stuff, that just makes it that much weirder.
It’s really surreal, yeah. Especially because it’s in… Japan is pretty far from Cleveland. It’s always funny when you see something like that. You can look up, like, Youtube covers, and people do like drum covers of some of our songs, and that’s always great. It’s still mystifying to me that it gets that far from where we are.
You have some strong opinions about Buffalo Wild Wings. You’ve called it the “United States Of America’s greatest chain restaurant,” and you’ve said that you would passionately defend that stance. So, defend it, man.
I’ll defend that. I just think it’s the most American thing. I think eating a bunch of chicken wings, drinking beers that are too f*cking big, and just watching sports on like a hundred TVs all at once, in a really ugly color scheme room, that’s just… that’s what it’s all about. That’s what being American is all about.
And also, for some reason I’m just comforted by the glow of one hundred giant TVs all playing different sports all at once. It makes me feel safe. So, I like that place. It’s a good place. Also, they’re everywhere. Every city will have one. If you’re bored and looking for something to do before a show, and you don’t want to drink the thousandth coffee that you’ve had that day, you can go to Buffalo Wild Wings, and just pretend that you’re nowhere, basically. You’re not in whatever city you’re in, you’re just in Buffalo Wild Wings, that netherworld of chain restaurant comfort. Sometimes when you’re on tour for a long time, it’s nice to just kind of be like, ‘Oh, I know what this is. Yeah, let’s go in there and veg out for a minute.’
So it’s like one weird slice of overtly general American home out on the road.
A little bit, yeah. It does feel like a level up from being like, ‘I’m gonna go to McDonald’s.’ I used to do that when we first started touring, especially on the west coast, where I wasn’t 21 for the first three years that we had the band. They don’t let you in venues if you’re not 21. So, I would just like go sit in McDonald’s for six hours every day and wait to play. Kind of a depressing thing actually, now that I say it out loud. But I got through it.
Well, at least you can wait and be bored in the venues, and not just be bored in a Buffalo Wild Wings. So, upgrades.
Now I can be bored everywhere. Well, it’s not boring, I guess… sometimes it’s boring. But now I can go to a record store or something, because at least I can buy a record if I am truly bored.
How did you end up meeting Billy Gibbons [of ZZ Top]? What was that like?
Oh man, that was crazy. We were recording [Last Building Burning] at his place, at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas. We were just doing the record there, and the guy who owns the studio is sort of this last psychedelic warrior on earth. He’s a wild dude, and he apparently has known Billy Gibbons for decades. He walked into the room one day, and he was like, ‘I have news for you all: Mr. Billy Gibbons will be stopping by later this afternoon.’ And we were like, ‘Uh, okay.’ You know, are we supposed to… What do we do? Are we supposed to meet him?
He brought Billy over to the studio we were recording at. And I mean, it was Billy Gibbons. He’s very, very cool. He just looks cool. He was a wearing shirt that just said “tacos” on the back. It was a nice dress coat kind of thing, but it said “tacos.” And I was like, ‘Where’d you get that? What is that? And why does that just say tacos?’ And he was like, ‘Eh, I made it up.’
He listened to some of our songs, which was weird. I don’t know if he wanted to do it, but he was there, he did it. And he said, ‘Good tempo,’ about a fast song. Then we ended up going to see him play later, and we ended up going to dinner with them after the show. It was a very surreal experience, honestly. If the record that we made was terrible, I would still be like, ‘Well, it was worth it ’cause we got to hang out with Billy Gibbons for a day.’ It was pretty, pretty crazy.
You’ve had some tweets recently about you wanting people to leak the album. I take it that means that you’re getting antsy waiting for it to finally drop?
I’m kind of getting antsy. Lately, I’ve really liked reviews of our records, because I don’t care what anybody thinks about it. I could care less. If I’m happy with it, then we made it. Reading other people’s thoughts about it is funny to me sometimes. Even just today, two reviews popped up, and I was like, ‘Oh,’ because people always tag me on Twitter, even if it’s a sh*tty review. ‘Yeah, Cloud Nothings, look at this terrible review I wrote of your record.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll check it out.’
There was one today that was just like, ‘Yeah, the chorus of one song is good. And the rest of these songs were just like… I don’t know, I don’t know about it.’ And then another one popped up today that was like, ‘Yeah, the record is great. Yeah, I love it all.’ It’s just so funny to me that people can have such intensely different experiences with a thing that I made. I like it, I’m proud of it, but it’s funny that someone can hear it and be like, ‘Ew, I hate this.’ So I guess that’s how it is. I always just want our records to come out when they’re done, so I can just be like, ‘What do you think?’
Well, that’s all I got for questions about Twitter. So, you’ve said in press materials that the album is all about energy. But it seems like your albums have always been pretty filled with energy. How was this approach different then your previous albums? Or was it?
Yeah, it’s different. I’m always trying to like refine that energy, I think, to where it’s sort of just one long stream, from beginning of record to the of record, where there is no real strong break. You sit down, start at one place, end up somewhere different, and there is no obvious change necessarily as you listen to the whole thing. But by the end, you’re in a different zone, and you’re like, ‘Oh, how’d that happen?’ Kind of like how I really like certain ambient records. I like longform music because of that effect. I’m always aiming to kind of perfect that with our records.
That reminds me of “Dissolution”… is that the longest song that you’ve done? I like that one a lot.
I think it’s probably our longest recorded song, yeah.
When you hear the word “energy,” you tend to think about something that’s intense or fast-paced. But what’s nice about that middle section is it’s a different kind of energy. It’s anticipation and it’s building, which is still an equally valid kind of energy that balances out the rest of it.
I think so, yeah. And I think every song has its own sort of little build in there too. Over the course of the record, I feel like the record does kind of build up to “Dissolution,” and there is like a short reprieve, where you’re just sort like, ‘Oh, now they’re just sort of making feedback sounds, and the drummer is like soloing or something. I don’t know what he’s doing there.’ That’s a nice little audio break from like the onslaught of the beginning of it.
Do you have a personal favorite song on the album?
I kind of like the “So Right So Clean” song. We don’t really have another song like that. I never try to make the same song twice, but that one I feel like has its own creepier vibe that we don’t really tap into very often. I kind of like that sound. It’s a little more empty than some of our songs are. Yeah, I’m maybe trying to explore that more for the future.
Thematically, what is this album about?
I’m bad at talking about what the records are about. I’m better at talking about tweets. I never really think about what the lyrics are about until much after the fact. For some reason it’s just easier for me to make a bunch of stuff, and do it really fast, record it, and then think about it maybe around now, you know? When we have to sort of relearn the songs. Then I’ll be coming at them as almost as if we are a cover band and be like, ‘Hmm, interesting,’ like rediscovering the thing that I made six months ago.
Now I’m realizing a theme that sort of runs through the lyrics, and the general image that the album title creates, is that it’s really upsetting to me to watch entire parts of cities be torn down, and to see buildings be destroyed. Things with a lot of history get replaced with big ugly $600,000 condos and stuff, for rich people who don’t care about anything. That upsets me to watch that all go down. And it’s happening everywhere in the world, it seems like. That’s just kind of bizarre to me, because I don’t know anyone who can live in those things. It’s so different from my reality, to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m gonna buy a $600,000 condo in the nicest part of whatever city I’m in, and just be some asshole.’
It’s making places look the same too. I can go from Cleveland to Glasgow and find stuff that just looks exactly the same, and I feel like it shouldn’t be like that. I feel like every place should have its own identity. That’s what I like about traveling. So, the slow destruction of identity of places is kind of a theme in the record.
Last Building Burning is out 10/18 via Carpark Records. Get it here.