By Sean Fennell
Cloud Control recently released an unplugged, stripped down version of their 2013 sophomore effort, Dream Cave. They now embark on a tour alongside fellow London based band Metronomy. I recently caught up with lead singer, Alister Wright before their show at Union Transfer to discuss, among other things, writing, touring, and where one can find a veggie cheesesteak.
Can you tell me about a little bit about you all came together to form Cloud Control?
We formed a really long time ago. None of us really knew how to do music really well. We hadn’t played in bands, I hadn’t sung before. Heidi just entered a band competition at the University of Sydney. She kind of roped us all in. I was really good friends with her little brother, who's the drummer. Then Jeremy was another guy who just also grew up in the same area, The Blue Mountains. Then we entered the [competition] and it was fun, but we sucked and got kicked out. But we kept practicing, for like a year. We didn’t play any shows for a whole year while we were just learning to write songs and stuff. The next year we came back and we won the band competition.
So you are all basically from the same area?
Do you think you think that similar influences led to you guys coming together?
No, it was just totally cause we were friends.
What would you say personally influenced you when you were young?
Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, CCR, just classic rock. I guess that’s what my parents listened to, still listen to.
There’s a lot of harmonization throughout the record. Does the songwriting come from a similar collaborative effort as well?
Everyone pitches in. Different songs usually have one person who is kinda in control, kind of puts it all together. Some songs will be one person’s song and will bring the whole thing to the band; other ones will be more of collaboration.
Tell me a little bit about what went into the idea to re-record an unplugged version of Dream Cave?
Well we actually recorded it before Dream Cave had come out. It was just a one day session in the studio. The idea was that when we were writing the songs we actually spent a lot of time playing them like that in my living room in London. Practicing them and trying to get them to work in a small setting. Often I find it easier to write songs like that because in studio it can be so loud that it’s hard to hear the structure and everything. The way the song fits together. So we already had it all done so it seemed like it’d be silly not to just put it down cause we already put in all the work.
Do you like some of the songs better or worse when listening to the unplugged version over the remastered version?
Yeah, that’s interesting. We actually just did a whole tour in Australia that was acoustic shows. Sometimes it does work. To be honest, I don’t know which one is better. Like whether it would be better to just to try to record a really good live album. Cause I think you could put a bit more time into it and make an album like that really special. Not to say ours is no good. I mean I think they do work really well like that; there is some kind sense of authenticity you get from hearing people just play it. I get annoyed by a lot of singer-songwriter music cause I think there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t really move me. Things are being too pretty.
I really think we could do another acoustic tour like that in the future. We had crown surfing and stage invasions it felt like a rock show. Even though the volume was half what you usually play at, I think you can still have the same kind of feeling if you are putting out the energy and you get people really involved. But rather than beating them over the head with volume it’s more like you are inviting everyone into the room. You really bring them together and it gets a bit more hippy vibe and a very positive experience people can have that might feel more intimate or authentic.
What has changed for you guys as a band since the release of Dream Cave in 2013?
In America our profile is a bit better. It feels kind of the same. It is definitely good to release an album, tour it for a year, then were about to finish touring. Whereas last time we put out Bliss Release and toured for like three years. That was too long. A year is about enough get yourself to try a lot harder to have a good time.
You have been on tour with some pretty notable act, what do you think the most memorable tour moment has been?
Arcade Fire was really good when we played. Interestingly, the stage caught fire during sound check in Milan. They have like really bad wiring, just really dodgy.
Do you think you picked up anything from those bands?
You know I think I’ve actually learned more from playing with smaller bands because once a band is at that level they have so much production and all this other stuff that makes it so the audience is pretty much guaranteed to get a good, consistent show. I learned a lot touring Australia and playing with some of our friends bands. We were supporting them and saw how people could really take control of a space and really dominate it completely with personality. I have always really admired that. I play in a different way to that. I have learned more from seeing small shows cause maybe that related more to what we do.
What are some of the more difficult aspects of along tour away from your home like this?
Definitely, you miss home. I miss my girlfriend. Just hanging out with my mates that kind of thing. I’m pretty used to it I think, we have been traveling a lot the past few years. Living in London as well.
What are cities you are excited to revisit or visit for the first time during this tour?
Well this is our first time here in Philadelphia. We went to a vegan restaurant called “Vedge” last night. So good. We have had a good time here. But that’s the thing; you only get to spend 48 hours in places.
Is there anything coming up as far as plans to write or record new stuff?
I find it really hard to write on the road but we were in Australia recently and we have already started demoing some new songs. We have never been a band who can just go right into the studio and write songs so we will write as fast as we can but we would like the turnaround to be faster this time rather than the three it took before.
My last question was going to be the obligatory, have you had a Philly cheesesteak but I guess since you are all vegans that didn’t happen.
Do you know if there is a Veggie one somewhere where you can get like the fake meat? There must be. I’m gonna look that up on the internet cause I would like to try that. I used to eat meat so I can imagine it’s delicious.