DK: Good day everyone, how are you all doing today?
CCL: Hi! We’re good, thanks. Happy to be in Chicago, the climate here feels like home.
DK: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today! We’re very excited to have you here and Schubas is a great live venue to play, so, it should be great! I know you were at SXSW last year, but is this the band’s first tour in the states?
CCL: This is our third time to the States. Our first time was about three years ago, we played a few shows as part of the CMJ festival in New York. And then SXSW last year was our second trip. Starting to get a sense of the place!
DK: How is everyone preparing for this string of shows?
CCL: We’ve been working pretty hard everyday at home, rehearsing and streamlining arrangements. We’ve also added trumpet and Saxophone to the live arrangement, which is the first time in the States we’ve done that. It’s sounding more expansive and colorful.
DK: Ooo yes, that will sound great! The band has a lot going on actually, with a new video for ‘Twins’ just released, beautiful job on it by the way, the tour, of course, your single for ‘Bonfire’ having been recently released and your debut (full length) album coming in the Spring. Why don’t we start with the video for ‘Twins’, I understand there was a hurricane approaching as you were making it, how far off was it and I trust everyone was safe, right?
CCL: It’s was just a little ways off the southern coast of Ireland as we were wrapping up for the day (about 250 miles off). The winds were insane. It was very atmospheric as everyone was in 1950’s Italian costumes. It felt aptly dreamlike. Everyone was safe.
DK: Glad to hear it! How many locations were considered for the video? Or had you always wanted/planned to make the video there?
CCL: There were basically two locations. They were both similar large scale Victorian houses. Russborough was privately owned, which provided a little more lee-way with regards shutting off the location to the public. It was also more atmospheric and the front facade included statues of the 12 Greek gods, which added some other level to the location.
DK: How was it working with Kenny Leigh on the video? Was he and the band pretty much on the same page for the direction of the video?
CCL: Kenny is a great guy! Very accommodating, creative, and fun to work with it. We were all on the same page with references and feel, and the abstraction of the video.
DK: As mentioned in your post from October 5th, the song is about society’s need to prove themselves as being part of their own online groups and as the time progressed; has been more and more proved right. Why do you feel that we as people feel like that?
CCL: I think those kind of tribal instincts are always there but the online environment magnifies it. Speaking to each other in fragmented, contextless statements doesn’t leave a whole heap of room for nuance.
DK: I have to say the band’s songwriting ability is truly unparalleled, both musically and lyrically, like with ‘Bonfire’, my favorite part being the ending verse. Is it a letting go of secrets; an opening up of oneself would you say that the ‘totems and trinkets, secrets and junk are all on the bonfire’ refers to?
CCL: It’s about whether you should trust your motivations and whether you’re doing things for the reasons you think. The end is when you decide to stop keeping secrets from yourself and take a peek.
DK: Tell me about your songwriting process, I understand songs, like ‘Twins’ can take up to two years to complete. Where does it begin for the band lyrically and musically?
CCL: The process itself is a journey for us. I think we have a kind of stubborn patience when it comes to songwriting. We try not to force the music too quickly, or to implement a formulaic approach. I think each musical idea, however small or basic, has its own intrinsic code for its building, like a songwriting DNA or something. The idea itself informs the direction the arrangements and structure will take. And we have to be patient to allow that to unfold. It usually involves a lot of trial and error, and some experimental approaches.
DK: What are each of your musical backgrounds? When did each of you get started in music, who was the main influence for each of you to start making your own music and what would you say would be a ‘mission statement’ (as it were) of the band?
CCL: We come from a few slightly different musical backgrounds. I (Brendan J) took piano lessons as a kid, and later studied music in school and college. I’ve never been particularly academic and I learn through experience and through doing, which our school systems don’t really allow for. So I think my playing is a result of some instruction and some personal experiment with my instruments. Brendan Doherty studied jazz music and drumming in college, so Brendan brings technique and proficiency to the band. Rory comes from a deep musical heritage: Rory’s dad played a lot of music and there’s a lot of music in his family. Dan bring a literary tradition to the band: his dad is the poet James J. McAuley. I think we’re still trying to figure out our mission statement. We try to avoid musical tropes and to adopt an experimental approach. It’s an evolving process and we’re really enjoying the journey of that process.
DK: No worries at all, it is good to be open to where the musical road takes you. Daniel, along with the band’s full-bodied sound, your vocals soar over the instrumentation so smoothly, floating in the atmosphere of the music conveying so much emotion with each note. How long have you sung for and did you take any lessons to develop your vocal range?
CCL: I started singing at 17 when I joined the band and for better or worse kinda figured it out as I went along. I started to see a vocal coach about a year ago because I was worried about damaging my voice but I’ve ended up getting really into counter-tenor techniques and the way those guys would sing.
DK: I think one of the band’s strengths is how it is able to connect emotionally with the listener and I feel the best example of that was the soundtrack that was composed for the Ballet Átha Cliath. Not only does it brilliantly complement the visual aesthetics, but it moves in perfect synchronicity with the choreography. I expect there is a lot to tell with the background with the band’s involvement, so, please, I am very eager to know how this project came to be.
CCL: Oh thank you very much! Howard Jones, the director of Ballet Atha Cliath, contacted us a few years ago with the idea for the project and asked us to create the music. The project was put on hold for a few years. Eventually, when we were deep into our album recording, Howard contacted us again and said he was ready for the music. So there was little time to think about it. As soon as we were finished recording the album, we began compiling and recording the ideas for Ballet Atha Cliath. It was refreshing to start work on a new project and I think to some extent that made it easy to create something that fit with the visuals and was exciting and helped the viewer experience the journey.
DK: Given the background on the band name, it is fair to say that it lets fans know that there is an intrinsic depth about you far deeper than many might expect. Does it (at times) ever feel like your band name almost raises the bar of expectation for what the band should produce musically? Or is all of this coming through for each of you naturally given each of your talents and educational backgrounds?
CCL: I don’t think we really intended for the band name to have a particular meaning for somebody coming across our band and music. We loved Nabokov and Cloud, Castle, Lake is a beautifully tragic allegory which felt right to name the band after.
DK: Tell me about Bright Antenna and how that came about.
CCL: Bright Antenna contacted us shortly after we release our debut Dandelion EP. I think the label really enjoyed the music and wanted to meet us. It’s been a natural and symbiotic relationship since then. They work very hard and are incredibly supportive.
DK: What can you tell me about the new album coming this spring?
CCL: It’s called Malingerer. It’s something we worked really hard on. It’s nearly all brand new material.
DK: How long did it take to write the tracks?
CCL: Some of the tracks took a year or two, but most were written in the space of a few months.
DK: Was there a specific theme or mood the band was going for with regards to each track and how they worked together as a full album?
CCL: It wasn’t so much a specific theme but we were listening to a lot of 1960s/1970s jazz like Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders and some electronic music, Aphex Twin’s Syro, so it’s possible these things helped shape some of the mood and feel.
DK: Where was the album recorded?
CCL: The live band was recorded in Attica Studios in the north of Ireland. It’s very isolated space by the North Atlantic ocean. We wanted to escape the regular distractions of Dublin and our homes and be somewhere new specifically to focus on what we were there to do. The rest of the album, the horn section, the choir, and the cello, were recorded in Dublin.
DK: How did you meet Brendan (Doherty)?
CCL: We met Brendan through a mutual friend who sang jazz and had performed with Brendan.
DK: It was stated how he has been instrumental in evolving your sound, how so?
CCL: We’ve also been interested in American styles of drumming, like Jazz or Funk. Brendan had a natural ability to play these styles and his intuition as a musician and performer has been instrumental in evolving our sound.
DK: How often do you collaborate with other musicians?
CCL: Collaborating with other musicians has always been a great way for us to inspire new ideas in the music, so we try to do this as often as possible.
DK: What would be some important music tips that you would like to share with our readers that could help young artists in their career?
CCL: I think it’s really important to listen to as much music as you can and to enjoy listening to music, to constantly explore music. Trust your intuitions and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.
DK: Aside from the new album release and this tour, what else can we expect to see from the band this year?
CCL: We have a really exciting year lined up. We’ll be touring and playing as much as possible.
DK: What are some other areas of interest for the band (outside of music)?
CCL: We all loved film and good TV. We’re pretty big into food too.
DK: Well, I really want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me today, it has been a pleasure and I look forward to your show here at Schubas on February 1st! Thanks again!
CCL: Thanks for having us!
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES
2/1 – Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
2/5 – Great Scott – Allston, MA
2/6 – Rockwood Music Hall – New York, NY
Biography: Dublin-based four piece Cloud Castle Lake make beguiling, complicated and bold compositions. They share a common ambition to push the lens of live performance wider, to go outside the constrictions set by genres, and to explore beyond traditional sonic structures. When lead vocalist, synth player and lyricist Daniel McAuley (27) met bassist Rory O’Connor (27) and guitarist/pianist Brendan William Jenkinson (27) in boarding school in County Kildare, he didn’t even realise he could sing. For a guy who has a falsetto that seems higher than Thom Yorke and Wild Beast’s Hayden Thorpe combined, that information comes as quite a shock. “I was the band’s fake manager,” he laughs. They started a band as “a minor act of rebellion”. It was purely about having fun. Via local battle of the band contests, however, it soon dawned on them that what they’d conjured together out of a mutual affection for Radiohead and Sigur Ros, Aphex Twin and Bjork, was really working.
They named themselves Cloud Castle Lake after a Vladimir Nabokov short story – a tale about a voyager who finds a place so beautiful he wants to spend the rest of his life there, but is cruelly dragged back to reality. Similarly, Cloud Castle Lake’s music juxtaposes lyrical darkness and despair with an almost euphoric catharsis. Newest recruit – drummer Brendan Doherty (22) – joined the band only two years ago, and has been instrumental in evolving their sound from the post-rock leanings of their 2014 debut LP ‘Dandelion’ to something far more jazz-inflected, electronic and liberated on their forthcoming follow-up album ‘Malingerer’, which itself draws on different influences, and American jazz composers such as Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders.
The group tends to agonise and meander over every detail when it comes to writing. With ‘Malingerer’, they marooned themselves in Donegal to record. They hunkered down for just five days in Attica Studios [Villlagers, Sam Smith] with acclaimed producer Rob Kirwan [PJ Harvey, Hozier]. They learned to trust in Kirwan who helped them make decisions faster. He also encouraged more of a sense of improvisation. Some of their favourite moments on the record are tracks like the cacophonous, off-the-cuff ‘Fern’, which was a direct result of that sense of throwing caution to the wind, and it brought out the love the guys have for playing their instruments together. ‘Bonfire’ is a particularly proud moment. A track seemingly riffing on themes of miscommunication, it features a choir. There’s a newfound sense of confidence among them. “It made us feel like a real band in a way,” says O’Connor. “It’s now or never. It’s very real now.”
Named ‘Malingerer’ after the track of the same name – the centerpiece for the record – the album is a moment of respite from the shadows of life’s hardships. “The songs are a way for me to excise things that have been weighing on me,” says McAuley. “That’s why they seem dark.” With ambitions to tour America, the UK and Europe, they’re eager to build on providing the type of transportive atmosphere for others that they themselves relish together.