Monday, September 9, 2019

an interview with Cloud Rat

Michigan grind trio Cloud Rat has been a fave of this blog for years. Their various splits, albums, and compilations have been a staple of my Bandcamp Picks column for almost as long as I've been doing it. Since their third album Pollinator is due to be released on September 13th, I finally hit the band up for an interview. Guitarist Rorik Brooks, drummer Brandon Hill, and vocalist Madison Marshall were kind enough to take turns answering my questions while on tour.

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce your band for those who may not know you - who are you, where are you from, and how do you describe the music you make?

Cloud Rat is Rorik on Guitar, Madison on Vocals, and Brandon on drums. We're from Michigan, Mount Pleasant / Detroit / Grand Rapids, respectively. We predominantly play grindcore that sounds kind of melancholic I guess, though we borrow from many other styles and genres.

DoC: Please give a brief history of Cloud Rat - what brought you together, and what did you set out to accomplish? How close are you to those goals now?

Rorik: We formed on a whim in late 2009, just some friends making noise together. At first the goal was just record and play some shows. Then the goal became maybe try to leave some lasting impact and hopefully inspire some folks along the way. I think we've accomplished a lot of things, and truth be told there isn't really an endgame or goal per se outside of keep pushing the envelope in our own ways.

I guess personally I would like to see more genre and community crossover, and I don't just mean metal/punk or doom/grind etc but maybe more often having indie/electronic/noise/experimental/jazz/hip-hop artists all playing together and the crowds becoming more diverse and open to such things. I think we are one among a number of bands nowadays maybe in a spot that can help such things along since we try to do as many mixed bills as possible and now are working with a label that has an incredibly eclectic lineup... Hmm. I dunno, maybe just a pipe dream but I'm pretty tired of how exclusionary every subculture seems to be lol.

DoC: Cloud Rat mixes a lot of different styles, often within a single song. What is your songwriting process like?

Rorik: Typically the songwriting process starts on the acoustic guitar and I'll record little ideas with whatever is laying around - usually my phone nowadays of course, lol. Then we'll bring some of the ideas to practice, get some input and jam on 'em a little bit. Then I try to write whole pieces, put them into Ableton and make demos with a drum machine/amp sim, etc. to get the general feel of everything. Bring 'em back to the band, get more input, change 'em around, etc. Jam them so we know they work and sound right, boom.

DoC: With so many different elements, what makes a song "Cloud Rat"?

Rorik: That's a pretty good question. I think it just boils down to a vibe, and there have certainly been many songs that have been cut after being written and recorded where we thought that it just didn't sound like us. Hard to narrow that one down though. I think it's just what comes out when we collaborate as a unit.

DoC: What inspires Cloud Rat lyrically? To what extent are these songs auto-biographical, or based on real events?

Madison: It's a little bit of both. Lots of lyrics are based on specific memories, events, or perhaps a passing moment that might not otherwise matter to other people. Some songs lyrically are very straightforward, while others are more personal and written with more symbolism and kept open for interpretation.

DoC: You have a new album coming out on Friday called Pollinator. Where was it recorded, and what can people expect from it? How would you compare it to your previous releases?

Brandon: It was recorded at Lakebottom Studios in Toledo, Ohio by our good friend J.C. [Griffin] - we've recorded our last few splits and previous full length with him and he absolutely rules. I think people can expect a record that culminates everything the band has tried to do thus far, but in a more concise and focused manner. Lots of these songs are our most technical and challenging pieces yet, and I'd dare say as an album it contains some of the best writing and cohesiveness in a full length that the band has achieved yet.

DoC: Pollinator will be your first album for Artoffact Records. How did they get involved with this release?

Rorik: Jacek reached out last year when we he found out we were playing Iceland. He talked about how he was a fan of the band and wanted to meet.

Madison: We hit it off musically and personally, and ended up nerding out about a bunch of bands and music, and all of that coupled with his enthusiasm led to us deciding to work together.

DoC: Cloud Rat has been quite active as a live band. What does touring and playing live mean to you? What do you want your audience to experience?

Brandon: I think as of the past few years, at least, it has remained a way to push ourselves to play new and more challenging material in a live setting, and to keep pushing to express the atmosphere, energy and emotions that surround the songs and the band in general. As for what the audience experiences, I think we can only hope those energies and sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt force-style messages come across in the music and soundscapes.

DoC: You've released a number of splits over the years. What do you like about the split EP format? How do you choose the bands you collaborate with?

Brandon: Probably the most awesome part of touring is meeting new bands and seeing different places and more importantly, ending up making friends you might otherwise have never met or known. Splits are great opportunities to do some sort of collaborative project with these bands that we often have had a great relationship with as people and / or are also excited about. It's a killer thing to pick up a record by a band you know that did a split with a band you might not, and then you end up hearing something potentially totally new, contrasting and excellent.

DoC: Renata Rojo has created album artwork for the last few releases. How did you get in touch with her? What direction did you give her for the Pollinator cover?

Brandon: She was our dear friend Ashley's roommate! We traded back and forth ideas years back and she did a good batch of our covers for CDs, splits and various merch. We more or less outlined some of the lyrics from "Seven Heads" as a concept, mainly the line 'Paradise of delusion', and how it represents the current state of mass miscommunication, social media-madness, confusion and anxiety. She's great!

DoC: What's next for Cloud Rat?

Brandon: We are currently on tour with the amazing Icelandic band, Kaelan Mikla and our new record comes out via Artoffact Records on September 13th (Friday the 13th!) All info can be found on their site, but please don't forget to pick up our record in your local record shop and favorite indie brick & mortar stores! (If they don't have it, tell them to email us and we'll make it happen!) We've also got plans for some pretty rad festivals, international dates and places we've never been before...! Big up and thanks for the interview- Infernal Hails!

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Grind and Rewind:

Mixtape 98: