It was early 2012 when Dylan Baldi kickstarted his music career. The lead singer/song-writer of indie pop group Cloud Nothings had been writing music since 2009, but didn’t really start having financial success with the band until two years ago, with the release of their Steve Albini-produced album, Attack on Memory. The album was Baldi’s third record (he writes all the pieces to his music, though Attack on Memory is the first album recorded with his live band), but it showed a significant shift in sound, emerging from power pop lo-fi jams into darker, grunge and angsty-filled ballads.
Attack on Memory earned Pitchfork’s “Best New Album” award, and a tour to support the record immediately kicked off. Dylan Baldi traveled with bandmates TJ Duke and Jayson Gerycz for 18 months straight, furthering career efforts and finally, for once, Baldi was actually making cash with Cloud Nothings. Writing songs on tour, playing shows all around the world, doing numerous interviews a day — it all comes with the job of being a musician. It’s part of your duty.
When I waited for Cloud Nothings to finish with their sound check at Orlando’s The Social venue, I thought pretty hard about the numerous other Cloud Nothings pieces I’ve read this year. Baldi seems a bit apathetic during interviews. I specifically remember Consequence of Sound’s Michael Roffman writing a piece on how quiet the band was during his hour long question session. I mean, the man has been non-stop touring since the release of Attack on Memory, only to record Cloud Nothings’ latest album, Here and Nowhere Else, last September, and then kick off another tour earlier this month. I’d imagine his job is going back to being the same daily routine by now.
So when I went around back of the venue to talk with Dylan, I didn’t really expect many answers. What could I possibly ask Dylan Baldi that Roffman hadn’t in the hour of conversation they had?
Baldi lighting a cigarette is the first thing my audio recorder picked up. We talked about the current tour to promote Here and Nowhere Else. “It’s been really cool, it’s going well,” he tells me. We discuss his current living situations — his girlfriend is French and lives in Paris, so Baldi goes to Cleveland to visit family and do band-oriented things and resides in Paris for a bit at a time. We laugh, we exchange head nods and different ways of saying “cool,” with each other. He’s humble and blunt. And I’m not really getting answers to create a great story with.
I mention the Wavves collaboration album that Cloud Nothings is working on. I noticed that Baldi was quoted saying that he had “eight good ones” recorded with Wavves so far, and asked if it was just a coincidence that Cloud Nothings’ two last records are eight songs each as well. Again, laughs and head nods. Baldi replies “Well, we only had ten days. We’ll definitely make more songs. It’s fun!”
Both Here and Nowhere Else and Attack on Memory bring such raw energy into the atmosphere. Being performed live Monday night at The Social, it seemed no different than the two records. Everyone was into the show. Kids were screaming and jumping around the crowd, throwing sweat on each other. It was hype, to say the absolute least.
But what did seem off was Baldi’s attitude toward words. Is it some kind of attitude he’s purposely adopting? Maybe an apathetic character for the band with borderline emo lyrics? The only memorable thing Baldi said on stage was, “This is our last song.” I don’t think anyone can remember more being said by anyone in the band the entire night.
I asked about the meaning behind the music video for “I’m Not Part of Me.” “I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t watch all the video. Our friend Ryan makes all these videos for us. I don’t know what it means either.” I asked about the two covers for both Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else. “They’re just pictures I took.” Attack on Memory’s cover was lighthouse on the cliffs of Dover, England. Here and Nowhere Else’s cover is Baldi’s view from his place in Cleveland. And on the critical reception of the new record, “It’s been great. It’s way better than I thought it would be. I was worried people would hate it. It feels like getting to level 2 in a video game.”
Dylan left to go get dinner before the show with his bandmates. I walked back into the venue after our brief words together and thought of what exactly to do with this interview piece. Dylan Baldi was short with words and uninterested, but a humble and kind person. It seemed like he is almost one with his music and the theme of Cloud Nothings.
The show that night was incredible. The energy was there, for sure, and not once did I feel let down from the performance. But damn did it feel like Baldi gave me a taste of what his album really bleeds in translation to a personality.