It’s almost been a decade since Cloud Nothings formed. While it may be hard to believe the Cleveland-based indie rock band is coming up on a decade of existence, it simultaneously makes sense. When frontman Dylan Baldi first began the group, its sound wallowed in indie rock hooks, and it returned to similar pop sensibilities in 2016 for Life Without Sound. But every record in between those revealed their natural talent for embracing the rawness of punk. While all four members of the band—singer and guitarist Dylan Baldi, bassist TJ Duke, drummer Jayson Gerycz, and guitarist Chris Brown—are traditionally punk, so to speak, they burrow themselves in the grown with a feverishness and intensity that recalls the Jesus Lizard or Hot Snakes.
So it makes sense that on Cloud Nothings’ newest record, Last Building Burning, they’ve essentially perfected the art of their sound. The sound they built their name on is back, as one could rely on it to be. The album progresses the way one’s energy would: starting off in a manic anger with “On An Edge” before slowing the pace for the 11-minute-long burner “Dissolution.” It’s familiar but still gripping—a testament to the reliable sound Cloud Nothings has carved out over the years—and will likely preface another return to pop.
“On this tour, we play the whole record the whole way through and then some old songs,” says Baldi. “I’ve only just started feeling that these new songs fit with all of our other songs. It’s nice to feel like we have a set sound, where people could hear a song and know it’s by our band, but I also like messing with that. It’s why our last record was more pop stuff. The stuff that I listen to and that we all do is vastly different than when we first changed our sound. I hardly listen to bands that sound like us—fast, angry music—so it seems appropriate to keep changing with our personal tastes.”
To get to know Cloud Nothings, we interviewed Dylan Baldi for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Last Building Burning as the prompt, his answers are indifferent yet vivid—qualities that will steer the band’s music when it headlines the Sinclair this Friday.
1) “On An Edge”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the highest distance you’ve ever climbed?
BALDI: You know what we did? We were in Taipei—I think it was Taipei, Taiwan?—and there was a huge temple up at the top of a gigantic staircase that goes up a mountain there. It could have just been a tower. We walked up that one day. I feel like that’s the highest I’ve ever—on my own, with my legs—gone. It was pretty insane. There were a ton of people doing it. There was a skinny but buff dude climbing up it backwards. He was doing The Exorcist crawl, except it was for exercise. He was on all fours, like leaning back doing that bridge thing you did in gym class in school. He was going up a gigantic, miles-long staircase while on all hands and feet though. It was insane. He looked like he was training or something serious. You don’t do that for fun. He must have been working towards some later goal, I feel feel like. That was also the highest I’ve ever been, too. This was back in 2015, I think.
2) “Leave Him Now”
DIGBOSTON: In your opinion, what’s one of the most subtle signs a partner should leave the relationship they’re in?
BALDI: I feel like if you stop liking the way a person smells. I’ve noticed that sometimes. When you start not liking the way they smell. Maybe that’s my own personal thing. It’s a part of me pointing out something worse to come, though. It’s a subtle thing. It starts disintegrating from there, really. Once I stop liking the smell, I think that’s a sign to take note of where you’re at. Even if it’s the same smell they’ve always smelled like, you can suddenly realize you just don’t like it. It’s a weird switch of the flip. I don’t know. This sounds weird but yeah. [laughs]
3) “In Shame”
DIGBOSTON: Looking back at 2018, what’s the most embarrassing thing you did?
BALDI: I guess… Well… What have I done that I’m ashamed of? Oh! This might have been 2018. I got really, really, really drunk at karaoke with my girlfriend. I was in New York after a show and I got wasted there. Apparently I couldn’t remember where we were staying. I don’t remember any of this story anyway. But apparently I had trouble telling her where to go because she didn’t know where we were staying either. Eventually they got the information out of me. We went back to the place and I guess I fell asleep after saying some wild shit. At some point, I threw up all over the bed? I also don’t remember that part. But then I was woken up by security at this hotel as they were kicking me [out]. I was like, “Huh?” I was sleeping on a bench in the lobby of the hotel. They told me I had to go outside, and I told them I was staying there. So then I walked back to the room eventually, I guess. That was definitely… very shameful. [laughs] I drank everything. I just hate karaoke, so the only way I can handle it is—clearly—if I lose my mind drinking a ton. That was the worst and I haven’t done it since. It might have been last year, honestly, but it was definitely cold outside and wintertime, so it was either the end of last year or the start of this one. And it was a mistake either way. [laughs]
4) “Offer An End”
DIGBOSTON: Which of your lesser-known hobbies or interests could you theoretically teach someone about?
BALDI: What have I been into lately? Let’s see. Just trying to think. [long pause] You know, I still have a lot of weird knowledge. When I was a kid, I was really into military planes. I still have a lot of info on that even though I haven’t researched it in years. But I still remember a lot. I could probably tell someone facts about a model plane I built when I was seven. I don’t care about it anymore at all. I hate flying and I don’t care about the Army. Or rather, I don’t care about the war. [laughs] I should make that distinction. But yeah, I used to know so much about planes when I was young.
5) “The Echo of the World”
DIGBOSTON: Which country’s culture do you think America would most learn from?
BALDI: Hmm. I feel like I don’t understand any other country’s culture enough to pick one. I did spend a long time, a couple years on and off, in France, though. I did like that a lot of people were pretty blunt. Same with a lot of people I know living in Germany who are straightforward. They don’t beat around the bush with what they want to tell you. I feel like certain people can learn from that, or at least certain Americans can learn from that. It’s nice to say what you’re thinking and feel like you don’t need to be polite or too nice about it. It’s good to be straightforward in most cases.
DIGBOSTON: Which part of adulthood do you wish would no longer be a necessity?
BALDI: Well, I feel like my hair is thinning. I wish that wasn’t a thing that had to happen. So I’m just going to be a bald guy one day, and my name is already Baldi. That just sucks. Like, come on. I wish there was a way to stop that, but I don’t think there is. It’s not even genetic! My dad has a full head of hair and my mom has hair. As far as I know, it’s not a thing. I guess whatever I did to myself is leading me no good way.
7) “So Right So Clean”
DIGBOSTON: If you could be a brand ambassador for any hair or body cleaning product of your choice, which would you choose?
BALDI: I don’t use too much of those. How about L’Oréal? It used to be on commercials all the time when Arthur was on. I remember those fondly. So that would be my choice. They seem like they’re decent. They’re probably a decent company? I don’t know if there are evil soap companies. I’m sure there are some. Sadie [Dupuis] would know.
I haven’t seen Arthur randomly on TV in a while. That show was funny on a lot of levels. A lot of the things they say and do probably shouldn’t have been funny to me as a kid, because I think a lot of it was made for adults. A lot of the characters were really mean to one another a lot of the time, which was also funny to me because it’s a kid show about talking animals. They’re really mean, actually. I guess I kind of liked that. Oh, they’re horrible. Muffy? So mean! D.W. was pretty mean. Everyone was kinda mean [laughs] but it was funny. I would definitely stop and watch it if it was on TV right now.
8) “Another Way Of Life”
DIGBOSTON: If you weren’t pursuing music as a career, which job would you likely have right now and which job would you ideally have right now?
BALDI: Ideally, I would be some sort of scientist. I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I thought that would be fun because I liked water and sea creatures. I don’t even know what that job is exactly, but it sounds like you get to hang out in water with turtles or whatever.
But honestly, I’d probably be working at a coffee station or gas station otherwise. I feel like I’d be working whatever job I could to keep money alive if I wasn’t playing music like this. You know, I was just at a place called Two Dollar Radio Headquarters after Sadie [Dupuis] did a book reading there. I really liked that place. It was a cool bookstore, they had coffee, they had a bar, and they put on cool events. It seemed like a good environment. The people who ran the store were super nice and [seemed] like great people to work under. I guess that’s where I would want to work, even though I went there for the first time three days ago. [laughs]
CLOUD NOTHINGS, THE COURTNEYS, WEEPING BONG BAND. FRI 11.30. THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$20. SINCLAIRCAMBRIDGE.COM