Cloud Control who hail from New South Wales’ Blue Mountains delivered one of the most well received albums of 2010 with Bliss Release. “There’s Nothing in the Water We Can’t Fight” was epic life affirming pop, “Ghost Story” and “Just for Now” showed their folk influences and adept song writing craft while “This Is What I Said” was Lucksmiths style bouncy indie. That album and constant touring led them to be added to pretty much every festival bill, including last year’s Splendour in the Grass, the recent Sunset Sounds and Falls festivals and of course the upcoming Laneways. Consisting of Alistair “Al” Wright on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, siblings Hedi and Ulrich Lenffer on keys/backing vocals and drums respectively and Jeremy Kelshaw on bass. Chris Berkley caught up Al and Ulrich not long after the Bliss Release release.
When you were making Bliss Release you were involved with it everyday it must have seemed like a long tunnel with no light at the end of it because it’s taken quite a few years really since Cloud Control formed to get the debut album out.
Al: Yeah it was a bit like that. A thing that you really want to happen that you don’t think is ever going to happen, and then it did.
Ulrich: We just do everything really slowly, so it was inevitable. It’s like a really slow train.
It also seems that it’s something you guys didn’t rush into though, have you sort of learned your craft and honed the songs and all that kind of thing, Al?
Al: I think so, I think that’s why it took so long because it’s like we were saying off air before; when we write a new song it’s like “now we don’t have to play that song anymore” so I think it was like that a little bit with the album too. As we’d write a new song we’d think “now we have to make the whole album be as good as that” and we kept raising the bar. Then finally we put out the album.
So you almost had an infinite deadline for a while?
Ulrich: You just never know where to draw the line. It’s not clear cut and you just keep writing songs then it’s just a natural progression where you just go ‘”fine that’s it, record, done” and try and make an album out of it.
Does the EP sound very primitive to you? Does it almost sound like a different band now when you listen back to early Cloud Control?
Al: I reckon it just sounds like we’re younger people, because we were. We had just turned eighteen.
Ulrich: Yeah it was a bit primitive. It was joyous, unbridled, youthful energy as opposed to “oh, we’ve been around the scene a bit”.
Now you’re all old, bitter and twisted. You guys stuck to your guns in making Bliss Release with getting Liam from Bells War Ring to produce it, was that something you had to fight for or were Ivy League happy for you to work with someone you knew and trusted?
AL: Props to Ivy League because they just kind of let us do whatever we wanted in those takes. They must have liked the EP and where we were coming from so they trusted us and just let us have a go which is so cool for a label to do. It’s a big gamble, they’re investing money and all that kind of thing.
Do you think it’s important that you guys work with someone who is part of the same mindset that you guys were as well rather than bringing in a total outsider? Has that helped the album become the way it’s turned out?
Al: I guess so, it would have sounded different if we had someone else. You get a friend someone who you know to do it and then you can spend a bit more time getting the sound you want and you feel more comfortable talking about everything. It’s not so much you have to put your trust in someone, because you already trust them and they trust you and you can talk about things and get really into it.
It seems the Cloud Control releases from a few years ago weres incredibly jangly, whereas with the album obviously your playing has got better, it sounds a bit more muscular than before. Some songs like “The Rolling Stones” sound like a very different band than you guys were a few years ago. Have you toughened up Al?
Al: Well with that song I think that that was due to the recording process itself and having more time. We still listen to a lot of the same music now as back then. I can remember really wanting to have a sound like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club because they have such a sweet sound, especially their first couple of records. The first EP we weren’t really happy with the sound but we didn’t really have the time to work on it. This time round we spent heaps of effort putting layers on and interesting kind of drum-mic techniques and we had the opportunity to experiment a bit more.
It’s a definite product of the studio this record then but to see you guys live, you’ve obviously tightened up and the live show is a spectacle to behold in itself.
Ulrich: Well thank you! (laughs). Just playing all the shows that we’ve done, you’ve got to get serious about shows. We’re spruiking ourselves as a live band that people pay money to see so we’ve got to give them something.
There are some gentle moments on the record as well, I mean a song like “Just for Now” is that sort of throwback folk which again I don’t think you guys had done on the first EP, It’s almost like a Peter, Paul and Mary or Seekers track or something like that, are you sharper on the harmonies these days as well?
Ulrich: Nah, we’ve always been good at harmonies (laughs). I think with this album felt more like we could take liberties and indulge ourselves a little bit and actually put a quieter song on, whereas the EP was just like ‘Yeah!’ for whatever fast paced songs we had.
Going back to “The Rolling Stones”, is it named after the band for a reason, or is it even named after the band?
Al: No, it’s not. It’s coincidental. It’s funny because it used to be called “The Old Man in the River” so we changed it to “The Rolling Stones” so it didn’t sound like another band, but then it was another band anyway.
Someone had to point out to you further on the other track there was a band called The Rolling Stones, you hadn’t thought about it at the time.
Ulrich: Just had no idea. Hadn’t heard of them.
That was a very diplomatic, political answer for that one. Thank you both for coming in for a chat.
Interview broadcast on Static on 24/06/10. Static can be heard on Sydney’s 2SER (107.3 FM) and via the Internet (www.2ser.com) every Thursday evening (AEST).