Interview by Ed Stuart
Who’s answering the questions?
Where is the band from?
I am from Fillmore, CA, but now live and base my life and music around Long Beach, CA.
Who is in the band and what instrument do they play?
Pam Gartner - vocals, piano, toy synth, casio synth, melodica, and glockenspiel
Carina Downing - vocals, piano, synth, flute
Jose Serna - vocals, guitar, drum programming on recordings
Alvaro "Al" Rodriguez - drums, percussion
Jason Cordero - bass
How did the band start?
Before moving to Long Beach, I was teaching myself how to record with the computer. I invited friends to record silly songs. Then I began doing some more serious work, but felt it needed more than my voice, so I invited Carina and Pam. I've known them both for a long time and they sang in their own projects so I wasn't trying to start a band or anything, it was just a personal project. We would record in my room and in a small cabin a friend would let us stay at. Carina and I then moved to Long Beach and I kept recording and getting better, still inviting the girls to participate. Then when Pam moved to Long Beach she somehow got this horrible idea to perform these songs. I was taken back by it because we weren't a band. We didn't even know we could play the songs live. I invited Alvaro to play drums, and a good friend to jam guitar lines over the songs. It didn't go bad, but it wasn't great. What did happen is that we realized we could actually play these songs and people liked them. We invited Jason to play bass immediately after we're been a happy family ever since. All in all, I blame Pam.
What bands did you have in mind when starting this band?
I didn't but somehow Pinback, the Beatles and Franklin for Short snuck in there. Bastards.
50 years ago people use buy music and get their water for free, now people pay for water and get their music for free. How do you think this affects music in anyway?
I listen to much more music now than when I had to pay for everything. In Fillmore, we would have to drive 30 minutes to another city just to buy a CD, and if it sucked, well, it better grow on you. Now I listen to so much more due to its availability. And everything I listen to influences me whether or not I want it to. As for water, that's Carina's department.
What are the song lyrics about?
The lyrics of The Clouds is about people and their place in the world. Before moving to Long Beach, I had a strong feeling of who I was and what I wanted. That all changed when I realized how much bigger the world I lived in was. The lyrics are about the changes we went through and how much we have grown since then. I think this is a very common feeling and we are excited to talk about with others. I think the lyrics are really easy to understand if you pay attention to them. For The Clouds, I'm taking Wordsworth's approach and writing for everyone using a rich approach. What frustrates me most is people coming up to me after they hear a song and ask me what it's about. I feel like I didn't do the song justice. I'm not frustrated with the person but with myself, the song should hold it's own.
In this age of free downloads; I heard Clouds is planning on releasing a book with CD included? Pretty ambitious, tell us a little about that project.
Digital distribution of music has, in my opinion, done two major things, make most music easily available to everyone and depersonalize music. I don't buy CD's anymore, mp3's or vinyl, no need for a middle man with my iPod. I want our music to be personal, so we thought a book with poetry, prose, lyrics and photography created by us and our friends would be a great personal way to communicate; it's worked for centuries. Carina is putting it all together with the help of Kyle Moreno and his KUI press. I've only seen a test book, but they've done a fantastic job and I'm really excited about people seeing it.
In this jaded, cynical time, you could of written a lot of material tapping into people’s frustration, but Clouds has chosen the opposite approach? Why?
It began with my own frustrations. The album coming out has a lot to do with frustrations of moving away from the comfortable, your home. But I don't feel that presenting a problem is enough, creating more negativity seems to be counter productive. We always try to find the positive in the situation. Most times you can find it, some times you can't. I spend a lot of time considering my intentions of the song before creating it. I think I may write music a little differently. I began with my concept, an idea that I wish to communicate and then figure out the best possible way to do it musically. In the past, with other bands, we used to just jam and write music and someone would just lay lyrics on top as if they were just a frosting, but lyrics should be the core of the song, at least that's my approach with The Clouds. We have songs about car crashes, a suicide attempt, pollution, boredom, and a lover's remorse amongst many other deeply depressing concepts. But it makes no difference to me if I only sing about that or punch someone in the face, it only hurts and nothing good comes out of it. Wordsworth said that poetry's origins come from "emotions recollected in tranquility." And that is where The Clouds approach comes from. What have we learned from these frustrations and how can we share them with others? If you listen/read the lyrics, you can see that there is almost always something we have learned from a bad situation, there always is, it's just hard to find them sometime. By the way, I am not dismissing music that punches you in the face, just not for me, I'm delicate.
There are rumors Clouds is thinking of reworking a hardcore song?
Yup. Al drums for a hardcore band, Big Takeover and someone had mentioned that we should swap songs and rework them in our own fashion. I thought it would be a fun idea. Plus, I think when music is released it doesn't belong to the creator anymore. The listener puts their own spin on it, since the band isn't sitting there with them telling them exactly what it's about. We want to appropriate a song and make it cloudy. I want to see if we could calm a beast.
How did you hook up with Missing Records?
Michael Compton from the band Star Parts put together this great website called Missing Records. It's an online distribution where the artists control everything. I don't feel labels have much to offer bands anymore, besides money, and Michael has found a way to offer something besides that. I really respect him for it. We played some shows with his band and he invited us to join his site. A band can upload their album for sale and create their own price. I like it. www.missingrecords.com