Hello! With CLØUDY SKIES being a departure from your previous bands, can you discuss how your musical style and creative process have evolved over time, and what new elements you have introduced into your sound?
Hi Stan, thanks for the interview.
Lionel and I have been playing together since 1996. We know each other so well… I think the receipt hasn’t changed a lot between us, it is more the “spices”, the “cooking time” and the “affinage” that are new :D… to give that special taste. The 1st thing is to have a “riff” with an interesting melody. We both know when it is “there”. We concentrate on it and work around it in order to develop the atmosphere and the progression. Doing that we avoid, like we did in the past, to multiplicate riffs and eventually to lose the 1st intention.
Moreover we put a special care in musical parts and their effect on listeners. We wanted to breathe a lot on this album and to take more time to enjoy the effect. We added lots of synths and keyboards and lots of guitar effects. On this point, I stacked the pedals in different orders for each song and each part until I found the right one.
The new thing is the lyrics and vocals. I wanted them to be like melodies so I worked on symmetries and rhymes. It matched perfectly with Lionel’s choice to explore the clean voices. When you listen to our songs you can remember the lyrics. It is very personal but for me this is a nice feeling.
As a duo, how do you approach collaboration and decision-making when it comes to songwriting, recording, and performing live? Are there any particular challenges or advantages to working in a small group?
Being 2 for songwriting is time-saving! We wrote the album peacefully in Lionel’s studio. We’re on the same vibe so it is very easy to write songs. In general I plug the guitar, I play and if I see that special smile or that special glance we go on: this is the way we work.
Decisions are also easier. We agreed quickly to work with Conny for Drums and with Magnus Lindberg for our sound… same for Argonauta Records by the way.
The most complicated part is the live part… we need to recruit people. but I think we can do like Deafheaven at their beginning, they were a duo and had a band for live.
You mentioned David Lynch as a major influence on your music. Can you discuss how his work has inspired your songwriting and artistic vision, and what other sources of inspiration have played a role in shaping your music?
Yes David Lynch is one of the major influence in my lyrics most precisely because of his recurrent theme: the dream.
He is able to blend realism and surrealism, beauty and monstrosity, joy and sadness, light and darkness, colors and… he brings mystery and does it with the dream while exploring the human subconscious.
The 7 songs of the album follow the same process: Dreams are the common thread. Most of my lyrics suggest dream… sometimes to escape the real world, sometimes to dream in dreams, sometimes to live again a poignant personal event, sometimes to find meaning in life and the passage of time.
I must say that Lynch’s music choices are very interesting and Twin Peaks is one of my favorite OST and a damn fine reference for me. I tried to recreate in our music the progression I love hearing in TP: from nice to disturbing atmosphere… for example after a dark verse I switch to a melodious happier chorus and vice versa.
Can you walk us through the process of creating “CHANGES,” from initial concept to final release? What were some of the biggest challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?
We took “a lot of time” for music itself. Demoing process was easy but setting all the parts together but making the whole album a sense was a very different task, LOL. Our will was that music should be listened to without lyrics boredom-free. Thus when you achieve that goal you can – this is our vision – say you have a strong album. Instrumental parts were very important in song construction. We wanted them to be like a relaxing atmosphere and an exhilarating moment. When this part was done, Lionel experimented with several kinds of vocal genres. We both agreed clean vocals were matching 100% the songs so he took the time he needed to record everything. And by the way, we were not in a hurry during COVID times.
In fact the hardest task was the mixing process! Lionel is passionate by sound. He has his own studio which he built himself and has a lot of equipment. He tried many many kinds of mix. I remember each proposal and the process…we regularly listened to the mixes, we talked about them, he adjusted as often as we needed. We wanted a spacious and powerful sound that could match with “pop”, “rock” and “metal”… Once he called me and said “I have something different. I deleted everything and started a new mix” …and you know what, this was the perfect one! A damn fine “mix”. (Folks, if you need a mix, Lionel can do it, ask him: firstname.lastname@example.org). Once it was done we had to choose the right order and send it to the master of Mastering: Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna. We prepared a damn fine coffee, he brought the damn fine cherry pie LOL!
As musicians, how do you balance technical proficiency with emotional expression in your playing and songwriting? Are there any particular techniques or approaches you use to convey specific moods or feelings in your music?
I am not what we can call a good guitar player. I don’t consider that I am. I really can’t play cover songs that metalheads love LOL. Ha! I can play Black Sabbath songs. I remember 2 interviews I read a long time ago and I kept that in mind… one of Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) and one of Steven Wilson, they both mentioned that they were not good guitarists. Steven Wislon only practiced a riff if it was new for him. I think I am a bit like them and you know what? When I started playing the guitar it was grunge times… Music was becoming something else: an emotion with energy and a sound texture. Later came Korn and they changed my way of thinking about guitar riffs, tones and melodies. And then I got into many other genres like progressive and psychedelic music. Listening to those kinds of music is an experience…which brought me to effect pedals LOL !! And these little “devil” devices changed the way I build music. I think with my lack of technique I focused more on sound and in some way I developed my own style. To answer your question, for sure when I create I try to bring what I experience… It could be chords with a special texture and a dark sound that disturbs you if I want to lead you there but it could also be a dreamy melody that brings you joy that makes you feel relaxed. If we succeeded in bringing you somewhere or if we touched you, it means a lot to us. For “CHANGES” we were, as I said, focused on creating songs that could be listened to without any voice… songs that could bring an emotion. And for the next album we will double that intention even with a lack of technique LOL!
With “CHANGES” being your debut album, what do you hope to achieve with this release, and how do you see it fitting into the broader landscape of contemporary music?
“CHANGES” is an introduction to our universe and I hope people will take time to discover it. Contemporary music is madness… it makes my brain explode sometimes as it is filled with golden nuggets but also with huge shit (A.I. music, lounge-ish playlist with no taste, “The Voice” singers covering other people, youngsters that don’t know bands they listen to…). Being seen and heard is a real feat, but if you find us take time to listen carefully to the album and you could notice we worked on different levels. On one hand we brought our musical background heritage and on the other we offered a new perspective: we’ve opened up several paths and it will continue to evolve from a shape to another… next time will we explore more synths? Will we be more dream pop or more doom… I really don’t know. I think we belong to people that never wanted to be in a precisely defined genre. We like it when bands surprise us. I have some examples in mind: Mike Paton (nothing can be expected from this genius!), Kadavar (the isolation tapes… their Pink Floyd time!!!), Wolves in the Throne Room (Celestite album with only Keyboards), Devin Townsend, Tool, Neil Young… These guys didn’t hesitate to explore and to experiment. The most important thing is that there will always be a place for your creation even if it is an extremely specialized niche music.
In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing independent artists and bands today, and how do you navigate these obstacles in your own career?
The most challenging thing is to BE THERE everyday. People need to be “feeded” everyday… Cløudy Skies need constantly to be renewed… otherwise they forget you and switch to something else. But honestly, we can’t do that. Catching attention and taking time to discover are not the qualities of the 20’s (of 2000) and unfortunately it tends to be worse in the future, doesn’t it ?
We are stating the obvious but we need support from the press and people who like our music. Who and where are you people?! Please share our sound, without you we are nothing else than sand slipping through your fingers. To be honest I am a bit lost, music consumption is not what we knew in the past. It was all about sharing, community, and a real net highly developed and supported by real music lovers. Can I travel back in time LOL?
Can you discuss the role that visuals and aesthetics play in your music, from album artwork to live performances? How do you approach incorporating these elements into your overall artistic vision?
Lionel and I really care about visuals. If a picture can in a way or another evokes and leads to a music genre: Bloody hell! We succeeded in something huge. Our design, the color chosen, the font… every detail is not there by hazard, it is our way to represent and describe our music. I wanted people to travel, to contemplate and to dream. I hope it works, does it LOL. Personally, some of the albums I bought were because of their designs and before I played the music I knew this would be what I expected. Art is also very subjective, sometimes you can choose the most beautiful thing and for some people it will be misunderstood. Some artists want to provoke a reaction so the purpose is not the same. They want to catch attention, not to lead you to a special music genre. But it is their choice, not ours. The Cløudy Skies logo, whether one likes it or not, is unique and we know that it will follow us everywhere! Live performances are also unique and we would like each one to remain something special… We need to work on that. If we can evoke dreams in our shows… obviously it will be something. Sunn o))), Watain, Tame Impala, Pink Floyd, Cult of Luna, Chelsea Wolfe… they bring you somewhere else.
With the album set to be released on Argonauta Records, can you talk about the importance of having a strong label and support system in the music industry, and how this has impacted your career as a band?
We couldn’t imagine working without a label. I know that DIY style is a good idea sometimes, most precisely if you play a certain kind of music (Hardcore, Punk…) or if you are famous. But if you are at the crossroads of different genres, like us, obviously you need to develop a strong identity thus you need to work with a label. A good label is like a family, they help you grow, they support you, they give attention and they can help you build something strong for the future.
By the way, without Argonauta, we wouldn’t have pressed “CHANGES”. And believe me I am old school, I hate the idea of having my album only in digital. Any band can do a digital… They have everything today. We recorded with analog instruments, we worked hard on the mix, we had the huge mastering by mister Cult of Luna… damn CHANGES needed a physical copy. According to me, Pressing is a kind of achievement. Like the first copy of a book for a writer… it is precious.
Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future of CLØUDY SKIES, and how do you see yourselves evolving and growing as musicians and artists?
We are working on demos for a 2nd album which will be the exploration of one of the musical paths we only suggested on CHANGES. My will is to accentuate the emotion and to go deeper in the dream sensation. Can we perform an album with several dream levels like in the movie inception? I have been too far LOL 😀
I really can’t do a “direct” album… like a 100% action movie… I need to feel something and I need people to feel something special when they listen.
But I don’t know, sometimes bands like to surprise… let me ask Lio if he wants to make a Slayer-ish album LOL
THX MAN 😉
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