NYC’s Cloud Becomes Your Hand‘s creative potential is on full display in their sophomore album “Rest In Flea,” a multi-colored sonic adventure released by intrepid Queens label Northern Spy, home to an enviable collection of NYC’s best experimental talents of all ages. But the record, a brilliantly quirky but very musical collage of robotic numbers, psychedelia and musical deconstruction, doesn’t tell the whole story. With electronic xylophone, clarinet and electric violin rounding up their drum/bass/guitar sonic backbone, the sextet offers a monstrously tight live show featuring perfectly choreographed movements and sublime moments of absurdity, reminiscent of a DIY blend of Devo, Wire and The Residents.
There’s so much going on in your music, it’s hard to pinpoint influences… what’s been inspiring this record?
One thing I was listening to while working on this album was the Columbian group The Meridian Brothers. I’m pretty sure I heard that for the first time at True Vine, a record store in Baltimore. True Vine has been an endless source of inspiration for all of us, particularly their CDR series of rare, weird music. Animals and their activities are an inspiration to me. I like slow animals like sloths and snails.
What’s the songwriting/arranging process in the band? To what extent is each band member’s role defined?
I am the main instigator mostly, with other members helping to morph it. For example, the song Bridge of Ignorance Returns [streaming below] was demoed by me and worked out together. The part at the end with the layered clarinets was something I had planned for but never got around to actually doing… until Simon (bass) offered to write that section. He recorded me scatting what I thought it should sound like, transcribed it, and added 3 more voices. He then sent it to me and I edited it down to fit in the song and then recorded Mara Mayer playing the 4 parts on clarinet and bass clarinet.
You guys are a very playful band… are there any instruments, pieces of equipment or musical toys that lately made you rediscover the playful side of creating?
We are the most playful when we aren’t using any equipment. We’ve done a number of dance routines/movement pieces that we choreographed collaboratively. Our ultimate dream is to transition to being exclusively a dance group.
What are the guitar pedals that left their mark on this record?
A new one for me that was used a lot was the Strymon Ola Chorus/Vibrato. It’s very versatile and has a real juicy wiggly sound.
Here’s my current pedalboard set up–left half of the board is for guitar, right half is for vocals:
Guitar: BBE Boosta Grande is +20dB of clean gain. I use it just in a few spots. The Boss Equalizer pedal I use as a volume decrease. I have the lows rolled off which gives it a more jangly sound. I use it on the songs that are strummy, trying to get closer to an acoustic sound. The Strymon Ola Chorus/Vibrato is next in the chain. I have a chorus sound saved to the “favorite” switch and a vibrato sound active on the dials. I use the chorus sound on some of those jangly songs I mentioned. The vibrato sound is great, but I don’t use it that much live. Last is the Digitech Tremolo, just for one part of one song.
Vocals: I have been recently thinking of doing away with this, but the set up for the last year or two has been to run Weston and I’s vocals into a sub mixer so they can both have the same analog delay on them (Electro Harmonix Memory Boy). The output of the mixer goes into the Fulltone Full-Drive 2 distortion, which I use on two songs. The thing is, I usually have to turn it off during any pauses in the singing so it doesn’t making a pestering squeal.
What about synths (real or virtual)?
I got a broken Juno 106 and got it fixed up nice while working on this album. It’s the first analog synth I’ve ever owned. At some point it occurred to me to record Weston’s keyboard via MIDI, allowing me to layer or replace with analog synth sounds, while keeping the performance. I will definitely be doing this in the future!
How much of your recording is done at home versus in the studio?
The songs with full drum set playing were recorded at Gravesend Recordings in Brooklyn–but just the skeleton (i.e.. drums, some bass, some keyboard). Everything else was recorded on my Mbox at home, in our practice space, or at someone’s house; including my parents house in Long Island. It was almost a full year from when recording began until it was all mixed and mastered.
What’s your home recording set up?
Mbox 2 Pro, Studio Project C4 pair, SM57, got a AKG 214 toward the end of the process for vocals and other acoustic things. I have never owned studio monitors for some reason…
Is there a person outside the band that’s been important in perfecting your recorded and/or live sound?
Once all the sounds were tracked and decided for this album we took it to Jonny Schenke to mix. We spent 5 days with him getting everything all glued together. It was the first time mixing a full record with someone else and it was immensely helpful.