Interview: Cloud Control // Live at Leeds // April 2011

TURNING up at the most rock and roll of all interview venues – the Leeds Travel Lodge – I find a subdued bunch of Aussies quietly munching through a pre-show breakfast.

For Cloud Control, who have only recently relocated to our fair capital, it’s just another city on a tour that has seen them play to rave reviews, including a particularly well attended show at hipster hangout, XOYO.

Singer and guitarist, Alister Wright – that’s Al, to you and I – bemoans the hole forming in his shoe as I ask about their recent move.

“We’ve been homeless for about a month but we’ve finally found somewhere.” He pauses before randomly venturing: “I’ve started drinking Black Skull too, it’s pretty cheap.”

I ask whether that’s the equivalent of a trampy bottle of White Lightning, but the joke is perhaps too inherently British. Give him a few months and he’ll be at the Offie chugging it down like all good 23-year-olds.

I change the subject and Al gives me a history lesson on the band-  a collaboration between himself, bassist Jeremy Kelshaw, and brother-sister duo, Ulrich (drums) and Heidi (keys and vox) Lenffer.

He says they’ve followed a “pretty standard band trajectory”, forming from the seeds of nothing at a Battle of the Bands competition in 2005, when Heidi gave them two weeks to “get their shit together” and write and play some songs.

To cut a long story short, two years later and they’d released an EP.

“We squeezed everything we could out of that,” says Jeremy, 25. “We’re slow to release stuff but there was never a time when there wasn’t a gig on the horizon. It took ages to find our feet stylistically.”

The comment seems rather bashful, given that after releasing their album, Bliss Release, this time last year, they won the Australian equivalent of the Mercury prize.

But until now, only their homeland press has been privy to the delights of Cloud Control.  With a UK release coming out next month and the wonders of the internet, the mutterings on this side of the hemisphere from those well versed in underground trends can already be heard singing the band’s praises.

That being said, the boy-girl vocal harmonies and psychedelic thread to the band’s makeup has already lent itself to some pretty lazy comparisons to ethereal rock and twee male/female pairings – a point that sparks a touch of debate.

“Those kind of references are funny- getting compared to Belle and Sebastian because of the vocals,” says Al. “It’s a different attitude to the music, different type of melodies.

“Then some journalists will come interview us and say ‘oh you’re definitely influenced by the Mamas and Papas’. I haven’t ever listened to the Mamas and Papas,” he shrugs.

“We’ve never thought to emulate any one band,” agrees Jeremy. “I think that’s the trap you fall into – we almost did that at the beginning, sounding like Interpol and the Arcade Fire.

“None of us are these prolific singer-song writers, none of us had written songs before but then you have to find some balls and play your own music.

“You’ve got to take those comparisons with a pinch of salt,” he adds with conviction.

Al would have us file away Cloud Control in a somewhat haphazard manner, between Led Zeppelin and Aphex Twin of all things, but this is down to defiance rather than stylistic comparison.

The sold-out crowd at Trinity Church just two hours later was certainly in favour of the band’s blend of (dare I say it) psychedelic synths and pitch-perfect duetting, but that’s not lazy , it’s simply the truth.

Consciously or not, the band’s overarching sound skates close to sun-drenched Californian nostalgia.

There’s an undertow of melancholy to the recordings, but onstage there’s a bouncy energy that defies the self-professed age of the more subdued numbers such as Meditation Song #2 (Why oh Why).

Al casually drawls his way through a clutch of star tracks, nailing the harmonised yelps of Gold Canary, before letting loose for Ghost Story: the vocal equivalent of a hard slap in the face.

Fleshed out with tambourines and proggy keyboard interludes, the quartet finish a tight and captivating set with a frenzied version of sure-fire single material, There’s Nothing in the Water We Can’t Fight.

The only thing missing from the set is visuals – a point Al makes prior to the show.

“I love having heaps of smoke and being shrouded in it, it’s like a visual version of reverb” he said. “There was one gig in Australia where I couldn’t see my feet, it was a white out.

“It’s nice to place music uninhibited like that.”  He pauses for a second. “Maybe we should just start playing naked?”

Bliss Release is out in the UK on May 23.

Visit the band’s Myspace here