Brooklyn-based experimental art rockers with a sense of a humor, Cloud Becomes Your Hands’s most recent LP, 2016’s ‘Rest In Fleas’, was a psych pop Syd-era Pink Floyd trip that left us satisfied and wanting more at the same time. Led by multi-instrumentalist / composer Stephe Cooper, the band also includes drummer Booker Stardrum, percussionist Sam Sowyrda, violinist Hunter Jack, vocalist and synth extraordinaire Weston Minissali, and bassist Simon Hanes. They can be found on April 21st at The Ferret in Preston, Lancashire.
Your self titled debut cassette came out all the way back in 2010, feel free to share with our readers how Cloud Becomes Your Hand got it’s start.
One dark and stormy night, our guiding star, composer Stephe Cooper, awoke suddenly from an incredibly deep and surreal dream. In this dream he heard a strange, new music, unlike anything he had experienced in the real world – he immediately grabbed his four-track tape recorder and whatever instruments he could find, and began laboring intensely to re-create the music he had heard in his slumber. Thus, the first cassette was born. A new puzzle immediately followed – how to create an ensemble that could do justice to his conception in a live, performative context? Stephe searched far and wide, reaching out to both new friends and old, in order to amass a highly eclectic grouping of guitar, drums, violin, synthesizer and malletkat, a midi controller shaped like a vibraphone. This lineup toured consistently until 2015, when the malletkat was briefly replaced with bass – after only a few months the malletkat rejoined the fray and the group expanded to the six-piece incarnation of today.
You’ve been compared to bands like Devo and Pink Floyd. How do you feel about being compared to groundbreakers like those two?
Well, of course it feels awesome to be compared to two such incredible groups. We’re deeply honored. A more interesting question, perhaps, is what exactly inspires people to draw a connection between us and those historic groups? Our far-out sounds? Is it our onstage antics and costumes? Are people synchronizing our music with classic Judy Garland films? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!!
The aforementioned Devo and Pink Floyd are major influencers, perhaps? Who else inspires you as a collective?
There’s no denying that we all love and feel influenced by Devo. And of course, the majority of us had a serious Syd Barret phase at some point in our lives. But for us what is important is combining these influences with more contemporary modes of thought and expression, such as performance art, modern dance, puppetry, and music of a decisively more experimental bent. Composers such as Fred Frith, Frank Zappa, Mauricio Kagel, Anthony Braxton, Julius Eastman, and Aksak Maboul. Also music from 8-Bit Nintendo games.
Set the stage for how you go about writing a song. Do you start with the swirling lyrics or your cartoonish sounds and melodies first?
Usually music first. Lyrics are way harder. That’s why there’s so many instrumentals.
On your Bandcamp you’ve described yourself as “snail lick”, “glowing dino”, “burrowing owls”, and “a renaissance faire acid trip underwater in grandma’s winnebago”. Please elaborate these. How do you know what a renaissance faire acid trip underwater in grandma’s winnebago is like? Care to share?
The “renaissance faire” bit was actually someone’s description of our first cassette. If you listen to the first song, ‘Rootabaga Pigeons’ it kind of sounds like this. I really don’t remember what the heck I was thinking when I wrote those other descriptions 7 years ago on the Bandcamp page.
I absolutely love the first track off of ‘Rest In Fleas’: ‘Hermit’. Could you tell us a bit about this song?
It’s one of our few songs that’s about something very specific: the North Pond Hermit, who lived in total isolation in Maine for 27 years. He stole food and clothing and propane tanks from people’s summer cottages. Everyone knew there was someone out there but no one saw him for decades until they got him on video a couple years ago and tracked him down.
‘Garden Of The Ape’ is also a standout for me. What went into writing this one?
The music was born out of a vocal improvisation that Stephe recorded then transcribed. The lyrics were written by long time friend Isabel Martin (she has contributed to lyrics and singing on both LPs). As usual, the rest of the band contributed ideas to the original draft.
What’s your favorite track of yours so far? Whether off of ‘Rest In Fleas’ or your debut LP ‘Rocks Or Cakes’?
I like all the tracks 100% equally!
You’ll be performing at The Ferret in Preston on April 21st with Horse Lords (label mates of yours) and Polypores after you were due to play the cancelled Safe As Milk festival. What should gig-goers expect from you live?
Well, first off we should mention that we initially thought we were going to be performing with a ferret, so we purchased a great deal of protective gear.
If you’ve never been to the zoo before, this is a good substitute. Caged animals (not ferrets) unleashed for about 40 minutes.
What’s up the proverbial whimsy-laden pipeline for Cloud Before Your Hands? Should fans be expecting new music anytime soon?
New music comes slow for us… but yes! Eventually. There are many other projects featuring our members that should be checked out in the meantime: Erica Eso, Tredici Baccci, Trigger, Shimmer, Booker Stardrum (solo percussion), Sam Sowyrda (percussion and electronics… just released his first solo album!) are all active projects of the 6 Cloud Becomes Your Hand members.
Photo credits: Christopher Weiss (1st one), Eleanor Robertson (2nd one)