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Alternative band Cloud Control have rocked stages from their native Australia to their adopted London. The quartet has played major shows like SXSW alongside acts such as Weezer and Vampire Weekend. ModCloth chatted with lead singer and guitarist Heidi Lenffer to discover what made the band relocate, what it’s like to record an album in an actual cave, and which song is the most fun to perform live.
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ModCloth: For those new to Cloud Control, can you tell us how the band got together?
Heidi Lenffer of Cloud Control: I entered a university band competition on a whim and pulled together my brother and two school friends to help me write four songs in a matter of weeks. We didn’t win that year, but we found something that worked and made us win the following year. [It] drove us to continue playing shows and eventually quit our jobs and move to London as a band.
What made you all decide to relocate from Australia to London, and what about its scene influences the band’s sound?
London, like New York, is a dream city for many industries, but especially music. So, it wasn’t hard to get a consensus to make the group move when a U.K. label called “Infectious” picked us up and kindly offered to fund our touring and rent for some time until we were established in the U.K. The proximity to Europe was a key draw. [A] four-hour drive gets you into Paris, and from there, you can make short work of at least five countries across western Europe in one week of touring. That kind of exposure [would have been] impossible to readily access were we to remain based in Australia. Everyone talks about the London rain and dreariness, which is something I actually love about the place, in short bursts. You have to work harder sometimes to get Londoners to open up. They hold their experiences tight-fisted, but once you break through, they are very interesting conversationalists. There’s gold beyond the polite facade. Like a Kinder surprise.
Your latest release was created with a unique spin. It’s not everyday a band records parts of an album in a cave. Can you tell us more about this experience and how the idea for it came about?
We had a song called “Dream Cave” and had been talking about recording in unconventional spaces to chase a natural and unique reverb, as well as to make memorable experiences for ourselves. You’ve got to make your life interesting. After some internet Googling, we found that the U.K. has an extensive limestone cave system, so we launched several road trips to check out the viability of taking our album process literally underground. All caves around the world keep a consistent temperature of 9 degrees in spite of seasonally based weather fluctuations in the outside world (due to the insulating earth coverage). But still, this is a temperature that eventually chills your bones, especially when you’re seated quietly recording for hours. For this reason, we actually only spent a weekend in Beer Quarry Caves in the south of England, and downsized our ambitions to just recording some vocals rather than instrument tracks, too. Caves are very drippy places, and we love our instruments too much to have them showered.
Image via AudioAddict
The song “Happy Birthday” is a totally identifiable track. How did it come about?
I wrote this in my living room in London. The verses had come quite easily and were based on a series of interactions I’d had with strangers on the bus and conversations with my London road crew. The chorus occurred to me while I was walking the back streets of Clerkenwell and amused myself with the thought that I could dare to re-appropriate and breathe new life into a tired old commonplace word pairing [like] “Happy Birthday” and make it a feature.
Do you have a favorite track from Dream Cave that you love to perform live?
“Promises” has a raw power to it that never fails to be a performer’s and performance highlight. The vocal interplay is a curiosity for most people, it seems, and we often get the waverers engaged and cheering by the end.
After playing SXSW, alongside acts like Vampire Weekend and Weezer, and headlining tours, do you have a most memorable moment?
Walking out to a heaving festival crowd is one of my favorite things to do, especially in Australia. When thousands of people unite in a purpose to lose themselves collectively to your music, I’m often overwhelmed by such a pure joy at the privilege granted me in this moment.
What musicians did you grow up listening to that influence you today?
I have a series of artists that I return to routinely for inspiration, even just to be encouraged by the passion in their voice, or beauty of their harmonizing, and often to study how they put the songs together. David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Fleetwood Mac, The Beach Boys, and more recently, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and PJ Harvey.
Are there current or local musicians that you’re listening to that you recommend?
I’m listening religiously to PJ Harvey’s mercury-winning Let England Shake, which for many people is old news, but I’m recently transfixed. She spent two years crafting the lyrics to this breathtakingly beautiful album and the poetry shines.
Can you tell us a little bit about what influences your personal style?
My personal style shifts quite radically in phases. I was a cargo pants-wearing tomboy for a time, and then wore only dresses. Currently, I almost exclusively wearing high-waist pants and skirts with a tucked-in top of some playful print in a feminine fabric. I have staple accessories: a long-chain combination of a Victorian antique locket and a beaded chain, paired with ubiquitous Cuban heels. I can’t [pass up] an over-sized jacket or a jumpsuit/romper and spend most of my money in thrift shops.
And a fun one: What are some of your “on-the-road” essentials when it’s tour time?
I’m an old-school reader of books. My struggle every tour is to limit my packing to three books, usually chosen by size and weight, because our personals are limited to carry-on size, unfortunately. I also can’t leave without over-ear headphones for shutting out everyone where necessary and a pack of cards for reembracing the world.
+ Have you seen Cloud Control live? Where?
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