By Chris Parker
By Jesse Marx
By John Baichtal
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Jesse Marx
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Tatiana Craine
By Judy Keen
Most of these letters come directly to Craig and Connie, but occasionally they pass them on to the band, who are similarly moved.
"A couple weeks ago as we were gearing up for this tour Craig sent out an email with just bits of emails that he had gone through," says Peiffer. "It was just kind of a reminder, like, this is why we're doing this, this is really important because the music does move people in this way. So that was a big, like, 'Cool, back on our feet with the right frame of mind.'"
Right now due to recent events especially I'm going through one of the toughest, deepest depressive states of my life and your music still serves as a cast for my broken feelings of self, love, and life.
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As Young points out, that openness extends beyond the letters, with fans frequently approaching the band members in person.
"I've had a woman come up to me and say, 'That was so cathartic,'" she says. "She had puffy eyes and you could tell that it was for her because, if you go from album to album, there is this process of grief that gets gone through that you could literally almost name the stages in. But at the end of the day, there's still hope and there's still love."
I am 19 years old.... My mother died on a camping trip...I stayed home because I had to work.... I have never experienced a loss like this before, and the way your music so phenomenally instills a message of life, and acceptance of death, and god, and everything that is unknown; is life-altering to me.
With all the stresses and strains of touring and the growing obligation to his own family, it's through these fan interactions that Craig finds his continued motivation.
"I wonder if [playing music is] one of the things that I'm supposed to be doing, that I should be doing, you know? That I have a responsibility to do that," he says thoughtfully. "Getting those fan letters are the things that kind of remind me, like, okay, I could pull the plug for reasons that affect me directly but, you know, how much longer can I go where I'm doing good, really good things with this?
"I'll keep going as long as I feel I can do that."
When the band arrive at St. Olaf the first week of September and unload their equipment for that night's show at the Lion's Pause, the weather is cool and overcast—one of the first signs of an early fall. Craig, however, is bright and bubbling and noticeably at ease.
"I'm usually really stressed out, a lot of anxiety before a tour. Just the anticipation is really hard on me," he says, sitting in a lounge of the student union. "It's just really nice to have everything packed up and just press the launch button and see what happens."
Craig leans back in his chair, arms folded on his lap, legs splayed out in front of him.
"[Connie and I] realized, in taking the break over the winter, that we really like traveling a lot, and the performances have come to be such a medicinal thing," he adds. "Everything's in the right place now and I'm trying not to think that the other shoe's going to drop, you know?"
About a half-hour before doors open, the band sit backstage chatting and running through their parts. The Lion's Pause will soon be full of people, lining the walls and leaning over the railings of the balcony, waving their cell phones in the air and dancing to the music. Right now, though, the room is empty, save for the instruments onstage and Craig and Connie. Nova has already been put to bed and they're busy setting up Connie's easel.
Craig reaches in to make an adjustment and Connie steps back to size it up. She nods in approval. Then Craig steps back as well and they put their arms around each others' waists. They look quietly at the canvas, on which Connie has penciled in the outline of a dove with its wings spread wide.
"I think a lot of the time about what comes after the music," Craig confesses. "Because the band, at some point—it's not going to fit my life anymore. But the spiritual journey that I have with the music, it's so important, I wonder: Do I join a monastery?" He lets out an easy chuckle, looking off to the side as if considering something in the distance.
"You know, simplify a lot, so I can just spend a lot of time meditating and really going on that path of seeking enlightenment."
Two of Cloud Cult's members wield brushes as their instruments
One thing's for sure about Cloud Cult concerts: There's rarely a dull moment. In addition to the six musicians making sounds, Scott West and Connie Minowa each produce a complete painting in roughly 45 minutes (and that's when they're not playing tambourine or jumping in on backup vocals).