Cloud Nothings' Dylan Baldi tells it like it is

Cloud Nothings, reinventors extraordinaire
Noah Kalina

Cloud Nothings mastermind Dylan Baldi carved out a reputable following with his indie-pop-leaning first two albums — 2010's Turning On and last year's self-titled release — but it would have been hard to predict he'd release a masterpiece like this year's Attack on Memory so soon. For the new LP, Baldi enlisted a full band (he'd previously recorded mostly by himself) but also legendary producer Steve Albini. Each added power and clarity that couldn't have been mustered if the Nothings was still a one-man project. The result is just eight songs in 33 minutes, but the punch it packs can't be assessed by the numbers. From the nine-minute fuzz-out "Wasted Days" to the hook-heavy moments in "Fall In," "Stay Useless," and "Cut You," Attack puts as much rock in indie-rock as any other release this year — with plenty of passion and catharsis to boot. It's a major overhaul for Baldi, a 21-year-old Cleveland native.

Despite Attack dropping in January, it will undoubtedly show up on countless critics' year-end best-of lists. For now, the Nothings are on the road, and will play a show at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall on Sunday. City Pages spoke with Baldi about new material, a surprise meet-up with Stephen Malkmus, and his practice of not practicing guitar.

Gimme Noise: If you continue recording at the rate you've been, there should be a new Cloud Nothings LP by this time next year. Are you in fact prepping new material?

Dylan Baldi: I don't think it'll be out by this time next year, but we would like to release an album later in 2013. We've just been touring so much that we haven't had a chance to write or record. But I have a feeling things are gonna sound pretty different from Attack on Memory stuff, just because I get bored so easily.

GN: Attack on Memory is undoubtedly the best-received Cloud Nothings album yet, but you did catch flak from some fans who found it too different from the first two records. What do you say to those naysayers?

DB: Too bad. [laughs] I'm gonna do whatever I like, even if sometimes it's not what other people wanna hear. Only making what other people want to hear is a pretty pathetic way of doing things. I'm not too bothered when other people are upset with us changing.

GN: You don't exactly shred in any of Cloud Nothings' music, but it's apparent that you have some serious skill on guitar. Do you still actively practice your instrument?

DB: I've always just sort of played; I've never practiced to practice. I guess from just [playing], like, all the time, I got pretty good. I could play like Buckethead, or something awful like that, but I don't because I don't like the way that stuff sounds.

GN: Cloud Nothings have always had strong hooks. Where do you think that's come from?

DB: I've always liked music [with hooks]. When I sit down to write a song, that's what I think about. It's always been like that, but I think I've gotten better and better at it.

GN: Cloud Nothings has become a more collaborative process as it's gone on. Will that trend continue?

DB: I'll definitely play with the band from now on, but as far as production goes, it'd be nice to at least be in a real studio. But that's expensive, and we'd like to at least try to record on our own.

GN: Any particularly amusing stories from the road?

DB: Stephen Malkmus walked into our dressing room at a festival in France [La Route du Rock] a couple of weeks ago! I almost peed my pants, because he's one of my heroes. Most of my highlights are kinda nerdy. "Oh, we stayed in a nice hotel and I got to sleep for eight hours." No typical rock-star stories.

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