Interview: Cloud Control

Recent winners of the Australian Music Prize and bloggers’ darlings Cloud Control are on something of a clichéd, meteoric rise these days. Having toured with the likes of Vampire Weekend and Aussie-scene stars The Temper Trap, debut album Bliss Release – a euphoric, dreamy piece of catchy summer pop – has been making more than enough of its own waves down under. In Europe they’re still relative newcomers, though all signs point the situation not lasting for too long. State caught up with drummer Ulrich Lenffer as the four-piece cruised through their native Blue Mountains after a rare day or two off, heading for yet another monster tour…

Bliss Release sounds almost as if you’re trying to tell a little bit of a story as you go through; it has a great flow to it. Was it intentional?

It’s funny, a lot of people say that, but the songs weren’t written in the order that they’re on the album, or designed to be in that particular way. It just seemed the most natural fit when we were putting it together. We have to give credit to the production team for that, really.

When did you feel like things were really taking off for you?

It hasn’t come on leaps and bounds as much as in splurges. It’s been very gradual, but, at the same time, the progression has been weighty. The things that have happened actually had significance to us. Sorry, that seems very convoluted… what I mean is we’d win something in Australia that wouldn’t necessarily give us any reward monetarily, but just seemed like a reputation boost. When you’re trying to sell an album, that’s what you need really, more than money.

You seem to have done very well out of bloggers, Internet hype etc. Does that help with your international reach?

For sure. Everyone around us is banging on about blogging and the media sphere and… we tend to think it’s all a load of crock but the proof is in the pudding. When you turn up in Germany and there are 300 people there, and you have no idea how they even know of you, let alone where and when you’re playing… it’s the Internet. That’s the only reason.

We’ve just typed your district, Blue Mountains, into Google images. It’s absolutely stunning. Does it come out in your music?

Getting back here after Texas, which is just flat desert, was fantastic, it’s so big and green and colorful that it was almost a bit of an overload really. In terms of our music, we wrote a lot of our songs in a deep valley in the far recesses of Blue Mountains. The peace and the tranquility of that’s definitely somewhere in our music. Having said that, we don’t go into the bush, stare at a tree and try to convert that into a style of music, it’s more subtle than that.

What is a standard songwriting technique for you?

Al writes most of the songs as simple acoustic demos, with a little drumming, maybe a few handclaps and a tambourine, but that’s it. They’re just fragments of choruses and verses, maybe a bridge. Then we flesh it out. We often sit on it for a while and eventually something terms up out of the blue and kind of says ‘hey, I’m actually a song’.

How has life changed over the last year or so?

It’s been really ridiculously hectic. Take this week, we just got back from Europe and Texas for several weeks, and I’ve just now got three days off. It’s been absolute heaven. We’re about to fly out and start another tour. It really is a heavy touring schedule. It’s really fun, we’re really enjoying visiting exotic places, but it does take its toll in terms of exhaustion.

You have a background in journalism, so it must be a bit strange reading your own press?

I just find it funny. I know the theory as I studied journalism, and so many journalists will just throw the rules out of the window for a good story. So beware! My mum will read it before I do, though!

You relocated to the UK for a little bit last year. Do you think it’s a disadvantage being based in Australia, when it comes to making an impact on the more international scene?

Australia’s great but it’s a tiny market. Once you’ve cornered it somewhat, there’s only so much you can do, unless you’re the next INXS. You can’t really make a living touring Australia. Also, it’s exciting. It’s a great thought to try and tackle an entire continent one country at a time. We get to travel Europe for free, playing music and having fun.

You have a bit of an Irish connection in the band, right?

Yeah, Al, the singer, is of Irish descent. When we came over last time he met all these relatives he’d never seen before. They all turned up to the show and patted him on the back. It’s funny, as Heidi and I have German heritage. We do feel a bit different when we’re in our own countries. It must be some sort of cultural connection on a subconscious level. Al does seem happier in Ireland, maybe it’s just me projecting, I don’t know.

We’ve heard your live show’s a little bit different to the album…

Yeah, we’ve actually been thinking about that this week. We’ve been reading reviews of our shows here in Australia and they’ve been quite funny. Live we’re a rock band, ostensibly, we rock out far harder than we do on the album, so people come to our shows and they’re a bit surprised by all the distortion and stuff like that. If you listen carefully to the record it is there, it’s just layered a bit more deeply. It’s a texture in the album, and in our live shows it’s a force. We’ve been working on getting some of the subtlety of the album into the live show. Instead of just going full force, we’re looking to get some acoustic versions in. Apart from that it’s just a good time! It’s quite funny when you get girls coming up to you after and saying ‘that was a bit too loud for me’ and then the guys are going ‘man that was awesome, that’s rock’. It’s weird, because we’re not really just either one style or the other.

What’s it like having your sister in the band?

It’s a bond that can’t be bought, unbreakable. It’s what you want in highly pressured situations. We get on well.

Tell us about the story behind Jeremy’s nickname ‘The Undertaker’?

It’s so funny, it’s such an insignificant little thing. He has an old hollow-body bass from the 60s that nobody makes cases for anymore. He got this huge, coffin-shaped case lined with velvet and lugged it around London, so he became ‘The Undertaker’. He only had it for a week. The nickname’s probably stuck a little longer than necessary!

You mentioned on your website that you’d like to meet Irish fans after your show and have a few drinks together?

Yeah. Guinness. We’re big fans. We’ve had it in England and it’s rubbish, but in Ireland it’s something special. It’s getting harder to do stuff like that at home these days, especially at all ages shows, as the kids go a bit bonkers.

Do you foresee a time when you have similar problems over here?

Well, put it this way, in Australia it took us five years to get three hundred people in a room. We got the same number for our very first shows in Germany, Amsterdam and Paris. Our label is great, we have a good package together, and the album seems to be going down well. I don’t think it’ll take that long, to be honest. I’m not suggesting we’ll be selling out arenas, but having the mechanics behind us seems to be getting a result quite quickly.

As published on, April 2011.

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