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Cloud Cult Interview

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The Cloud Cult documentary No One Said It Would Be Easy will be released on April 21, and with it comes another credit for a band who for the past decade has been tireless in creating their art. Lead singer Craig Minowa and the film’s director and editor John Paul Burgess took some time to discuss the film and the process behind it; the idea behind its inception, the documenting process and what we can expect. Also touching on the band’s upcoming dates with Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, Minowa ends with expressing the band’s excitement in anticipation of their forthcoming Coachella debut.

Who originally came up with the concept for No One Said It Was Easy?

John Paul Burgess: I stepped into the project somewhat unknowingly. After agreeing to come along to film a two week tour, there was talk of a “Cloud Cult DVD” that had been talked about for a year or so. The original idea, as I understood it, was to make a “behind-the-scenes” DVD about touring, the band members and then provide concert footage. Using that as a starting place, I returned from that two week tour (in September of 2007) and began crafting a workable outline and narrative arc that expanded upon the original idea and grew to encompass a snap shot of the current band, as well as a look back at the entire 10+ year history of Cloud Cult.

The film title—No One Said It Would Be Easy—was derived from a Cloud Cult song of the same name, in reference to the emotional storyline behind the music, as well as the simple fact that Cloud Cult has worked incredibly hard to get where they currently reside as a band with a stable, growing following (after literally playing shows with no one in attendance).

What period of time does the film cover?

John Paul Burgess: The film covers it all. Beginning at present, the film provides viewers with a glimpse at the current state of the band, including what touring is like, what shows look and sound like as well as the philosophical underpinnings behind the songwriting (of which there are many). Following the look at present, the film literally “rewinds” itself and offers an annotated history behind each one of Cloud Cult’s albums, beginning with 1998’s The Shade Project though 2008’s Feel Good Ghosts. Band members discuss the stories and emotions behind each album and period of time in which they were released.

How involved was the band in the direction and production of the film?

John Paul Burgess: The band, surprisingly, was not directly involved with the film, outside of sitting down for interviews and responding to requests for shoots, etc. After I was initially invited along on a tour (this after putting together some concert footage for the band previously), the band kind of just let me run and trusted me with the film. The band didn’t even see rough cuts of the film until about a month before its completion (this after it had been in post-production for over a year). It was, however, established from the beginning that Scott West and I would collaborate on the film, as Scott, one of the driving forces behind all of Cloud Cult’s visuals, was initially charged with the responsibility of putting together the DVD. Naturally, we were able to collaborate on the visual dynamic of the film. Scott created the original art for various sections of the film, and I took them and animated them. Scott, too, did some animating of his art for the film.

In its trailer, there is a reference made to the band’s focus on inspiring creativity amongst its audience. Have you ever received any letters or emails from someone who wanted to express how Cloud Cult had positively influenced them?

Craig Minowa: We receive emails from fans all the time. Many of them tell of how our music has helped them deal with loss in their lives. We’ve also received many letters from artists who paint to cloud cult. Our music was also used as the backdrop for a play in NYC. It was Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

One of the most revealing characteristics of the band’s own lust for creativity is its general output—seven studio albums having been already released this decade. Why not sit back and release a new album every few years with an EP tossed in here and there for good measure?

Craig Minowa: The reason we’re in this business is because of an inherent passion and need to create. For that reason, cranking out albums isn’t a hassle, it’s just something we enjoy doing.

Do you find out something new about yourself with each new release?

Craig Minowa: The albums are very introspective, so the writing process is also a very therapeutic “self-help” process. It feels like each new song brings fresh insights into how to live better in this world.

How much of an enjoyment is the recording process for you… between playing shows and recording it seems like the band members hardly have any time apart. Does “personal space/time” ever become an issue?

Craig Minowa: We’re a very tight community. Everyone in the band gets along really well, so when we’re touring, we enjoy each other’s company. Also, the recording process is a little different for us, in that it’s not done with the whole band together. Most of the recording is done by me up in the studio on the farm.

Since the band has the reputation of being environmentally conscious, was there any sort of like-mindedness that influenced a decision to co-headline a tour with Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s?

Craig Minowa: This kind of just happened out of mutual admiration for the music that we/they create. We are also looking at it as a challenge to try to get eight people on and off of stage twice each night. They also have eight people on stage with them each night.

On a scale from Ben Stein to David Lee Roth, how excited are you to play this year’s Coachella festival?

Craig Minowa: David Lee Roth. We’re all looking forward to so many of the artists that are performing. Especially Beirut! None of us have seen them live before.