Brooklyn's Cloud Becomes Your Hand Will Get You Twisted
Cloud Becomes Your Hand might be thought of as Brooklyn's indie-pop answer to Baltimore's late, great Teeth Mountain: Dada-minded insurrectionists hellbent on dismantling various genres then re-assembling them inside out with gleeful aplomb. Classifying some of the pastiches on the quintet's 2010 self-titled album and 2011's Doggy Paddle Tore Tape (both self-released) is almost impossible, due to the volatility of the music's surrealism abacus from moment to moment: radio-serial interlude organs segue to Cave Bears-worthy primitivism to warped, sunny folk to miniature psychedelic masterpieces to manic Tortoise-esque sprints to spasms that suggest a malfunctioning tape deck mangling the innards of an cassette copy of an early Animal Collective record.
Here are two amazing things of note: 1) a submerged, intuitive logic connects all of the diversions and somehow keeps them from sounding random, and 2) these albums sound startlingly new everytime you re-crack their metaphorical seals and collapse anew into Cloud Becomes Your Hand's hair-brained hailstorms. Theirs is a sound that more than deserves to be heard beyond their borough. Singer/guitarist Stephe Cooper, violinist Hunter Jack, synthesizer player Weston Minissali, malletkat player Sam Sowyrda, and drummer Booker Stardrum are nurturing a sound that deserves to be celebrated beyond their zip code.
This email interview with SOTC was the band's first.
Where did the name Cloud Becomes Your Hand come from?
Stephe Cooper: The name "Cloud Becomes Your Hand" came from a puppet show I made with another group, called Living Things. There was a scene when a cloud beast with three eyeballs floated onto the puppet stage, and I was in charge of operating the cloud without my hand being seen.
Do you have a lot of background in puppetry?
SC and Sam Sowyrda: Our experience with puppetry started when we were in a performance-art group called Eagle Ager that often performed in large human-sized puppets/costumes. Living Things is an outgrowth of that group; it focuses on incorporating movement and theatricality into experimental music. In 2009, Living Things toured a piece that involved a bunch of sound-making puppets that we made out of instrument pieces and googly eyes.
The lyrics to "Nuclei Spinoffs" have haunted me since the first time I heard them; they come to mind at random moments. It's a profoundly mad-lib lyricism, on a surface level at least, but somehow you invest it with this profound longing. Where did this song come from?
About half of the lyrics in "Nuclei Spinoffs" - including the title - were written by my friend Robert Kocik, who is a poet and collaborator in the Prosodic Body. The rest of the lyrics I wrote based off of his words. The words are a testament to a brain pulsating with many different thought molecules, all bouncin' around. Robert also wrote the lyrics for "Butter on the Fire," which is on our first release.
Is there ever any weirdness or discontinuity for you in singing lyrics written by another person, even someone you know well? I know that pop music history is full of examples of this, but I'm always interested in artists' takes on that question.
SC: No, it's not a problem for me. A lot of times I splice in my own lyrics into someone else's anyway.
The cover art on Cloud Becomes Your Hand releases is always very playful and eye-catching, evoking a slightly surreal view of our world. Can you tell me about the artists who created the art for Doggy Paddle Tore Tape 2011 and Cloud Becomes Your Hand, and how you came to choose those pictures?
SC: The cover for the self-titled release was done by the artist Beethcake, aka Lindsay Rhyner. She usually does sculpture and textile type art; this was just a little doodle she sent me.
The second release, Doggy Paddle, has a cover by Jessica Cook, my former roommate whose artwork usually features some kind of little creatures. I asked her to make something for the tape, so it was created with that mind.
I like fantasy worlds; I always have. I grew up playing video games, and there is no doubt that the visual and musical aesthetic has stayed with me. I saw Ralph Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings when I was a kid and read the books; it's safe to say that was a crucial influence as well.
That sense of play and possibility definitely comes across in the music, which is sort of an idealist's vision of prog-rock. What are some of your favorite video games?
SC: The Legend of Zelda I and The Legend of Zelda II for the NES. I actually just put on the music from Ninja Gaiden II right now, to get in the mood.
Hunter Jack: My favorite video games are R.B.I. Baseball '94, Toe Jam and Earl, and Snake for the early Nokia phones.