Dylan Baldi needed a break. So this last week, following a wondrous European tour, the Cloud Nothings frontman and his girlfriend headed to Mexico City, where he’s happy to report that he’s eaten as many street tacos as possible.
“I just ate an al pastor taco for breakfast because I could,” Baldi confirms over the phone, still in Mexico.
And at 26, the singer-songwriter is beginning to enjoy the little things in life a bit more — the rhythm of being on the road and getting lost in the improvisational bits of a new record’s songs while performing on stage.
He says he’s into candles and crystals right now. They bring a sense of calm. Because in many ways, 2017 was the biggest year for the Cleveland indie rock band (see sidebar). After 200-plus shows featuring some of their largest crowds to date, Baldi reflects on the year behind him.
“For the band, it’s been good. For the world at large, it’s been a pretty bad year,” Baldi says. “Whenever we put something [January’s Life Without Sound
] out, then we tour nonstop, and that was the case this time.”
Cloud Nothings, which started as a solo project in Baldi’s parents’ Westlake basement, is one of the hometown bands that continues to bring national attention to the local music scene. Three of the four of the guys even live in a house together in the Old Brooklyn area. So rather than end their year with a concert elsewhere, the four-piece will headline Beachland Ballroom’s New Year’s Eve show.
“That will be a perk. It’s nice to play in Cleveland,” Baldi says. “There are people we don’t always see who will be there.”
Some portion of the crowd will include the original fans who’ve been showing up to support the band since 2009. And then, there's Baldi’s parents. They have yet to miss a Cleveland gig. Cloud Nothings will play the raucous songs they’ve crunched through hundreds of times and most of the more introspective new ones too. Mid-set, Baldi says, the countdown to the New Year will begin. Then, they’ll continue playing their expansive and layered tunes into the early hours. It'll be a fresh start for all.
Baldi admits being on stage isn’t always the easiest time for him (which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone taking a deep dive into his angst-filled lyrics).
“I don’t like looking at people when we play,” Baldi says. “If I look at the audience too long, I see the one guy who’s having a bad time. I find if I close my eyes, I can pretend it’s the best show ever.”
Next year brings more music-making for the band. It’ll hit up Australia in February, and Baldi says the group plans to write and record another album. Life Without Sound
took nearly a year of meticulous writing, and the band then spent another year of waiting for its release. Baldi says never again. This time will be like previous records, a more wham-bam approach.
Now, after eight years together, Baldi says that playing music full-time has gotten somewhat more routine — in a positive way.
“It’s nice. It’s easier. Touring used to feel like I didn't know what’s going to happen,” Baldi says. “Now, it’s a machine. It doesn’t even feel like work. And it’s interesting to watch other bands start and stop around us and to see who’s still around and still trying to make music. And we’re still here.”
Through all of the accomplishments, Baldi’s not convinced 2017 was the most defining for his crew. Over the summer, there was a lot more free time. Baldi would ride his bike around town, play music on his own or hang out in Philly with his girlfriend. The band played multiple festivals, including Chicago’s Lollapalooza. That show was fun, Baldi says, but far more memorable was having to break into the band’s Airbnb later that night after failing to make the key code work.
“It’s hard to say,” he says when asked about the year's biggest highlight. “We played shows that were the biggest we’ve played. But it didn’t feel that way. We had a giant show in March in London, it was a huge, sold-out show. But it felt like a show, it didn’t feel like a milestone. It was weird. I feel like at this point it almost is … we’re gonna keep doing it until we have to stop, until nobody comes to see the show anymore. Right now it’s like, ‘Okay, we did this year, we survived this. Let’s do it again.’”
Cloud Nothings NYE Show with Half An Animal, Christmas Pets, Tthe Village Bicycle, Forager, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31. Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $20 ADV, $25 DOS, beachlandballroom.com.
THE BIGGEST YEAR
The band finally releases its fifth studio album Life Without Sound
, which is produced by John Goodmanson (Deathcab for Cutie, Sleater-Kinney), and embarks on its first tour in two years.
The band plays to some of its largest crowds yet in the United Kingdom.
They head to China and Singapore to play their first headlining gigs ever in Asia.
The group plays a polarizing cover of Coldplay’s “Clocks” for AV Club
. The song is so heavily distorted that hardly anyone recognizes the original track. Animal noises are involved. That month, they also play the Panorama Music Festival in New York. They also open for the New Pornographers.
A robot-centric music video for “Up to the Surface” is released. They also play Lollapalooza.
The crew closed out the Grog Shop’s 25th Anniversary concert series.
The band heads out on a fall tour with Japandroids.
Cloud Nothings finish up its 2017 tour in Europe (after opening for Dinosaur Jr.), splitting off to various parts of the world to relax. They then ready to play Beachland Ballroom for their culminating Cleveland show.