Band Interview: Carousel Clouds

Carousel Clouds band Photo

So first of how did you all meet?

Various places, I’ve played with Matt for 13 years and used to play in a band with Dickon. Tam and I used to be flatmates. Although everyone had been through the doors of BUSK at one point or another, so that is the common ground. Myself and Dan from Optional Wallace ran the BUSK acoustic night every month in Manchester, for nine years. Ben used to play there, so did Tam. Dickon and Dale played it, Jam was a regular when it started, in my Uni days. When it came to beginning Carousel Clouds, it seemed obvious to work with people who I’d gotten to know or played with before.

Where are you all from?

All Manchester or Salford-based, either born and raised or lived here all of our adult lives, at least. They are separate cities in their own right, although the city centre of each are only separated by a river, so extremely close geographically.

How long have you been playing your respective instruments?

I can only answer for myself, but started playing guitar at 14. I played piano before that, and then mostly bass until Carousel Clouds started. Matt (drums) is better at every one of those instruments than I am, by some distance, and I think Dickon was playing guitar, piano and the double bass before he left the maternity ward!

What genre of music do you consider your work to be?

‘Ghost-gaze’ – definite shoegaze elements, bits of drone, although with some haunting effects and lyrics inspired by the afterlife! Plus some disjointed time-signatures, and three-part harmonies.

What are your influences?

Ben loves his shoegaze, Brian Jonestown, although he and Matt can (and do!) chat for hours about Pink Floyd and their favourite prog. Jam and I became friends at uni, by discussing the Stone Roses believe it or not, and we both love Mansun.

Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?

Only ever in rehearsals during breaks, and it always seems to be Rage against the Machine (various songs)!

What if anything does your name mean/why are you called that?

When Carousel Clouds started, I liked the idea of a transient membership, rather than fixed band members in the traditional sense; asking people if they want to collaborate or help out where they can. The carousel keeps turning, as people hop on and off. Musically and lyrically, there are hazy, unclear or ‘cloudy’ or elements. Plus, I do love a bit of alliteration.

Do you have a process for writing your songs? /Which of you writes the songs?

It can vary, although I usually have a lyric idea first. I make notes all the time and carry them ‘round with me, scribbling away. Sometimes I start with a lyric and work it into a song, but equally I can be playing bits of music first then fit some lyrics to it. There’s no formula really, which I think it good, because I would hate to revert to ‘type’, it would get stale and dull. Always Talking was written on a piano, and Starts + Ends from a very slow phrase I did on an organ, then built into a song. Grace – the new single – was originally an instrumental piece by Ben, which he asked me to write a melody and lyric to, before the band existed. It gradually morphed once the live instrumentation arrived.

What are your rehearsals generally like?

Rare! But good fun. It’s not often that all of us can get together, so we often work on different parts of songs separately, without knowing how they will sound when all finished. We have had to work quite cleverly, working on things individually before bringing it together when we can. It means we cannot jam things out too often, but there’s still room for spontaneity and it can be exciting when we do get to hear everything together.

Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?

Dickon plays regularly with other acts, making it tricky to find dates which suit everyone. We played in Salford last year, the same night he was booked to play in Wigan. He had to drive to Wigan to soundcheck, drive straight to Salford to soundcheck and then play with Carousel Clouds, then straight back to Wigan (15 miles away) to play the other show! We had to move our stage time around, and he literally ran out the door at the end of the last song, guitar feedback still ringing out (we had agreed to pack his gear down). Apparently, he made the other show ok, and it went down really well, as did ours!

What song do you remember most from your childhood?

An early one I remember was Nessun Dorma, the song for Italia 90. They had it on in our school assembly (I was 7), and it was possibly the first time I had experienced and association between music and an event, and it still working out of the context I had know it in (watching the football on TV). I suppose it made me realise that music can carry meaning, and does not just have to exist within one context.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

The biggest challenge for us is all getting together to write, rehearse and even play live. We recorded the album without the five of us ever being in the same room during the recording process. It’s not ideal, but with patience, planning and some very talented people, it can work. It was also exciting hearing different parts of songs appear as the album gradually built up, with people recording their different parts and emailing them in to The Ranch, like opening an advent calendar every day on the way up to Christmas!

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

All the usual sites and platforms, plus we made a CD with four-page booklet for the album. We wanted something people could have, hold and hopefully cherish. There’s a lyric sheet which can be printed off, and fit into the album sleeve pocket, too. We would love to press the record onto vinyl, if there is enough interest.

Have you released anything yet/if you have how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?

Our debut album Tales of Coincidence was released in April. Most of the second album is already written, and we are hoping to start the recording next year. It is likely to be another collaborative effort, with recording parts taking place separately again, and so may be 2020 before it is finished.

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?

We tend to arrange our own shows, usually in Manchester and Salford, and so they all become special in their own right. It’s more tricky managing the event, tickets, promotion etc, but it does mean you can curate the evening how you want it, in terms of acts on the bill, ticket prices, the mood and music between acts, and of course the venue itself. We’ve had some really special nights, at the Castle, Eagle Inn, Kings Arms and Peer Hat venues, with some wonderful acts playing with us, and built a very loyal crowd who come along and are always appreciative. We’re planning another in December…. We’d love to get out on the road and play around the UK, if the timings and logistics all work, too.

What do you think about downloading music online?

It’s an inevitable part of society nowadays, but acts can use it in their favour, as the opportunity for a bigger audience hearing your music is greater than ever. The Arctic Monkeys came at the right time to shake the industry up (embracing MySpace at the time), and showed that you can do alright for yourselves despite not everything being a record or CD sale, in the traditional sense.

What’s your outlook on the record industry today?

There are great opportunities for acts to be heard. Technology means people can make amazing music at home, and instantly share it with the world. Of course, there will always be a place for labels, promoters and radio to filter through and find the best bits for people, but the opportunities are there. The ‘major’ labels still seem to lean towards safe, music-school graduate types, which can be unfortunate and unrepresentative of what’s going on, but hopefully this won’t last as people can see through any blandness. What is more worrying is the lack or rehearsal facilities and infrastructure for bands now, you wonder where the next breakthrough act can make a racket together, without having huge funds to pay for a space, or paying to go to music school.

And let’s end with something a little different…Which famous person, alive or dead, would you have dinner with and why?

Dale answers: “Definitely alive, eating with someone that was dead sounds dead odd. In fact, eating dinner with Dead Or Alive sounds good. Pete Burns is interesting.”


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