Experimental indie rockers Cloud Cult, out of Duluth, Minnesota, first began playing together over 20 years ago. Since, they’ve released nine full lengths — each chock full of wiry guitars, operatic orchestration, and lyrics meditating on the mysteries that saddle the human existence — toured extensively, and earned a rabid fanbase. This week will see the arrival of their 10th studio LP, and the group has gone even bigger with the project, pairing a feature-length film, starring How I Met Your Mother‘s Josh Radnor, with the music.
Lyrical mastermind and frontman Craig Minowa recently spoke to EW about his bond with Radnor, his constant need to create, and what it means to be a Seeker.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where in the recording process for The Seeker did the concept of following this girl’s life, from birth through adulthood, emerge?
Minowa: [Album opener] “Living In Awe” was written really early on, prior to recognizing the storyline of the project. But in its basic, early forms, it was what triggered the understanding that this was a story. I was driving home after rehearsal, previewing a draft of the song, and I realized, “Oh, this is the mom having contractions right now.” Full visuals started to come on. From there, the story started to get very clear.
You’ve partnered this album with a feature-length film, starring How I Met Your Mother‘s Josh Radnor. How did he get involved in the project?
Josh became a Cloud Cult fan a few years back. He was coming out to shows and it turned out that he and I had a lot of similarities, like the propensity for philosophizing and spiritual seeking. He’s a beautiful, beautiful guy. When this idea came forward, we realized how much talent it would require — with no dialogue you have to be a really good actor, so I reached out to Josh. He was doing some spiritual seeking down in Peru at the time and he emailed right back and said he was in.
The plot of the album and film follow that little girl, and she suffers a lot of tragedy early on in life. What inspired her story?
My dad got diagnosed with a terminal illness a couple of years ago, so he’s in his latter stages right now — there’s an aspect of that what weighs into it. And we [Minowa’s wife, Connie is a member of the band] lost our two-year-old a few years back, and that’s always on the radar for us. The bigger picture of mortality and “Why are we here?”-type stuff is pretty frequently visited for us.
Is there one song or chapter of this project that you’re most excited for people to hear?
I know that from the first performances right now “No Hell” is really cathartic to play.
Is catharsis a big reason that you to continue creating? This is your 10th official album with Cloud Cult.
It’s a huge draw. I feel like if we’re going to spend this much time and energy putting something out there and performing it on stage each night, there needs to be some kind of positive result out of that. If I don’t have inner revelations by the end of the show, then I didn’t connect right. [So] the need to create is directly tied to the need to search. I find a lot of inner growth and discovery in the composition process. Even if people weren’t buying it, I would need to do it.
Given that so much of your music, then, is about personal discovery, what is your relationship with your early music? Do you have the same questions now or do you feel like you’ve found some answers?
One of the discoveries that I personally felt gratified by was this recognition that this is a vast and mysterious universe, and the idea that I or anybody else will ever be able to wrap their brain around it to fully understand it is absolutely ridiculous. Something that I’m coming to terms with more and more is that I don’t know — and that I am going to just live through it in awe. That’s my spiritual practice.
The Seeker is due out this Friday, Feb. 12 via Earthology Records. The group will tour in support, all current dates are listed below. Sneak peak screenings of the Seeker film begin Wednesday, Feb. 10 in Minnestoa. (A full list of screenings is available on the group’s website.) The film has been released serially, on Pledge Music.
February 6th: Papa Charlies at Lutsen Mountains in Lutsen, MN
February 19th: Turner Hall in Milwaukee, WI
February 20th: Barrymore Theatre in Madison, WI
March 4th: Civic Center (Preservation Hall) in Rochester, MN
March 5th: Temple Theatre in Viroqua, WI
March 11th: Grandma’s Sports Garden in Duluth, MN
March 12th: State Theater in Minneapolis, MN
April 3rd: Thalia Hall in Chicago, IL
April 6th: U Street Music Hall in Washington, DC
April 7th: The Foundry @ The Fillmore in Philadelphia, PA
April 8th: Bowery Ballroom in New York, NY
April 9th: The Sinclair in Boston, MA
April 16th: Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO
April 17th: Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City, UT
April 19th: Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, CA
April 20th: The Chapel in San Francisco, CA
April 22nd: The Neptune in Seattle, WA
April 23rd: Aladdin Theater in Portland, OR
May 29th: Revival Fest in Clark’s Grove, MN