Cleveland noise-rockers Cloud Nothings return Jan. 27 with Life Without Sound, their fifth album and first release since 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else. “It’s a poppier record,” the group’s 25-year-old frontman Dylan Baldi tells EW. “I’ve just been trying to write pop songs, in a way — or my own version of them.”
Among the record’s most immediate cuts is “Internal World,” Baldi’s pop-punk ode to “realizing you’re not the person who’s always right.” But its video, which EW is excited to premiere below, is stranger than the song’s universal lyrical themes or familiar power chords might suggest.
“Generally with videos, what we try to do is just find someone that we think is gonna make something weird,” Baldi says. “We just want to find someone who’s going to do something that we think will be cool and strange and might not even make sense.” That led the band to Jonny Look, a filmmaker they knew of from their Cleveland days who has made clips for artists including Cass McCombs and Tim Darcy.
The result is a disorienting, lo-fi instructional video about “etiquette and manners education” sponsored by the “Department of Human Being Assimilation” and the “Reptile Assimilation Board.” Baldi pauses when considering how it relates to the song itself. “Someone who’s a lizard might think differently than someone who’s not, I guess,” he decides, with a laugh.
Check out the video for “Internal World” below, along with EW’s interview with Baldi.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you take a bunch of down time after touring Here and Nowhere Else or was writing and recording this pretty spread out?
DYLAN BALDI: Between our last two records we just toured too much. Nobody should be on the road that much — you start feeling crazy. At that point, you either keep touring and you never stop touring or you take a break and you’re like, “OK, I’m a person again. I like being home.” We took the being-home-for-a-while option. This album came together in that two-year period.
Were there any lyrical inspirations for it?
Everything I write about just tends to be [about] people my age doing anything. Someone my age who’s working on cars somewhere or someone my age’s who’s working at a company somewhere. All people seem to realize the same things at the same time, in terms of maturing and growing up. I’m just happening to do that on record. This record deals with a less myopic worldview, maybe. Being like, “I can understand why someone would think differently on this subject than I would.”
How’s this record different musically from previous Cloud Nothings albums?
Production-wise, it’s a step up. It’s a very clear-sounding, full, well-produced and recorded album. That’s what I’ve been trying to perfect obsessively over the course of all these records — just getting clearer and cleaner and more concise and direct in the way I say these things and the way these songs move and sound. I just want everything to be as tight and necessary as possible.
Were there pop songwriters you were trying to emulate?
None of the big guys. There’s stuff I think of as pop that probably nobody [else] does. I’m a big fan of this band Radioactivity. Going back way back there’s the Wipers, who I was obsessed with for a long time. That guy wrote pop songs in a way! It’s not like Taylor Swift or something, but there’s a pop element to it. Catchy songs, choruses, hooks and things. I just want to continue that tradition.
Is there a song you’re most excited to play live?
The last song, “Realize My Fate,” is one of the darkest, more intense things we’ve ever made. I’m curious to see where we even put that in the set! It doesn’t even make sense anywhere. It’ll be funny to just pop that in after a really catchy tune, like, “By the way, here’s this evil thing we did.”