Thursday, April 15, 2021
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An Interview with Cloud Cult


Cloud Cult is hitting up Urban Lounge on Sunday, April 18 as part of their U.S. tour, and it’s likely their last appearance in Salt Lake City for a while. So, whether or not you’re familiar with Craig Minowa’s labor of love circa 1995, now’s the time to start.

Last month, the experimental indie ensemble brought us their 10th full studio release, The Seeker. It accompanies a feature-length film of the same name, due out later this year. I chatted with the frontman and environmentalist on the LP, “greening” the music landscape, and what’s in store for SLC.

CC: Many bands are reticent to cross into other media, but you actively release your music across platforms, with a movie coming out to complement your album. How do you feel about branding?

CM: I think we’ve always tried to combine a lot of visuals with the music onstage, like having live painters onstage. I started doing a lot of scoring work for National Geographic documentaries and independent films. I wanted to continue that flavor of music, where you can have long instrumental periods in an album and not worry about just having formulaic, 3-minute verse-chorus-verse kind of thing. Of course you have that on the album too, but it was less of a concern.

CC: What was your goal in making The Seeker (film)?

CM: I’ve wanted to do a film with an album for quite a while, and when I realized this one had a storyline and what it was, it was feasible. On top of that, the music industry has changed dramatically with the popularity of Spotify and other streaming services. CD sales are, across the board, down 80%. We needed to do something original to get people on the train. So I also released a chapter every single week so people grab on to the storyline and are hungry for what’s gonna happen next.

CC: How can the film and the album be appreciated respectively and as one entity? 

CM: Part of the intention of not releasing both at the same time was to allow people to have their own personal relationship with the songs. We’ve had a few sneak peek screenings so far and from what I’ve heard, people who have listened to the album got something totally different from the film. A director of the film has fraternal twins on the way, so I think it’s a somewhat similar analogy. They came from the same womb and have a lot of similarities, but their own personalities.

CC: What was it like working with Jeff Lipton (Bon Iver, Arcade Fire)?

CM: He’s great! I think the better mastering engineers out there are really transparent about their strong opinions about design. A lot of people go to one with the intention of getting as much volume out of the album as possible [for] the radio, and he’s really good about not playing that way. 

CC: What topics do you find yourself gravitating towards when you write? 

CM: It comes back to exploration; why we’re here; what’s our purpose; what the whole God thing is all about; how can we get in touch with the afterlife. Big cosmic questions. For me, the most powerful things I’ve experienced from music is that feeling of connecting to something bigger than myself. That’s what attracted me to music a long time ago, and it still does today. I feel like I’m looking for some kind of solution with each album, and that the question is phrased a little bit differently each time, but ultimately, I think when an album’s finished, I always end up back in the same spot, which is right here and right now. You have this moment and nothing else, so what are you gonna do with it?

CC: Your music is interestingly tied to a lot to environmental causes. Are those two things you’d initially planned on meshing?

CM: No, in fact, I was actually an environmental scientist for a living, and music was just a side hobby. It wasn’t until things really started to take off with the music that I felt like we could do positive work with Cloud Cult too. It required new models that weren’t available as far as environmental CD manufacturing.

And it’s not just environmental. I used the music for our grieving process when we’d (he and wife/fellow band member Connie Minowa) lost our son a few years back. The music ended up being something that other people who were going through loss found some kind of medicine in. That unintentional positive effect is something we now really put a lot of focus on.

CC: You and your wife had a child in 2009, right? 

CM: Yeah, we’ve got a 4-year old and a 6-year old now. 

CC: Has that changed things? 

CM: There’s literal changes, like you can’t stay up until 4 o’ clock in the morning in the studio and still wake up and be a good dad. It’s been rare that we’ve come to Salt Lake City, just because those drives are really hard on the kids. With this tour, unfortunately, it might be quite a while before we get back to Salt Lake City because we’re shifting to doing more flights.

CC: I read that you were approached by a lot of major labels but you insisted to stay with your own (Earthology). Why was that important to you?

CM: The songs are children and we’re putting them out there into the world. When a major label owns the publishing, there’s more pressure to allow those songs to be used in commercials of products you don’t agree with. We recently had an offer from Coca-Cola for a big campaign in Latin America, had done some work done there and saw Coca-Cola’s privatization of the limited water supplies, and what that was doing to the natives. We just didn’t feel comfortable signing on. I think it ultimately ended up working in our favor. Because we’ve really focused on having everything be as ethical as possible, we’ve got a lot of long-term stability.

CC: How have your efforts at “greening” the music industry panned out? 

CM: This album is the first time we’ve done a vinyl product. We haven’t done records in the past ‘cause they’re made out of polyvinyl chloride. The production of PVC creates dioxin, which is one of the most potent carcinogens out there. We’ve been trying really hard to work with companies to grind up old albums and make a recycled album, and right now, it’s falling pretty flat, ‘cause we got our first shipment of albums and they’re all scritchy-scratchy and don’t sound good so we’re trying to figure out what we’re gonna do (laughs).

CC: What can we expect at your upcoming show?  

CM: Knowing that we don’t know when we’ll get to come back to Salt Lake City again, we plan to do an extra-long set – really incorporate a lot of the new album with past ones and acoustic material, and really start the evening on a journey together. 

Visit Cloud Cult’s official site to listen to The Seeker and purchase tickets for their upcoming show. Click here to preview the film.

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Photo by @gravesstuart

Inspired by @oldsaltlake, we're celebrating #throwbackthursday with a favorite snapshot of early 20th century Salt Lake City. 🏖️⁠

Photos shared by @oldsaltlake are inspiring millennials and zoomers decades later with visions of a different city: one with easily accessible public transportation, walkable streets, local businesses (open late) and distinctive architecture.⁠

See more photos at the link in our bio. ⁠

Pictured: Women relax at what is believed to be Saltair Beach, date unknown

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Read more about Irene at the link in our bio!

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Photo by @gravesstuart

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Head to the link in our bio for a tribute to Blue Plate Diner. (And keep supporting your favorite local restaurants. ❤️)

Tony Caputo, a food evangelist and founding father of today’s SLC food community, passed away last night.⁠

Tony started @caputosmarket in 1997, bringing his passion for the cuisine of his heritage to Utah tables. Most days during the lunch rush you’d find Tony behind the counter slicing meat and cheeses and then, after it wound down, holding court out front. He’d often rush back behind the counter and holler over his shoulder, “you have to try this!" only to return with a sample bite of veiny cheese, a paper-thin leaf of prosciutto or a perfectly crisp amaretti cookie that he’d recently added to his menagerie of taste. For his many contributions to Salt Lake City, we awarded Tony with a Lifetime Achievement Dining Award in 2007.⁠

Today, we're sending love to @caputosmarket and the many people whose lives were touched by Tony. A full tribute is on our website now. ❤️

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That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠

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A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬

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At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

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2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @fisherbrewing for Creative Canning⁠

This year, Fisher found ways to utilize their beer, taproom space and canning capabilities for good. They created special lines of limited edition beers in custom cans to help raise funds for local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. 💙⁠