This Saturday, Craig Minowa and his band Cloud Cult will bring their unique brand of experimental indie rock to the Barrymore, with eccentric visuals and metaphysical sounds. Cloud Cult is essentially the perfect description for the band’s whimsicality. ‘Cloud’ connotes the fantastical, floating-in-the-cosmos feel, while the “cult” brings the idea back down to Earth, making their message tangible and giving their image a sharp edge. ‘Cult’ also connotes a sound that doesn’t fit in any particular mold, like the ever-present idiosyncratic melodies that have propelled Cloud Cult to the forefront of the indie consciousness.
The band’s sound is textural and big, but not quite the big band feeling you would expect from a band with a cello, trumpets, French horn and a violin. It tends to sound more like the soundtrack to an indie rock opera that takes place amongst the clouds. Layers of atmospheric sounds, rock guitar, deep violin pieces, funk bass, energetic percussion and soundboard production meld to make cacophonous yet inspiring ballads. What’s most profound about the band’s music is that each new track and each new album is a unique experience and singularly powerful. Their lyrics are brilliant and dark, reflecting their musicianship, and are reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel and Nirvana’s more experimental early days.
Craig Minowa — singer, songwriter, guitarist and founder of the band — described the sound they hope to bring to the Barrymore as an “experimental, electronic-achiever, rock, acoustic kind of thing.” Not frequently would those descriptors be used to describe the same product, but that’s what Cloud Cult does so well: They combine unlikely genres in a surprisingly smooth marriage, like the shoegaze guitar that builds over a distorted voice recording in “Da Dum” from their They Live on the Sun album. Their Saturday show will be half-acoustic and half-electric, reflecting their eccentricity and introducing this softer acoustic model to their repertoire in preparation for their first fully acoustic and live album that comes out April 15.
Cloud Cult started as a solo project by Minowa in 1995, who had not intended to start a band. He wanted to play music and record, but most importantly he wanted to channel his love for writing into an artistic medium. The band has changed in membership and sound, but the core themes and style remain constant. In line with the whole “Cloud Cult” image, Minowa developed their environmentalist image in 1997 when he started Earthology records on his organic farm. It’s a not-for-profit but for-the-environment record label that had its humble beginnings and remains very much off the beaten path. It started when Craig desiring a way to manufacture his CDs to be readily available and environmentally friendly.
“When I was young, I was attracted to different types of environmental work. I was originally going to school for environmental science, so when it came to starting a business I wanted to apply the same ethics,” Minowa said in an interview with The Badger Herald.
Minowa looks forward to Saturday’s Barrymore show. As a Minnesotan, he feels like the Midwest as a whole is a very tight-knit community.
“We have played everywhere from Madison to Minneapolis to Duluth,” he said. “This whole Midwest area just feels like home.”