CLOUD DSTRCT Making it rain

In just two years, Cloud Dstrct, the musical brainchild of Perth artist Joel Baker, has quickly emerged with a distinctly fresh voice on the local scene. At just 19 years old, he has crafted a youthful sound that blends the hip hop and R&B sounds of the Soundcloud era with hints of mod-pop and guitar-laden production. With his eye on a strong finish to the year and an even stronger 2021, Baker sat down with CALOGERO ALGERI to tell us more.

What’s been going on man? How’ve you been?

Good, man. Just taking things day by day. In terms of the music, just plotting the next couple of moves.

For anyone that doesn’t know, who or what is Cloud Dstrct?

That’s deep [laughs]. I would say I’m a musician, an artist. I would say Cloud Dstrct is a project that I started to document how my life was moving. I think that I’ve always just really been connected to music, and from a very young age my mum got me heavily into music and I learnt to document what was happening. And that was through writing. So yeah that’s what Cloud District is really: a documentation of my life experiences.

A lot of people don’t have the luxury of having an outlet in music.

I was talking about that recently. Through everyday lows, depression, heartbreak…if I didn’t have [music], I feel terrible for people who don’t have that creative outlet to let everything out. I couldn’t imagine not having that. That’s such an interesting concept to me.

I feel like everyone has some sort of outlet, but music is such a creative one so it’s a very cool thing to do. And to be able to do it well is another skill in itself.

That’s the next thing hey, that’s definitely the challenge. You can talk as much as you want in a song, but to make it translate well and for it to be listenable is the thing.

I was watching a previous interview where you were talking about how you use a lot of melody and I can definitely see that. There’s definitely some Post Malone vibes in your new releases and sprinkles of The Weeknd too. I notice that you get influence from a lot of darker, more ambient sounds but the overall general mood of your releases is still positive and upbeat. Is that done on purpose? Would you look at experimenting with darker sounds in the future?

The original vision of Cloud Dstrct, because we started as a duo, was a very dark, ambient sound. We wanted to base our sound on a very mysterious, dark feeling. That’s what our name is. It was very “cloudy” and there was a lot of uncertainty in our sound. Our influences were from people like Jaden Smith, The Weeknd, The Neighbourhood and Travis Scott…people that could hone in on that dark, ambient sound. They do it so well, but you can’t just replicate it, you have to make it your own. So those were the influences, that was the mood board. Then we thought, “Let’s try mould it into something we can do,” so a lot of our sound was based on the guitars and the synths.

I don’t know where the direction is heading exactly. The [unreleased] stuff in the bank is a combination of bright, uplifting stuff, and my mood swing which is just dark, ambient stuff. So there’s really no way of telling where I’m going, I just do this for fun.

I was reading a Rick Rubin quote today which said, “Every commercial decision should be made after the work is done.” The main priority should be making material that you like and all that other stuff comes later. It seems like you recognise that and create what you feel.

One hundred percent. Obviously now music is eighty percent business and twenty percent music. It’s all about who you know and things like that, but music shouldn’t be about the next Tik-Tok anthem. It shouldn’t be about seeing what’s popping now and making exactly that. It should be about making what you make. I don’t think Michael Jackson or Elvis Presley were looking around at other artists and thinking “Okay, I need to do what they’re doing.” They made exactly what they wanted to. The people that are committed to making it in music, they shouldn’t be concerned with making the next hit. It should be about whatever comes to mind and doing it.

You can tell when it’s authentic. It’s always better for it to come out from a real place.

Spot on, exactly.

So the new one, Coastline, it’s a re-release of a track you dropped last year? What was it about that song that made you want to get it out again?

Yeah, we dropped that one last December. Coastline is a very, very special track to me. That came about from a very simple drum pattern and bassline, and we built the guitars around it. I wrote the hook while I was driving along the coastline. Everything came about so naturally, that it meant a lot to me. I wrote the song about someone special so I wanted the song to get all the exposure it could. It’s like a little present to that person. The re-release is about getting as many ears on this song as possible. I still think it’s my favourite song. It’s my own song so that sounds a bit stuck up. [Laughs]

You have to love your work, that’s the most important thing. You actually do a lot of work as a videographer making music videos for other artists. That’s a really unique perspective on the scene. How do you go about balancing the two crafts?

It’s very hard to balance it, man. The way I see it is, the video work for me is work. It’s still really fun and I’ve always enjoyed doing videos. But film is business, and music is my outlet. I don’t get the same satisfaction from videos as I do from music. It’s a job and I still enjoy it but it is what is is. Music is just something where I can be myself. I’m not working for anybody else. It’s me in my element. I can say whatever I want, make whatever I want. I don’t have to ask anyone “Is this okay?” I think that’s the clear distinction.

It’s good to have the clarity to know that. It helps with where you direct your energy.

You use a lot of creative energy doing both. It is creatively draining. I know sound engineers that have the same problem; they spend so much energy on other people’s work it’s hard to bring it back to yourself.

What are you doing on the live side of things? Any shows lined up? 2020 has been a bit of a curve ball…

Yeah 2020 sucks a little bit [laughs]. There’s no shows planned at the moment. The last show we did was for Wesley Black’s Armageddon show.

I heard that was wild.

Man, Wesley Black is one of my favourite artists in the city. Not just an incredible artist but just a really good dude. Every artist put on a hell of show that night. I would say it’s the favourite show that I’ve done. I would never have thought that that many people would be jumping to Coastline. To me it’s such a chill track, but that night everyone popped off and was jumping. That was the one time I thought, “Okay, I think I’ve done something here. I think this music is connecting with people.”

It must be cool to see the human reaction from a song that you’ve made.

You really see the impact that you’ve made. There’s such an unreal feeling where you realise that the words that you wrote on pen and paper or in your phone, those words are coming out of the mouths of the people in that room. That’s such a surreal feeling. You feel like you’ve done something good.

Amazing. Anything else you wanted to add?

I will say we are re-releasing Coastline but I think potentially we are dropping one more single before the year ends. I performed this song at the Armageddon show and I’ve teased it a little bit and everyone seems to really like it. I love the summertime and this is a little long for the Summer. The next release was going to be the EP but I told my manager, “We gotta drop one more.” So that’s the next release, we’re dropping that mid-December.

Nice one, we look forward to hearing it! I’ll let you get back to it but thanks for taking the time to chat.

Appreciate it brother!

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