"OK, now we're going to do a bunch of new ones," Dylan Baldi says to a packed crowd at Brooklyn's Glasslands Gallery in November. Baldi's voice is soft-high, but craggy; the voice of a kid still months away from being able to drink in the venues he plays--and his Cleveland-based band, Cloud Nothings, has just torn through a short set of jangly pop-punk gems from its first two releases, 2010's "Turning On" and last year's self-titled LP.
But then the show shifts as Cloud Nothings jump into a set list featuring songs from their third album, "Attack on Memory." To say that the new project, due Jan. 24 on Carpark Records, marks a change would be an understatement. Gone are the pristine sugar-rush guitars. First single "No Future/No Past" opens with the solemn twinkling of a piano that builds into a drone of haunted six-string noodling, pulsating drums and Baldi's repeated coarse wail--"No future, no past"--until it bursts.
"I was just bored of playing the same kind of thing," Baldi says of moving away from the band's earlier sound. "I felt like I couldn't do much more of that kind of stuff without just repeating myself or getting stuck in a further rut. I decided to start experimenting with different song structures, tones and instruments to just see what came out of that."
"Attack" marks the first time the entire band-which Baldi started as a college student to escape the boredom of his audio recording and saxophone performance courses and has since evolved into a full-fledged four-piece-has taken part in writing and recording. While the collaborative nature of the project allowed for more, varied ideas to be shared, the band looked to further escape that tedium, which had even begun to affect its live show, by crafting intricate songs open to improvisation (see "Attack"'s nearly nine-minute freakout "Wasted Days"). But the group didn't completely abandon its poppier past. Second single "Stay Useless" sounds familiar, but with new additions that Baldi calls the "little things here and there to keep it fun and interesting."
Another not-so-little addition: Cloud Nothings worked on the "Attack" sessions with indie stalwart Steve Albini. On the suggestion of Carpark founder/CEO Todd Hyman, the band headed to Chicago last summer-just six months after the release of Cloud Nothings-to work with Albini at his Electrical Audio studio.
"The people who didn't like the [previous] record often kind of dig on the production," Hyman says. "They thought it was maybe a little too slick, or kind of alt-pop-punk kind of sounding. I thought, 'Maybe if we add something a little more stripped-down people would be more into it.'"
The bold "No Future/No Past" was picked as a first single "to drum up interest in this band that's growing, improving what they're doing," Baldi says. And it's worked. After the overwhelmingly positive responses, Hyman says Carpark ramped up its publicity to get the word out about the project, especially to more rock-oriented audiences. The band teamed with Urban Outfitters to make a music video for "No Future/No Past" as part of the "UO Video Series," and a cross-country headlining tour sits on deck.
"It's important for each album to sort of make an introductory statement or something," Baldi says. "Once you have a sound and you make two albums that sound like it is kind of when bands start to get a little stale and bland to me. My favorite bands do something a little different with every record. Hopefully we're headed there."