Cloud Cult Talks To Us About Music, Art and Being Green

Hailing from Minneapolis Minnesota is the band Cloud Cult, who mixes everything from melodic rock, visual art and environmental awareness all in a nicely put together package. Cloud Cult consists of seven members including singer/songwriter Craig Minowa, cellist Sarah Young, violinist Shannon Frid, bassist Shawn Neary, drummer Arlen Peiffer, and visual artists/painters Connie Minowa and Scott West.

Originally starting out as a solo project by Craig Minowa, Cloud Cult has blossomed over the past 15 years into a band that has managed to stay independent and true to themselves. Here is an interview we recently did with Craig!

For fans of: Menomena, Mates of State, Anathallo

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For those of our readers who may have never heard of Cloud Cult, tell us about yourself; who are you and what do you do?

We’re a band from the Midwest working on our 9th album. We write and perform music for the sake of spiritual exploration.

How would you describe your music and style?

It’s very eclectic, as some songs are folky, some have electronica. We use a lot of orchestration, so we’ve been called orchestral rock.

What would you say influences your music the most?

The Grand Mystery. The big unknown. The hereafter. The search for the purpose and meaning of life. Ghosts, life, aliens and magic.

What is the writing process like for you guys?

I have a recording studio at earthology here in the woods of Wisconsin. I spend my days writing and recording. I send those recordings to the band, and we figure out how to make them better.

Your record label that you formed, Earthology, is environmentally and socially friendly, focusing on sustainability and being environmentally and socially responsible. Why do you think that you are the only record label to go this route thus far?

There are other record labels that have taken steps in that direction since Earthology’s inception in the late 90s. It’s getting to be a trendier thing to do, and more people are starting to understand the importance of trying to establish some sort of balance when it comes to looking at how our businesses impact the environment. As human animals, I think our evolution has taught us to usurp as many resources as possible, because there’s always been plenty, but our population and our massive consumption levels have tipped that into a new paradigm where our educated brains need to override the genetic desires and consciously make choices to live in moderation.

What do you think more bands/artists could do to be more “green” such as Cloud Cult is?

There are very simple things that can be done to minimize your ecological footprint. Look at your merchandise first. Look for 100% postconsumer recycled packaging for your cds. Don’t fall for the “recycled” sales gimmick, if it’s not “postconsumer” content, then it’s not truly recycled. Yes, it costs more to do organic t-shirts, but cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop on the planet. We need to take responsibility for our
actions. You can’t poo-poo the Exxons and Monsantos of the world, if you aren’t taking the steps to run your own business in a responsible fashion. Just because it’s a smaller business, doesn’t mean you can’t afford to run it ethically. Get creative with your merchandise. In the early days, we’d buy used t-shirts in bulk and sew our logo on them. They were cheap to make and they were totally green. You can also minimize your touring
footprint by planting trees to absorb our greenhouse gases and buying wind power from companies like to fuel the grid for what you consume.

I have never seen anything like live paintings being done during a show before, and think that it is a totally unique and amazing! What is the concept/reason behind having the paintings going on during the live

The painters are Connie Minowa and Scott West. One is my wife and one was one of my closest friends in college. They went to school for painting, so they were painting around me a lot when I was writing
music. It just felt natural to bring that to the stage in order to bring another artistic dimension to the performances.

I love the artwork that is on the cover of your latest releases this past December, both the Limited Edition “Lost Songs from the Lost Years”, and the double-disc of “They Live on the Sun” and “Aurora Borealis”. Who did the cover art for those albums?

The artwork on “Aurora Borealis” was done by Scott West. The artwork on “They Live on the Sun” is a photo by Joshua Mohr of our son, Kaidin. I did the artwork on “Lost Songs”, but 90% of it is manipulated imagery of old archived public domain artwork of fairy tales.

After being in the music industry and performing for over 15 years now, what kind of advice do you have to give to up and coming bands/artists?

Don’t fall for the old myth of instant success. You have to be totally in love with creating music if you want to survive the years of uphill struggle. But if you’re in it for the true love of the art, the struggle
won’t be as noticeable. Also, don’t think that you have to get signed to be successful. You can do it on your own and oftentimes make it more profitable at a smaller level, because you aren’t paying someone else
to do all your work. Learn the business and get active in taking care of yourself.

What can fans expect to see from Cloud Cult going forth in 2010?

We have a new album coming out this summer and a national tour to follow.