Cloud Castle | Music in SF

Q&A: Cloud Castle Lake

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Dublin four-piece Cloud Castle Lake has landed on the shores of North America and is set to perform at the Brick and Mortar next week for a show that you won’t want to miss. The band will be promoting their latest offering that includes the recently released single “Bonfire,” which the band’s singer said in a statement had been brewing for some time now. “Bonfire is based around a pretty simple melody I came up with a few years ago,” explains Daniel McAuley. “I kept being drawn back to it periodically and steadily adding and expanding it until it grew out into a full song.”

But the band’s been busy doing other projects as well, including composing an original score for a short film entitled Ballet Átha Cliath, for which the director wanted a score that reflected the city and its modern musical culture. The choice of picking Cloud Castle Lake for the soundtrack seemed to just come naturally for him and so the project began.

In anticipation of their San Francisco gig, we chatted with McAuley about the history of the band, what it’s like working with an iconic producer like Rob Kirwan, and what challenges are involved when composing for film.

How’d you come up with the band name?

The band name comes from a short story by Vladimir Nabokov. It’s a long story.

How’d the band first get together?

The band first got together when we started playing music in boarding school, mostly playing covers and experimenting with loud amplifiers in small concrete rooms. Shortly after this, Dan joined the band and discovered he could sing well. Then we started playing shows outside of school and writing our own songs.

What are some of your influences?

Well, musically we’ve been influenced by Jazz. Artists like Nina Simone, John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, Don Cherry, Kamasi Washington. Particularly those on recent recordings. We’ve always been interested in Kraut Rock and German experimentalists such as Can, Neu, Harmonia. In school, we listened to post-rock bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Portishead, and folk artists Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joanna Newsom, Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Talk Talk. Also, Fela Kuti and Tony Allen are big inspirations. Electronic music – Bjork, Aphex Twin, Autechre, and more recently Luke Abbott, Floating Points and James Holden. Grouper is a big inspiration. We’ve also really enjoyed the well that is classical music and neo-classical music. Recently, Frank Ocean. And oh yeah, The Beatles.

What was it like working with Rob Kirwan?

It was great! Rob had a nice approach to keeping the workflow moving in a positive motion. He never let us get bogged down with a particular section or chord structure. We made decisions a lot faster than we would have worked without him.

You recently released the song “Bonfire.” What was your inspiration for the song?

The lyrics have to do with doubt and denial and keeping secrets. They’re very loosely based on an old Irish/Welsh myth about rival tribes trying to find out the secret name of the others’ god in order to defeat them.

You composed an original score for Ballet Atha Cliath. What are some of the challenges involved when composing for a film as opposed to writing an album?

I guess the most immediate challenge is finding the right idea that suits the scene, conveys some of the emotions or inner-thoughts of the characters, without being too ‘loud.’ We didn’t want the music to distract from the visuals. In this particular instance, that didn’t matter too much as there was no dialogue.

You’re playing San Francisco in a couple of weeks. Have you been here before?

We have been before. Our label Bright Antenna is based in Mill Valley, so we went there last March. We really loved San Francisco – it’s got a great vibe. It’s quite hip, but not in the New York kinda way. I dig the way you can dine out in a sushi restaurant, have a few drinks in a Tiki Bar and then get a short cab ride over the bridge, and suddenly you’re in a forested area with no light pollution. Pretty cool.

For people that have never been to your hometown of Dublin, how would you describe it?

It’s a great city! Culturally, for such a small place it’s always surprising how often Dublin is placed on the map. We are very proud. C’mon Ireland! There are lots of excellent places to dine out and great pubs to have a nice pint of stout or ale. Summer in Dublin is particularly special. There are lots of parks to chill in for a picnic, and a sea swim is only a short cycle away. There’s always something nice happening in the city, from varying types of festivals to gigs to outdoor cinema.

What’s the live music scene over there like?

Dublin has a fairly eclectic music scene. There’s a wide range of genres being explored in the city, lots of improvised music, electronic and dance music; there’s a healthy club scene. Lots of folk and trad music too. It’s a small town so almost everyone knows each other and people help each other out. It’s easy to get involved in a project. There’s incredible music coming out of Dublin/Ireland right now.

Cloud Castle is playing the Brick and Mortar on Tuesday, Jan. 30 // Show: 9:00 pm PST (Doors: 8:00 pm) // Ages 18 and Up // Under 21 must buy $5 drink ticket at the door // $10 ADV / $12 DOS

Photo courtesy of High Rise PR

Having released albums under Digital Nations, a label founded by Steve Vai, music critic Louis Raphael has remained deeply connected to the pulse of the San Francisco music scene. Following his tenure as the San Francisco Music Examiner for and, he embarked on creating Music in SF® to authentically highlight the vibrant offerings of the city's music scene.

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