Ulrich and Heidi Lenffer of Cloud Control chat to Aoife Valentine about the impact of the internet, playing to industry execs and being siblings
As is the norm these days, the internet is where Sydney’s Cloud Control have come to get early recognition and it’s a forum they’re huge advocates of. While the blogosphere helps them to discover music they would have never heard of, it’s also allowing people to discover Cloud Control worldwide.
Ulrich Lenffer, the band’s drummer, explains: “It just lets people hear about you in like Albania and Serbia, that would have absolutely no idea who we were and don’t even know where Sydney is and yet they can still hear about us.”
Similarly, his sister Heidi (keyboard and vocals) says: “The idea is that you try and let people discover [your music]. Blogs let people feel like they’re discovering things for themselves still, which is important. I guess because music is such a personal thing, you don’t want to feel like you’ve been forced to appreciate a band. The internet is a bit of an adventure world and you can still poke around and stumble across things. I get kicks out of it.”
The Lenffer siblings met with vocalist Alistair Wright and bassist Jeremy Kelshaw in school. However, they didn’t form a band until Heidi entered a ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition in university, on a whim, which they subsequently went on to win having quickly thrown together four songs.
The true story is contrary to the one told by the website’s band biography, which says they met in the green room at rehearsals for a Pirates of the Penzance gig. Heidi laughs: “Yep, fictional. Look, I like a bit of creative writing and someone told me to go for it with the band bio. People told me that no one takes band bios seriously on the internet, so I put them to the test.”
Over half a decade later, the band have released a self-titled EP and their debut album, Bliss Release, garnered a string of nominations and awards. Bliss Release won last month’s Australian Music Prize and just last week, the band permanently relocated to the UK, in advance of their UK and Irish headline tour. With such a hectic touring schedule ahead and plans to play festivals all summer, is there room for a new album?
“Definitely. We don’t have any recording dates locked in.” At this point Ulrich interjects with a huffy: “We haven’t written any songs!” but Heidi continues: “We definitely need to write. We’ve been on tour I think for about a year now, and moving over here, it’s just going to start all over again, so we’ve really got prioritise finding writing spaces and times in between all the touring.”
Cloud Control also played SXSW last month in Austin, Texas, and they describe the experience. “I think it was more fun from a touristic point of view than from the point of a band having satisfying performances,” says Heidi. “There’s 2,000 bands and about as many venues. It’s really hard to get noticed if you’re a band with no profile over there, which we were. We had some pretty average shows, but we had a couple of really good ones as well. I think it’s an exciting atmosphere to be a part of for sure, and we loved Texas!”
It’s quite rare to see any criticism from bands about SXSW, as Ulrich explains: “You need to be there with a mandate, like someone has to be backing you, someone has to be really excited about you, whether it’s a blog, whether it’s a label, or the whole world in some cases. I mean it was good for us, we got to meet a whole bunch of people from labels, US labels and a whole bunch of people that we’d never met who are dealing with us overseas.”
He continues: “It’s different, we’re used to playing shows where you get a direct response, people are screaming and they come up and say we really enjoyed that, whereas here, some exec will go off and say quietly to his assistant: ‘Oh yeah that band was good, check them out and then let’s work on this’, which is not really an exciting result.” Heidi concludes: “You’re playing to industry professionals instead of fans, which is hard.”
The dynamic between the two is interesting. It’s clear they get on brilliantly, but it must affect the band as a whole in some capacity? “I think we hold this band together to be honest, and no one’s here to defy me on that,” jokes Heidi. “We’re a bit of a force to be reckoned with.
“Sometimes it can get a bit much, but sometimes Al and Jeremy can get a bit much, they’re like brothers themselves. It’s really great to travel around with part of your family, it’s good.” She turns to Ulrich and jokes: “You’re okay” to which he responds: “You’re alright.” Touching, really.
Bliss Release is out on May 20th.