Majical Cloudz is the Montreal based music duo of Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto. Their new EP Turns Turns Turns comes out December 3rd on Arbutus Records, and they’re performing in Toronto on December 15th at The May.
Chart: How’s it going?
Devon Welsh: Great! Doing some mixing.
For the upcoming EP or another project?
It’s some more music that will be out sometime. Usually how these things go is people make ‘announcements,’ so I probably can’t really mention it :(
Dern it. Can you tell me how it’s different from the material from the EP?
Hmm, haha. Some of the EP songs are versions of songs that have been around for a little while, so the stuff we’re working on right now is closer to what we do live. But it’s basically a continuation of the intentions of the EP/12″.
What’s your philosophy for creating live performances?
Haha, I wouldn’t call anything I do a philosophy. We try to connect with the audience as much as possible. The most powerful performances I’ve seen always get their energy from how the performer engages with the audience.
On his Reddit “Ask Me Anything,” Trent Reznor said that he strived to make the final Nine Inch Nails shows as gripping as possible, because in his view live shows can be pretty boring.
Yeah, live shows can be very boring. A live performance is sort of like a conversation between the performers and the audience, and conversations can be boring, when the person you’re speaking with isn’t revealing anything of themselves, and isn’t very aware of how you’re relating to them. So when we perform we try to be vulnerable, and be sensitive to the feelings of the audience, and make room for people to feel vulnerable as well.
Do you have any specific methods to achieve that, or is it more of a spur-of-the-moment decision?
Well for me personally, I always try to remember that when you’re playing a show you’re not just going through the motions of a song. We’re not doing ‘live versions’ of our songs, we’re performing for an audience, and the songs are the material we use to do that with. But its different every time, at least in my head. Sometimes the audience is this massive anonymous crowd, and sometimes I’m playing the whole set to someone I know who is there. The audience of a story completely changes how you tell it, and how you feel about telling it.
And it saves you from playing the same thing over and over
Yeah. I like playing our songs over and over, but it’s not just a repetition. We try to approach performing as if it’s new every time. If you’re playing an emotional song, and you just play it with the same feeling every time, you’re faking it. It has to come from somewhere real, and how you feel changes all the time. Sometimes a song can feel redemptive, and sometimes it can feel depressing. Sometimes I try to make people laugh at shows, and sometimes i’m serious about it
I was going to say, with “Turns Turns Turns,” the song can feel joyous or crushing, depending on my mood. So you’ve achieved that in your studio recordings too.
Ha that’s good!
What’s that song about?
It’s about feeling lost but trying to find positivity in that. I wrote the song when a lot of the grounding parts of my life were in the process of ending.
Did your songwriting process change between II and the EP?
Oh yeah, for sure. Well, in some ways no, but my head space definitely changed. I was really uninterested/unable to make music for a year, and when I came back to it I was just making songs for myself and sending them to a friend. My idea of why I would make music became a lot simpler. Songs became a way to say something to someone that I wouldn’t be able to say as clearly in person.
What are your biggest influences outside of music?
The question of influences is always hard for me to answer! I’m inspired by any art that tries to express something vulnerable. Any art that puts the artist or the performer in a fragile position is commendable. Whether its saying something dangerous, or confessing something, or reminding people of something unpleasant.
I watched this documentary on Ai Weiwei the other day. I don’t know very much about his art, but at the point in the film after he is released from police custody he does an interview where he addresses the idea that [he] is “one of the most powerful” artists in China, and he suggests that maybe there is power in fragility, and that really resonated with me.
Is that something you’re going to take with you moving forward?
Devon: Completely. Some version of that has been my approach from the beginning with Majical Cloudz. But it always helps to have an idea formulated for you in such a simple, precise way.