Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CB Q/A #35: Ben Jones of Giant Cloud

Giant Cloud is a band I accidentally discovered last month when I was in Austin for SXSW. I’d stopped by a bar for the Park the Van Records day party to see Floating Action, a band I’ve loved for a while but never before seen live, and got to hear a couple bands play before it was their turn. I don’t remember who the first band was, but Giant Cloud came on next and from the moment they started, I was hooked.

They play a great, raucous electric sound that reminds me of the earthy, rural south, which is sorta where they come from, though they’ve recently relocated as a band to New Orleans. Life in the Big Easy has been good for them as a band, living all together in a shotgun house. They spend most of the time on the road, which is where I caught up with them the other day.

The band was making their way through rural Colorado and the reception was spotty, which is why my conversation started with Preston (guitar and vocals) but, after a dropped call, would up with frontman Ben Jones.

How’s the tour going?

It’s going pretty well. We’ve played a lot of dates, been on the road for over a month. It has been hit or miss in some places, but the places we expected to be good were good.

How has the move to New Orleans gone? What’s the best thing?

We moved almost a year ago. It’s been great. That’s where I’m (Ben) originally from. My family’s there and Julie (Ben’s wife and also lead vocalist and Rhodes rocker) has been there for last 8-9 years.

The most exciting thing about being in New Orleans is that the music scene is starting to thrive for the first time since the hurricane. There are lots of great shows and cool bands coming out of nowhere.

Like who? What bands should we know about?

Bands to know about: Caddywhompus. There’s a great band from Lafayette called Givers. They have a pretty good daytrotter session up now.

What do you guys do there other than be in a band?

The band’s been pretty much 100% for a while. We haven’t really worked in New Orleans yet too much outside of the band. We’ve been basically on tour since October of last year, kind of in and out. Ended up touring to pay our rent so we can go back out and tour some more.

What’s the best thing about touring?

The people you meet, for sure. That and all the landscape you see. Makes for interesting memories because you are doing it so fast that it is hard to process all that information. In the course of a month, playing in 28 cities, you go a lot of places but don’t know a lot about any of them.

Actually, the best thing is the cd collection we have now of all the random bands we happened to play with that no one will ever hear of in California or Pennsylvania or Oregon or wherever. It makes for an interesting catalogue – some of it is bad, but others are really great.

You seem to embrace your southern roots a lot, in a good way. It reminds me, in some ways, of Mofro as much as it does Lynyrd Skynyrd. What does it mean to say you are a southern band?

A lot of artists grow up and leave and don’t embrace it. I don’t want to be one of those people. I’ve spent my whole life looking really hard for the beautiful things. I don’t want to leave it. People have a different mindset about Louisiana and we want to show them we are a southern band and have the sound that we do, and can be open minded and loving.

What are you listening to these days?

Caddywhompus. The Boswell Sisters. New Joanne Newsom. New Dr. Dog record.

How do you feel about covers? Play any or have any you’d love to do some day?

Occasionally we’ll play a cover at a bar, maybe do some Beatles songs or something by The Band. We used to cover Good Vibrations, but don’t do it anymore. Occasionally, we’ll throw one out if the party needs to keep going, but we have 15 originals to choose from now.

Does living all together in your house impact the music you make?
You bet. Things are not nearly as frequent, actually, with songwriting. Actually, we’re all kinda going our separate ways when we go home – we moved out of our place before SXSW and will be going different places when this tour ends. Right now, we don’t have anywhere but our van. I think it’ll help out the songwriting success. For me, really being creative means you have to seclude yourself sometimes. And when you have none of that, it slows things down.

To meet Ben and the rest of Giant Cloud, be sure to hit Cranky's on W 25th Street (the former Matinee spot by the interstate entrance) on Thursday, April 29th. They'll be playing with CB faves The Modern Electric, too!

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