Interview: Cloud Cult

Cloud Cult are nothing if not prolific. The Minnesota band just finished up their eighth studio album, Light Chasers, which is set to hit stores on September 14th.

Light Chasers picks up right where Owl and Bear favorite Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) left off, exploring the relationship between the human experience and the unknown. Frontman Craig Minowa took some time out from tea-partying through tornadoes to talk to us about loss, the environment, and what the band has in store for us in the future.

Owl and Bear: First off, congratulations on the recent addition to your family!

Craig Minowa: Thanks. He’s a very good boy. He loves people and loves traveling, so it works perfect for touring.

Owl and Bear: Since the death of your son Kaidin in 2002, you have described the ensuing albums as important parts of the grieving process. Feel Good Ghosts was a deeply personal album that, for me, illustrated how music and art can heal. In what ways has your music and art helped to heal your emotional wounds?

Craig Minowa: Initially, the music was a vent that allowed me to get a lot of garbage out of me that felt like it would have blown me up otherwise. Those early Cloud Cult albums were pretty schizophrenic, because I was doing the music for medicine and not actually thinking anyone would ever listen to them. Since then, I’ve found that music is a way for me to get in touch with deeper parts of my spiritual self, and I feel like it gets me closer to Kaidin. A lot of the time, when I’m writing lyrics, I just quiet myself and wait for the words to come in a way that I would feel like Kaidin would want people to hear them. He defines the message of the music.

Owl and Bear: Overall, Light Chasers leaves me with very positive feelings. How do you see this album as it relates to your previous works?

Craig Minowa: I’ve always created Cloud Cult albums while doing other part-time or full-time work outside of music. This is the first album I’ve done where my full-time job is music. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on it over the last couple of years, but I wanted it to be the best thing we’ve done. I don’t think it’s as accessible to the mainstream as some of the past work, because it’s done for its own sake, but I feel like it’s my best compositional and lyrical work. It was written, in a large part, for our new son Nova.

Owl and Bear: Can you tell us about the farm where you live and record, and the steps you have taken to keep it environmentally friendly?

Craig Minowa: All of our merchandise is either 100% post-consumer recycled or organic. We have planted over a thousand trees to offset our greenhouse gases. And we established a nonprofit environmental organization, Earthology, to allow us to help green the music business and work on things like greening schools, reducing pesticide use, and cleaning up the water.

Owl and Bear: Did you record Light Chasers at your Minnesota farm?

Craig Minowa: Part of it was written at the farm in Minnesota, but most of it was recorded at our new place in Wisconsin. We moved here shortly before Nova was born to be closer to family and because the area provides really great alternative health care and sustainable farming.

Owl and Bear: Cloud Cult tours in a biodiesel van, right?

Craig Minowa: We have gone through a lot of models for greening our touring. The biodiesel aspect is something that is being revised, because now that it’s getting trendy, it’s not as sustainably produced as it was even a couple of years ago. So we’re constantly trying to develop better models for mitigating our ecological impacts.

Owl and Bear: Can you explain Earthology’s mission to our readers and let them know how they can get involved?

Craig Minowa: Using advocacy, science, and the arts, the Earthology Institute provides resources and an action network that disseminates critical, forward thinking and practical tools for the advancement of human health, sustainability, and the environment. Earthology Institute advocates positive environmental change with a focus on sustainability, environmental toxins, human health, ecological integrity, proactive and positive living in the 21st century, advocacy through the arts, and tools for green living.

Owl and Bear: What do you think the environmental movement is doing right and wrong?

Craig Minowa: The environmental movement has made a lot of amazing strides and accomplishments since its inception, particularly in the realms of legislation. At the same time, too much of the movement has been a finger-pointing, negative movement for the better part of four decades now. We need to stop pointing fingers and take responsibility. People need positive solutions. They want to do what is right. The movement needs to put more energy into creating viable solutions and providing people with real tools for building a sustainable future.

Owl and Bear: What is your opinion on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf and how it was handled?

Craig Minowa: Again, I think there was a lot of finger pointing going on. But while the whole debacle was unraveling, very few people even thought twice when they pulled their cars into a BP gas station. We don’t connect the dots. This was the collective fault of our society.

Owl and Bear: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become more environmentally conscious in their daily lives?

Craig Minowa: Some of the biggest impacts you can make are actually pretty easy. For example, a recent study found that if you have the average American diet and you cut your meat consumption by a third, you will reduce your CO2 output as much as someone who sells their average American car and buys a Prius. Little things like putting your coffee into a thermos, instead of keeping the coffee pot on to keep it hot, can have significant positive impacts. Also, be an educated consumer. Understand the products you are buying and the companies you are supporting with your dollars.

Owl and Bear: What are your hopes for Cloud Cult in the future?

Craig Minowa: We’ve got a national fall tour coming up. We’re looking at possibly touring orchestra halls next year with a full orchestra setup.

Owl and Bear: Ultimately, what do you hope someone who listens to Cloud Cult takes away from your music? Do you have an underlying message?

Craig Minowa: Look for the bigger picture. Breathe. Appreciate. And utilize your limited time here to learn to love.

Cloud Cult tour dates:
Sep 09 – Lion’s Pause, Northfield, MN
Sep 11 – Bluebird Theater, Denver, CO
Sep 12 – Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO (E-town)
Sep 14 – Zebra Cocktail Lounge, Bozeman, MT
Sep 15 – Top Hat, Missoula, MT
Sep 17 – Wonder Ballroom 8, Portland, OR
Sep 18 – Showbox, Seattle, WA
Sep 21 – The Independent, San Francisco, CA
Sep 22 – Roxy Theater, Los Angeles, CA
Nov 17 – First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN (CD Release Show – 21+)
Nov 18 – First Avenue Minneapolis, MN (CD Release Show – all ages)

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