Tucson sounds: Little Cloud's big day
Last week, your trusty local music columnist wrote about some upcoming music releases, some of which were long, long overdue, in her humble opinion.
The recording and release process in a working-class, largely independent local music scene is a lot different from that of the commercial recording industry. The tracking, mixing and mastering take time, money and planning, not to mention the herding-of-cats experience that rounding up band members can be, especially in a large band with lots of instrumentalists.
Then there's the production itself, printing artwork and producing CDs, cassettes or digital release cards and maybe ordering some merch: stickers, posters or t-shirts. Want to release on vinyl? Sure you can...if you've got a trust fund to pay for it.
Once all of that stuff is paid for and underway, you still need to book a venue for the album release, launch your own word of mouth promotional campaign, pitch to local media outlets, print and hang flyers, and hope it all pays off in the form of at least a handful of loyal fans and an album you can be proud of.
Now add a constantly full gig calendar to the basically full-time job above and it's no wonder that some bands wait years before their first full album release.
Luckily for local band Little Cloud, when the time came to finally put their talent on tape for their debut album, they weren't in it alone. With a dedicated audience and fan base built over years of steady gigs, and a rather extraordinary band manager in their corner, the band's upcoming album release is a labor of love come to life in the form of this weekend's "Cloud Carnival" release show at Sky Bar.
Your trusty local scribe sat down with the band this week to ask them how it all came about.
TucsonSentinel.com: Hey, Little Cloud! It's been a while since we last talked. What's been up with you all this past year?
Joshua Butcher: "We've been pretty non-stop! When we started our 'cloudfunding' campaign last April, to raise money for this album, we were overwhelmly blessed with how the community, whom we call the Cloud People, embraced us. With all their contributions, we raised over 6,000 dollars! Just a few months later we were in the studio and recording while at the same time regularly gigging around Tucson."
TS: Tell us about the recording process and album itself. And, where did you guys record?
JB: "We recorded the album in Oscar Fuentes’ TucSound Recording Studio. This is a beautiful studio in Midtown Tucson with a top of the line recording room."
"As you know, Little Cloud is not exactly “little,” so we had to record the songs by first laying down tracks with the rhythm section (Geremy Cady on bass and John McIntyre on drums) playing together and then everyone else had to record their own parts one at a time. This means it took a really long time to get stuff recorded, but it was totally worth it."
TS: Finally, an album release from you all! But you didn't just plan a regular party for it. Tell us about the "Cloud Carnival." Where'd the idea come from? Is the band's philosophy basically "go big or go home?"
JB: "The album creation process has been an amazing whirlwind of community, friendship, serendipity, inspiration, and blessings and we are ready to get this album out. It only stands to reason that our CD release party should include all of those things too, so we are going to have a 'Cloud Carnival'!"
"It is exactly what it sounds like and will include circus performers, face painting, guitar painting, tarot card reading, a cloud selfie booth, and a poke-and-stick tattoo artist onsite to do flash tattoos with special cloud options. Go big or go home is what the Cloud People deserve!"
"Did I mention the epic interactive fire sculpture?"
TS: Sounds lit! Shifting gears, though, let's give a quick shout out to the woman who is the magic behind the magic, your band manager, Andrea Buttrick.Andrea, you are more or less the fifth Beatle of Little Cloud, and when you aren't supporting, cheerleading and working various magical feats for your Little Cloud family, you're out at shows, supporting other local bands, especially women fronted bands. I've seen you at work and it's pretty damned inspiring. So I have to ask a couple of things. How'd you get to be the hardest working band manager in local show biz? And why is it so important that we show up for each other as well as just out own projects?
Andrea Buttrick (Little Cloud manager): "Well, I’m no music nerd like the band here, but the term 'fifth Beatle' usually refers to musicians who play on and off with a band, right? So shout outs to Damon Barnaby, Brian Chanecka, and Levi Misner, who are our hired guns if we need subs. I like to think of myself as more of a Joan Osborne. This is entirely a joke, though it was fun to google 'famous female band managers.' I could also get down with Janet Billig Rich."
"I started booking gigs during the band’s second year. I am good at the detail work and the week after week diligence required for booking and coordinating eight people’s lives, that include family, sports, school, and other bands. Additionally, my one-step-removed connection to the music allows me to be a bit more brazen. My heart isn’t at risk when I get rejections from venues or have a tough conversation involving pay."
"We believe in a relationship based business model and I love engaging with people in that light. The manager role grew naturally from there. I’m in the audience so I’m the one to field the questions, the excitement, and the personal experiences or connections the band would otherwise miss, or be too tired to fully engage with. Then of course there are the costumes and props and fan gifts and themed gigs...that’s where my creative energy gets its fill."
"Our drummer jokes that he’s had to add a new closet just for costumes. But when the band does these things it invites the audience to be playful with along with them, to hear the music differently this night, or experience a venue in a new way. It’s what transforms the casual attendee into one of our Cloud People. That sense of joy and belongingness that comes from play and being actively welcomed in."
"It’s so important we show up for each other. Performing is a raw, personal, risky experience. When other musicians are in our audience I can see the energy of the band shift because they know they are understood, an 'atta girl' from another musician holds just that much more weight. Showing up is also an act of righteous revolution. It’s a chance to challenge bias and our own privilege. Being present to listen and to honor another’s voice, to witness their talent, their identity, and their vulnerability expands our community. It is probably the truest way we will change cultures of bias, racism, rape culture, and privilege."
"Tonight [if I see your band play] I’m going to listen to you, and see you in a whole way. Tomorrow, there is no way I can allow you to be diminished. Our community needs you. We need each other."
"I answered this question while listening to the winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, Quinn Christopherson. He is trans and he had us floored, and me in tears. His is the voice we need right now. He is why we show up for each other. He is why we listen."
TS: What else is in the works for the Little Cloud's short-term (and even long-term) future?
JB:"With the album completed, we finally have some content we can share with a wider audience. Our next big goal is to try to open for a national touring act coming through Tucson and expand our fan base. We also hope to get as much press as we can and are super thankful for people like you Julie for giving us coverage such as this!"
TS: Aw, shucks, guys! So, tell us the details of the Cloud Carnival, for folks who want to go.
JB: "The show is on Saturday at Sky Bar. The Cloud Carnival starts at 6 p.m. and runs till about 8 p.m., but some attractions will be around a bit later.
"Strange Vacation starts the music off with their intense and sultry, face-melting rock. Little Cloud starts at 9 p.m. and will play through the whole new album, which is titled 'Four of Cups.' Rumor has it that this will include an intense robot battle! Natty and the Sunset will close the night out with their dreamy folk goodness."
Little Cloud's Cloud Carnival takes place Saturday night, May 18, with support from Strange Vacation and Natty and the Sunset.
Tucson is a town full of music and musicians, but traditionally, that sound has usually veered toward rock and roll, whether a band embraces shoegazey indie rock, fuzzy psych garage tones, blues or alt country twang, harder edged metal or punk, or that spaghetti-western-flavored, uniquely Tucson subgenre loved or loathed as desert rock.
One thing Tucson has long lacked is a major hip hop presence. But over the past few years, this trend is beginning to be reversed, as a budding contingent of talented rappers, hip hop artists and soul/hip hop-fusion musicians start to emerge in our unlikely desert climate. A lot of the credit for this break through goes to a handful of ambitious and talented Tucson based musicians who have gained a following both locally and nationally, with an ethos that reaches beyond commercial hip hop tropes, combining chill grooves and danceable rhythms with themes of social justice, activism and identity.
At the forefront of Tucson's hip hop rennaissance is Lando Chill, a Tucson by way of Chicago native, whose 2017 release "The Boy Who Spoke to the Wind: was one of Bandcamp Daily's 100 Best Albums of the Year. Chill is about to head out on another national tour along side the band Knife Fights. But Tucson audiences can catch him here first on Tuesday night at Club Congress.
Lando Chill and Knife Fights play Club Congress on May 21 at 8 p.m.
Check your local listings...
Friday, May 17
- Pearl Earl and The Rifle - 8 p.m. Club Congress
- Bryan Thomas Parker and Friends w/ Demons, Eric Schaffer and The Other Troublemakers - 9 p.m.. Sky Bar
- Tucson Libertine League - 9 p.m. 191 Toole
- Still Life Telescope w/ Smallvox, Peppermint Hippo - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Dry and Dusty with Freddy Parish - 8 p.m. Exo
- Nick Letson - 8 p.m. Westbound
Saturday, May 18
- Cloud Carnival! Little Cloud, Strange Vacation - 6 p.m.. Sky Bar
- The Gem Show, Silver Cloud Express,The Distortionists - 7 p.m. Che's Lounge"
- Alicia Witt - 7 p.m. 191 Toole
- Jean Caffeine, BreakingGlass, John Matzek (Juju Fontaine) - 9 p.m. Saint Charles Tavern
- Lola Torch & The Torchbearers - 8 p.m. Exo
- Dark Maps - 8 p.m. Westbound
- Miss Olivia & the Interlopers - 7 p.m. Crooked Tooth
- FebboFuentes - 8 p.m. Sand-Reckoner
- Fleas and Sleaz Art & Music Show - 6 p.m. The Ervice
- Mesquite Album Release w/ Trees Speak - 8 p.m. Subspace
Sunday, May 19
- Roy Book Binder w/ Roman Barten- Sherman - 6 p.m. Club Congress
- Coco Montoya - 8 p.m. 191 Toole
- Mik and the Funky Brunch - 12 p.m. La Cocina
- Kevin Pakulis - 2:30 p.m. Borderlands
Monday, May 20
- Gary Clarke Jr. - 8 p.m. Rialto Theatre
Tuesday, May 21
- Knife Knights w/ Lando Chill -8 p.m. Club Congress
- Desert Doom w/ Kaiser - 7 p.m. House of Bards
- Black Renaissance Night 3 - 8 p.m. House of Bards
- Lav Andula, Asympote, Jaime J Soto, Black Baptist - 7 p.m. (DIY House Show - contact bands/artists for info)
- For Love Or Absinthe - 7 p.m. Royal Sun
- Hunter Hayes with Levi Hummon - 8 p.m. Rialto Theatre
Wednesday, May 22
- Ziemba,Groove Domestic Product,The Gem Show - 7 p.m. Club Congress
- Stranger Than Fact - 9 p.m. Thunder Canyon Brewstillery
Thursday, May 23
- FST! Borders & Boundaries -8 p.m. Club Congress
- Silver Cloud Express, Untied Snakes, Hey Bucko - 8 p.m. Sky Bar
- Tom Walbank, Austin Counts and Christopher Stevens - 8:30 p.m. Tap & Bottle
- Nancy McCallion & The Scarlet Lettermen - 7:30 p.m. House of Bards
- Piñata Protest w/ Pigmy Death-Ray, Demons - 9 p.m. Surly Wench
Each week this column compiles a choice selection of live gigs in and around Tucson with the help of good venue and band event announcements and other resources. If you've got a gig coming up and you'd like your event listed in this space (or if your local band has a major announcement or a new release) drop me a line at email@example.com.