Cloud Cult is coming back to town!

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Cloud Cult returns to Duluth next Friday, March 26th, playing at the Kirby Ballroom at UMD.

One band that many people love in the Northland is the highly successful Cloud Cult. Fronted by Craig Minowa, the band is back touring after taking some time off to welcome a new baby.

“We’re gradually adding shows to our schedule as we warm up the new touring model,” Minowa said. “Connie and I have a new baby boy, who is amazingly beautiful, and we’re taking it slow in getting used to bringing a baby into a touring type environment.”

Minowa’s art always has a strong personal connection to his family and his life experiences. With so much success lately he has earned a little break to enjoy his growing family.

“The family is better than ever,” Minowa said. “We’re so thankful to have a chance to be parents again. It’s busy, in the sense that we are learning to balance our work schedules with parenting, but it’s less busy, in that we have license to lay off the work a bit and just focus on our family.”

After recently releasing a double album of past hits and hidden gems, Minowa has plans for a new CD to come out very soon.

“I’ve been working on a new album for the last couple of years, but I’ve had time to really focus on it in the studio for the past few months, so it’s getting closer to being finished. It’ll be out in early August with a national tour.”

It’s difficult to categorize or use references to explain Cloud Cult’s music; Radiohead might be the closest analogy. Every song has a unique characteristic or feeling, although a common theme throughout their music is finding beauty in life, death, and rebirth. “Car Crash” is a mesmerizing Tim Burton-esque ode to a loved one in the middle of a car crash as both parties perish, realizing now they can stay together forever. “Living on the Outside of Your Skin” is another one of my favorite Cloud Cult songs. The lyrics to this song, and really almost every Cloud Cult song, are thought provoking reflections on how we perceive our lives, and that maybe it’s not all so black and white.

One thing that can always be expected at a Cloud Cult show is a wide array of music and an experimental mix of instruments. “We bring our full show everywhere we go now,” Minowa said. “This show we’ll be introducing another new band member, Sarah Elhardt, who is a multi-instrumentalist performing French horn, trumpet, accordion and keys. We’ll have the two live painters and the rest of the full band, including cello and violin, as well. We’ll also be trying out a couple of the new songs.”

The other important piece to Minowa and the band is staying organic and going out of their way to help the environment. They also have two painters on stage making art inspired by the musical performance.

“Connie and I have moved over to Wisconsin to Vernon County, which has the highest percentage of organic farmers of any county in the nation. We’re hoping this kind of progressive surrounding will bring some new opportunities to Earthology Records. Connie and Scott West are the two full time Cloud Cult painters. They’ve been the full time painters now for a few years, and they are getting pretty darn good at speed painting on stage.”

So what is Minowa’s favorite thing about playing Duluth?

“I was thinking about this earlier today,” Minowa said. “For us, playing Duluth is as close as we get to playing our home town. We know so many people there and we just feel like that’s a home to us, even though we now moved over to Wisconsin.”

Awhile back Cloud Cult hit it big when one of their songs was used in an ad for Esurance. Minowa found a way to become commercial, yet still hold true to his ideals.

“Esurance offered to help pay for some of the costs we have for greening our touring and for the recording process, namely, planting a few hundred trees every year and helping fund the development of wind turbines. In exchange for that relationship, we agreed to do a cartoon ad with them where they plug driving in an eco-friendly way. The commercial was pretty successful, and they actually aired it during last year’s Super Bowl, but contrary to popular belief, we didn’t make millions on it. It was just enough to help counter the costs of a year’s worth of greening.”

With the ad has Cloud Cult become "commercial"?

“We do get a number of offers to have our music used in various commercials, and a number of very nice offers we’ve had to decline, because we don’t agree with the product,” Minowa said. “But we have allowed the music to be used here and there for things we can stand behind. Like recently, I’ve been scoring music for National Geographic documentaries and some Cloud Cult music has made it onto those scores. The documentaries are topics ranging from preservation of Grizzly bear habitat to winter survival skills of various North American animals.”