Interview by Collene McCarter
When guitarist and vocalist Pete Jordan’s previous band dissolved under unpleasant circumstances in 2012, he set forth to perform as a solo act…and yet, Cloud Person, the name under which he performed, is now a six-person band. Ballard VOX talked with Cloud Person to find out how Jordan went from craving solitude as a musician to striving to complete 10,000 hours in a room with his five band mates, whom he now refers to as his “band family.”
The name “Cloud Person” was adapted by Pete Jordan from his previous musical project, Cloud People, in which he and a group of long-distance friends uploaded recordings to a server and added to each other’s creations. When Jordan realized he was contributing more than his partners, he began releasing his songs under Cloud Person, a name that has since stuck and evolved into his now 6-person ensemble.
The first Cloud Person album, Anchors in the Sun, was recorded in Jordan’s home studio. Following the release, Jordan began playing shows on his acoustic guitar accompanied by current Cloud Person bassist and high school classmate Cameron Arneson and a violinist named Betsy Johnson. Jordan and Arneson have been in multiple bands together and played jazz, rock, folk, “jam band stuff,” and were in a brass quintet together in high school, so it was natural that he would be Jordan’s first pick for accompaniment. Eventually, Jordan, Arneson, and Betsy Johnson decided to start playing as an official folk trio band which later morphed into a folk rock sound. Around this time, Jordan contacted Steve Straney, who was drumming in his brother’s band, The New Law, when they met six years ago. Straney joined Cloud Person to enable yet another transition to a rock band format following a brief psych phase.
Around the same time, Jordan met Mikkel Lee via Craigslist ad. “From what I hear of Craigslist-band-member-fishing, we lucked out big time,” he says of the keyboardist. Michael Fisher, who had been acquainted with Jordan through Straney, was added to the group after they identified the need for a lead guitar. The most recent addition to Cloud Person is Dane Ueland, an additional guitarist. Ueland has been in the band for the past year and met Jordan while playing with his other band, &Yet, at one of Cloud Person’s first shows as a folk trio.
Following all of their genre changes, Jordan finally feels that they have settled on a sound that feels natural and authentic. “It’s been a long journey… but I feel like the band was forming for all the years prior to this incarnation… I’m finally comfortable with the musical direction and lineup.” The final sound they’ve settled on is, simply put, rock. Not so simply put, “We tend to indulge ourselves in vast instrumental passages. This will probably sound like nonsense but I’ll go with synth driven psychedelic garage dance rock.” He says that each member has their own eclectic sound that they contribute to Cloud Person. “One of my favorite things about this band is that we all come from pretty different places musically. We definitely share some influences but it’s our disparate tastes that make our sound. Steve brings a little drum & bass to the table, as well as a little metal. Mikkel seems to love 80s power ballads. Cameron has a penchant for yacht rock. Mike loves the blues. Dane brings us the emo.” Though content with the band’s current sound, the group is continuously trying to become more minimal and stripped down. As a group with six instruments, three of which being electric guitars, Jordan notes they still have, “much to do in this area…it can become a jumble quickly.”
This theme of excess is echoed when Jordan explains what to expect at a Cloud Person Show: “Too many bodies on stage? Too many guitars?” The populated stage isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. “We really are having a blast,” he says of their live performances. Jordan notes that one of his favorite parts of any Cloud Person show is being able to perform “The Cold Starts,” a song that he was initially apprehensive about showing to the band. “It’s a poppy 80s synth tinged love song,” with a harmonized guitar duet. “The demo seemed ridiculous, but they made it into something beautiful and catchy as fuck.”
As for the creation of new music, Jordan usually does the band’s writing when a chord progression and melody get stuck in his head. “It just repeats and repeats until I have to go figure it out on the piano or guitar and write it down.” If he doesn’t have an accessible instrument, he’ll sing into his phone and work the rest out later. After writing all of the words to a song in one sitting, Jordan sends a demo to the band, “usually with a bunch of ridiculous midi instruments with my vocals on top.” From there, the song is taken to practice. “If the band hates it we never speak of it again. If they’re into it we start rehearsing and improving on it together.” Jordan says that these rehearsals (and Cloud Person shows in general) are some of his favorite recent musical memories. He fondly refers to his band members as, “these knuckleheads,” and says when it comes to rehearsing with them, “Often times it just clicks and everything feels so great.” Cloud Person is the first group in which Jordan has been able to collaborate at this level with the whole band heavily revising, arranging, and improving on songs, occasionally adding new sections, and even altering songs after an album version has been recorded.
The content of past releases consisted mainly of fiction stories, but recent releases have included increasing amounts of Jordan’s own personal life. “Most of the words come from processing a situation or dealing with certain emotions. The new album has a few political songs. It was hard to not write about how fucked things were/are after the election. I may be yelling into an echo chamber but yell I must.” After months of writing political doom songs, Jordan felt he had said all he could on the subject and moved on to write more personal content.
Cloud Person has been compared frequently to Interpol, one of Jordan’s favorite bands. He says he’s also been told his voice has been compared to David Bazan and Peter Gabriel, “Neither are even remotely true, but I appreciated the compliments.” The band enjoys playing at the Crocodile and Tractor Tavern, but Conor Byrne also holds a special place in their heart, as Cloud Person played there often in their days as a folk trio. One of Jordan’s personal favorite shows took place in the yoga studio at Doe Bay Resort. “They brought us out for the weekend and a bunch of residents packed in to the room. The sound wasn’t great but we all had a great, sweaty time.” Jordan cites Hempfest as his least favorite performance due in part to having to play an unintended, unprepared “unplugged” set since their drummer had broken his arm days before. In addition to that set change, Jordan had not accounted for their stage being at the opposite end of the festival from the entrance. “I ran…the length of the park and got to the stage right before we started playing. Cameron didn’t make it until halfway through one of the songs; he just quietly hopped on stage. We played our asses off but it was weird. I believe there is a video of this out there somewhere.”
Communication is a challenge frequently faced by the band due to so many passionate voices and feelings in the same room. Jordan says that discussions can get tense, “especially when you feel like someone is dissecting you or being patronizing.” As a whole, the band is, “learning to take criticism graciously and to be generous with how we perceive what our bandmates are saying. Also, we all speak this language a little different. Learning how to speak in terms that a fellow member thinks in can be challenging, but extremely rewarding.”
As a Seattleite, Jordan echoes all of our thoughts: “Ballard is great…once you find a parking spot!” Jordan says he is appreciative to be able to find anything that, “suits your fancy,” within walking distance. Michael Fisher is, “grateful for the scene’s ability to adapt and continue bringing local music and affordable door covers,” and says that Conor Byrne is their home. Dane Ueland exclaims that, “three of the best small music venues in Seattle,” are all on one street. They also love Ballard for its food selection, noting pho at Pho Big Bowl, Ballard Pizza, Lock and Keel’s macaroni and cheese, and Hattie’s corned beef hash. Jordan notes that his own Ballard routine includes getting a BLT and tots from Hattie’s Hat before a show. Some of his favorite local acts are Bullets or Balloons (“Like Minutemen on steroids”), Black Nite Crash, who practice downstairs from Cloud Person, High Pulp, Wild Powwers, and Heatwarmer. Moon Dial is another favorite and will be performing on the same night as Cloud Person at their next two shows, the first of which is taking place this Thursday, March 8 at Conor Byrne. After that, they will be at The Valley in Tacoma on March 30 and Barboza on May 5. These are the first shows the band has played for quite a while as they recently took a break from performing live to dedicate their energy to a full-length release: “We’re taking our time to make sure this one’s perfect.” Ueland also has a record coming out (date to be determined) with &Yet. “It’s going to be bananas,” Jordan says of his bandmate’s future release.
To new and aspiring musicians, Jordan advises to go out and do it. “Do it because you love it. Do it with people that you love. Spend your free time making it happen. Spend as much time practicing and writing as possible. You’ll make something beautiful.”
Cloud Person hopes that allowing their music to be streamed enables it to reach more ears than it would otherwise. The value of performing live for people is irreplaceable, and something the band plans to focus more on. “We have a well-oiled set that we think is pure fire. Our immediate goal is to get back in front of audiences and play our asses off.” Jordan adds that their long-term plan includes releasing more albums supported by as many shows as they’re capable of, making new videos, and writing new music. “I don’t have any grandiose delusions of fame but I do want to get to a point where we can spend way more time writing, recording, and performing together. The only way to do that is eliminate the need for a steady day job. So, we’re pushing our way towards that dream.” You can support their dream by purchasing a CD or digital album at cloudperson.bandcamp.com or attending one of their shows. Follow along with them on Facebook and Instagram. The band’s parting words to readers are simple and necessary: “Take care of each other.”