When Majical Cloudz play live they are charming, intense, and passionate. Singer Devon Welsh delivers a performance which is endearingly intimate, and mixed with Matthew Otto’s waves of dreamy synth the experience verges on sublime. We met before their recent show in Stockholm to find out how their live persona compares to Majical Cloudz on record.
Devon, you moved to Montreal from Ontario, do you think the city has had an impact on what you do?
– Montreal has influenced me personally, because there were a lot of people I knew who moved from other places in Canada specifically to make music. And the result of that was a lot of really good music getting made and a lot of people supporting and pushing each other to think harder about what they wanted to do.
– This was like 2008 to 2010 maybe, and bands like Doldrums, Grimes, Blue Hawaii, Sean Nicholas Savage, d’Eon, you know, BRAIDS, all those people were there together, making stuff. It was an exciting thing, but it was happening on a local level.
And Matthew you’re a producer?
– Yes, I make abstract electronic music and was doing that for years even before I met Devon. But I wanted to take on more of a producer role so I sought out a band that Devon was in who were making really exciting music and wanted to make a record, and that’s how we met.
Impersonator is the first record you’ve made together, how was it different recording as a duo rather than a solo project?
– When we started writing and playing shows together it became a completely different experience, says Devon. There was a whole new purpose to what we were doing. In terms of the album, the songs were written as demos so all the parts were there but in a basic form. Matthew is a producer and engineer; he understands the subtlety and detail of sonic composition so together we turned the songs into a musical object that can be appreciated on a lot of levels.
If there’s no vulnerability
in art it’s boring
And how is it being on tour together?
– Recording music and going on tour is like apples and oranges, says Devon. When you’re recording you’re living a fairly normal life and meeting each other for a certain number of hours each day, staying in the same town. Being on tour is the exact opposite, we’re in a different place every night and we’re together all the time, we don’t see anybody else. I enjoy it, there are a lot of great things about it, but they’re two different experiences. I don’t think about them as even comparable.
Do you think the way you play live and the way you play on record are quite different?
– There is absolutely no overlap with them, says Matthew, it’s a completely different thing. We view the two states as separate; we’re there to achieve separate goals. The live show is not an extension of the album; they function in two different ways. I find being on tour a bipolar experience, I’m either feeling very very good or completely terrible, it never sits anywhere in between.
Your live shows can be emotional and very intense. Is that something you work on or is it a product of the situation?
– Ideally it’s just how I feel, says Devon. I don’t present an artifice in respect to how the show is done. On long tours there’s a certain range of emotions early on, like excitement and not taking it too seriously, and feeling the emotion of the music. But then when it gets to the point where my health is bad and negative feelings overwhelm the positive ones, then it can feel like playing really personal music and exposing yourself to the audience is mentally unhealthy.
– Essentially the show is there to coax emotions out of you, says Matthew, and whether you’re comfortable enough with your inner state to do that or not is irrelevant. It has to happen within a certain time. Going back to your earlier question, that’s what makes the live show and the record so different.
The lyrics on your record are also very intimate. Does it take a lot of guts to put yourself out there like that?
– I never think about it like that, says Devon. To me the basis of any good, worthwhile art is the revelation of some state of vulnerability. If there’s no vulnerability in art it’s boring. Risks need to be taken. Making personal music isn’t something that requires courage.
– What’s exciting about music, or any art, is that you’re creating a connection with people, says Matthew. Even if they ridicule you, you still have to take the risk.
Has that attracted a very intense fan base?
– Most of them have been respectful, says Devon. I don’t know if they’re intense but they can be introspective and they’re usually open to lots of different attitudes within one show. They’re people that can laugh with us, or at us, but then feel something more serious too. We’ve been really lucky. It’s not really been the type of crowd where people come with an eyebrow raised to see whether we’re worth mentioning. They’re willing to participate.
– We’ve attracted the type of audience we were hoping to, says Matthew.
Listen to Majical Cloudz’ album Impersonator here.