Cloud Cult ready to descend on Rochester
Only two shows remain in this summer’s lineup of the Think Bank Down by the Riverside series. Before The Revolution comes to town on August 18, another popular Minnesotan-based group promises to impress this weekend. Cloud Cult, an experimental indie-rock band born in Duluth, headlines Indie Night at Mayo Park this Sunday with support from Winona-based dream-pop act Sleeping Jesus. After starting in 1995, Cloud Cult hit the top spot on college radio charts in 2003 with They Live on the Sun, then earned an Album of the Year nomination from the Minnesota Music Awards the following year with a new record, Aurora Borealis. The band has stayed independent over their 20-plus year existence, forming Earthology Records as an eco-friendly alternative to mainstream music production.
Ahead of Sunday’s show in Rochester, we talked with Cloud Cult’s lead singer and founder Craig Minowa about his environmental efforts, making music in Minnesota, and what his art means to him.
Med City Beat: What’s your backstory? How did Cloud Cult rise to prominence?
Craig Minowa: It really started as a solo studio project. I really didn’t have plans to make a band, I didn’t think it was possible to make a career out of it. I went to school for environmental science and did music just for the love of it. When my two-year-old passed away, I got really obsessed about using music to deal with grief and wrote a lot of songs that were like personal medicine. That was where things started to take off on college radio, and I decided it was time to get a band together and start touring those places where we were charting. It all took off from there.
MCB: What’s it like starting out as a musician in Minnesota?
CM: Well, if you’re from the east coast, or either coast for that matter, you’re a hop, skip, and jump away from some very major markets. You can turn a day show out of so many markets. With Minnesota, things are spread out quite a bit more. With the weather, too, it takes a certain breed of person to get out to a show. You definitely have to work around the climate.
MCB: You’ve got a pretty extensive lineup for your live shows. What’s it like combining so many great musical minds on stage?
CM: It’s been absolutely incredible. There’s been a lot of great musicians that have played with Cloud Cult over the years and the group that we have here now has been solid for a few years now. Everyone’s been at the top of their game… every time I get done with a performance and I split up with those friends for a bit, I have to reach out to them after a while and tell them how beautiful they are.
MCB: That’s just what happens when you’re on the road together. That bond becomes incredibly strong.
CM: Yeah, when you’re on tour together, those are really the only people you see for weeks and months at a time.
MCB: Speaking of tour, in your time on the road, is there any story or mishap that stands out to you?
CM: We’ve had more van breakdowns than we can count. It’s getting to be more about weather extremes. Over the years, we’ve never really missed shows, but last year, there was extreme snow in the mountains so we missed our Utah show. We almost missed a show in the northeast because of forest fires. Last year, we sound-checked and we went to have supper, and in that time a tornado came through and wiped everything out.
MCB: And I know environmentalism is something that is close to you. How do your two passions intersect?
CM: Like I said, I went to school for environmental science. I worked for quite a few years with environmental nonprofits. A lot of that work was about putting pressure on big business. When Cloud Cult took off, I realized that I had to hold that business to the same criteria I was holding other businesses to. Earthology got created because there weren’t very many options for environmentally friendly packaging, T-shirts, posters, things like that, when we were starting out. As a record label, we had to create our own material. Fortunately, over the last few years, environmentalism has become more of a trendy thing, so there’s lots of options out there.
MCB: As you continue to make music, what does it mean to you? What does it do for your life?
CM: It makes me a better person. For me, it’s my go-to medicine. Whatever I’m feeling, it helps me work through things. When I’m feeling good, it’s still an empowering medicine that helps me see how I can be a better person, a more present person. Whenever I’m making music, it feels like my soul is waking up completely. I think I’d be miserable if it weren’t for music.
MCB: As Rochester grows, the arts and culture scene grows with it. With your experience and the things you’ve learned, what qualities should Rochester embrace to make sure art thrives here?
CM: I’ve found the arts scene and the food scene go hand in hand. For a lot of the cities we play in, if the art scene is thriving, there’s a thriving co-op. I’ve also met some people in the town I live in now [Viroqua, WI] that have moved out from big cities that want to live in a more controlled area. They’re looking for music, art, progressive thought, and good food. I think Rochester has a lot of promise in that area. It’s big enough to offer diversity in all those areas, but not so big that it’s intimidating.
You can see Cloud Cult perform live in concert this Sunday night at Mayo Park in Rochester. The music starts at 7 p.m. There is no cost for admission.
Story written by reporter and musician Isaac Jahns.
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