Photography: Sarah O’Driscoll
Following the release of their first album Impersonator, Majical Cloudz was swept up by Top 40 slayer Lorde to embark on the North American leg of her tour—a major move that inevitably sparked widespread interest, but left collaborators Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto wondering where to go next.
The duo’s sophomore effort Are You Alone?—out now—picks up where their debut LP left off, asserting a sound that’s quietly rooted in Depeche Mode-style synth-pop, glazed with Welsh’s smooth vocals and subtle, transcendent production that feels like slipping in and out of a sun-soaked dream sequence.
We caught up with Welsh, the man behind Majical Cloudz’ commanding voice, to talk about all things Are You Alone? and the band’s upcoming tour, which kicks off tonight in the pair’s Canada native.
There’s always tremendous pressure—both internally and externally—about creating a sophomore album. What sort of pressures did you feel going into Are You Alone?
“The main pressure is how you relate to what you did before. If people liked what you did before, you can have the feeling that you need to keep doing what you were doing, or that you need to change dramatically. I think in the end we just did what we wanted to do.”
How do you feel you addressed and ultimately conquered these pressures?
“Writing a lot and not worrying about what came out of it, and trying to please ourselves with the music before anything else.”
What new facets of Majical Cloudz have been unearthed on this new album that were maybe avoided or undiscovered on your debut?
“I’m not sure; ‘Majical Cloudz’ is just a vehicle for the creative work of two people, so obviously there are always new things going on as those people change and grow. I’m not sure what those new things are, but I’m sure they are there.”
You’ve said this album is about “generating positive energy.” Tell me more about what that means on Are You Alone?
“I think I just meant that I wrote songs with positive intentions. I wanted the songs to optimistic. I hope that was successful, but it’s a pretty subjective thing—it depends on who is hearing it.”
Is there a specific lyric on this album you love more than others?
“I can’t really choose one in particular. I don’t feel like I end up choosing lyrics, they just come out of the process of writing because they tell the story I want to tell. I was more interested in writing things that were slightly more abstracted this time around.”
Tell me about the video treatment for “Downtown.”
“There wasn’t a treatment, we just went out and filmed a few ideas. The video is meant to be simple, show the band performing a bit and not complicate the listeners’ relationship with the song too much. It’s just meant to be simple and easy to watch.”
You’re about to go on tour—what’re your standard pre-show rituals?
“Stretch, warm up my voice, and try to get focused and relaxed.”
After embarking on such a massive tour with Lorde, what’re you most excited about with these smaller scale shows?
“Smaller audiences are more fun.”
Welsh speaks about his two core inspirations—Chris Burden and Andy Kaufman—in the Christopher Levett and Maya Fuhr-directed clip, below: