Following the release of their critically acclaimed Book of Hours, Tom Clarke and Sam Ricketts – better known as Cloud Boat – have since spent the last 12 months tinkering with their sound to make it bigger, richer and more epic. Channelling their trademark choral electronica through the filter of all they’ve learnt in the last year, the London based duo have outdone themselves with their sophomore record Model of You, which shudders with emotional intensity on each track.
To find out more about what they’ve been up to these past few months we sat down with Sam in between shifts at the Wigmore Hall box office to talk about their transition from heavy metal to melodic multi-instrumentalism, why they’ve got a soft spot for playing in churches and what it was like getting his first tattoo.
You had a fantastic critical reception to Book of Hours, how did you feel about it once it was all over?
It was a really cathartic experience for us. When we formed the band we never started with a grand plan or an end goal, it was just nice to be able to make something that we really believed in and share it with the public. I still remember once we’d finished our first two tracks, “Bastion” and “Lions on the Beach”, people asking “when is the album going to come out?” and thinking “uh, we don’t actually have an album”. We had to produce on the go! We didn’t exactly know a huge amount about recording when we first started out.
Did you write most of your material whilst you were performing live then?
Yeah, you could say that. We made the bare minimum, just enough to have what we knew we needed to play live, but like I said we’d never been producers so we had to kind of learn it as we went along. Once Book of Hours was finally finished it was great to finally have a finished body of work.
Did you get a feeling of ‘now what?’ once you were done?
I read an interview with an artist once – I can’t remember exactly who it was now – who said every musician should make each album as if it’s their last. I’m not sure I agree with that entirely but I can definitely relate to it. You have to put 100% into it, you have to feel like each album is the best you’re going to make. I think once we were finished it was more a feeling of relief that we’d done it and could look forward to playing live again.
Did you consciously try to explore new ideas and styles with Model of You?
Tom was much quicker off the mark that I was when it came to starting this album. He tends to write a lot of beats on his laptop, producing clips and fragments, whilst I tend to be a bit slower – I prefer to have an idea of the whole song in my head before I get started. We wanted to be less introverted with Model of You, we wanted to produce something which would sound more confident, just a bit bigger overall I suppose.
It does feel quite epic compared to some of your earlier tracks.
Part of that is down to the logistics of the thing. We’ve always wanted to go big, but we still had so much to learn from the production side of things. With our early stuff you get a snapshot of where we were at the time. Working with Andy Savours was brilliant – it took all the science of producing a record out of our hands so we could focus more on the writing. It made us more ambitious, more free with our ideas, which is just the kind of music we like to make. It’s more textured. Producing music in your bedroom all day you can go a bit mad, which is why we enjoy producing music in the studio so much. It feels like you’re going to work, but for this really great job that you enjoy. We still went nuts but in a good way.
You both grew up as metal fans, but where do your inspirations come from now?
Tom and I tend to think about music in very different ways, but despite that I’d still say we’ve got a lot of similarities. Whether it’s classical music or heavy metal bands we still look for the same kind of things, but I’m not entirely sure what that thing is. I suppose it’s anything with a strong emotional melody, anything that builds and releases tension. Sometimes it can be much more specific – there’s this a very particular vocal delay in a Pink Floyd song for examples, and we both knew we wanted to do something like it in one of our tracks.
Any other artists you’re particularly big fans of?
James Blake and Mount Kimbie are two definite favourites. We were lucky enough to tour with them both and they have very different ways of doing live electronic music but I can’t think of any people that do it better. They have a similar vocal-led, multi-instrumental sound but the way they communicate it with such a human element is really powerful. Factory Floor are also really exciting to see live. Aside from that we still enjoy going to see smaller, hardcore, DIY metal bands.
What are your live sets like? Do you tend to stick to similar venues?
St. Pancras Old Church is a definite favourite, we must have been there 5 or 6 times at least. It has a really nice atmosphere – it’s tiny but because it’s a church has this expansive quality at the same time. The Golden Poodle in Hamburg is also brilliant. Whenever we play in London we try to make it as immersive as possible because we want the venue to add a bit of character so anything that’s a bit less traditional is right up our street. It’s kind of like an extra character in a play you know? The venue really adds something.
You all got tattoos to commemorate the latest album, how did that come about?
So the venue in Hamburg I mentioned, the Golden Poodle (it really is one of the most bizarre and brilliant places you could ever spend a night), they have an animator who draws all their flyers and he made this really simple outline of a boat and a cloud for our gig. Tom and Andres both love tattoos but I didn’t have any, and since we’d always talked about getting the same tattoo when we saw this image we decided to get it as a kind of commemoration of the tour. I’m not sure if I’ll get another one, it reminded me a bit of the dentist whilst I was in the tattoo parlour, but then again I always said I’d never get one in the first place so maybe I will end up getting a couple more!
Have you ever done Sofar?
Yeah, it was terrifying! You’re bearing everything in front of this tiny, but packed audience just a few feet away from you. It was great though because you could tell everyone really wanted to be there.
Any particularly big shows you’re looking forward to this summer?
I think there’s a general level of nervous excitement overall. We haven’t played a huge amount live because we’ve spent so much time working on the album so it’ll be good to get back on the road again.
Model Of You is out now via Apollo / R&S Records.