Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Majical Cloudz

14 January 2013, 10:50 | Written by Suze Olbrich


Majical Cloudz began life as the solo project of Devon Welsh. Welsh has been an intrinsic part of Montreal’s Arbutus Records scene since its inception. One of the burgeoning collective of artists bestowed with copious talent all funneled into idiosynchratic yet unfailingly bewitching releases of varied shapes and sizes.

Welsh brought on a collaborator Matthew Otto earlier this year to help realise his ideal sound. The resultant Turns Turns Turns EP is imbued with an abundant, amber glow that floods the voluminous spaces between artful, earnest beats, all underscoring Welsh’s rich, melancholic vocals. The subject matter though oft tinged with sorrow and regret, when wrapped in these delicious compositions, and told in Devon’s beguiling timbre, is unfailingly compulsive. The bittersweet has never felt so comforting.

A full length is expected to be released on Arbutus in a few months. In the meantime Welsh is heading to SXSW to further cement his nascent reputation as a darkly charismatic and truly captivating performer. One that doesn’t allow the fact that he has a gorgeous voice let him give himself a break. Welsh is as deeply immersed as can be in each and every second of every set, as he told me recently.

It must have been reassuring to be part of the traveling Arbutus family on your first tours as Majical Cloudz last year?

Yeah, totally. It’s mostly all the people that have been playing music in Montreal for the past few years. A group of friends that are now luckily able to tour and whose music is getting more attention, so that’s really fun.

Why did you chose Matthew Otto to join Majical Cloudz?

I’d known him for a long time. He studied electro acoustics with a friend and recorded some music for an old project of mine. At the time that I was writing a lot of the music that we’re doing now I was living in Ontario at my Dad’s house and I was really cut off from the Montreal scene, so I was just emailing him things. He’s really good at understanding what I’m talking about and working with me to make it real. It’s been a really awesome creative partnership.

Acts from Montreal seem to strive that little bit harder to engage the audience on stage, and in your bio it describes Majical Cloudz as an event, so I was wondering if you meant that in the theatrical sense?

The bio is a slightly jokey way for me to refer to the idea that when we play live, just like when you’re doing a theatre performance and you’re sticking to the script, ideally when you perform those lines it should feel new every time. You should be interacting with the dialogue in a way that’s genuine. We try to actively feel and be sympathetic to what the audience is looking for. Sometimes I’m trying to make them laugh and sometimes we engage in a really serious way, but every time we play it respects the dynamic of that moment and we don’t try to force anything. We try to make it as emotionally spontaneous as possible.

Your tracks are very personal and all written to actual people in your life. Do those people know who they are?

Most people know about them. Some people that I write songs about I don’t really talk to anymore, so writing the songs are a way for me to feel like I’ve communicated with them without saying anything to their face.

It seems like you need a slight sadomasochistic streak to go through all that fully on stage every night? Do you truly enjoy it?

Yeah, I do. I lost interest in a version of performing where I’m not 100% invested in what’s going on. If what I’m singing is what I’m actually feeling and I’m trying to communicate that to the audience then I just feel that’s the heart of good entertainment in a positive sense.

Have your audiences been as engaged in the shows as you hoped for?

You shouldn’t expect people to pay attention just because you’re on stage performing. That’s not good enough. You need to actually be able to prove yourself. It’s so much more rewarding when you turn an audience from being really distracted to being really engaged. It’s fun to go into an environment like a late night party and people are super loud, drinking and partying and then focus people’s attention for that short bit of time so you can play that set and get people to listen.

By reveling in such melancholy material, are you trying to reach a collective catharsis of sorts with your shows?

It’s about making songs about things that are sad, but trying to own up to it and find something healing about performing this music. So that when we play the audience leaves with a feeling of having experienced something that they wouldn’t normally experience in their day to day life. That’s what I hope anyway.

Have you seen many other artists who achieve that on stage?

It feels better for me, and I respect any artist that attempts to get to that point where the audience and the performer are sharing something beyond a set list and a cover charge. Any kind of moment that an artist generates that somehow breaks through and becomes more of a real event, where people don’t really know what the script is or how to follow it, is close. So in that respect that can be anyone.

Elite Gymnastics, who you’ve just been touring with, seems to try a similar thing.

James Brooks (Elite Gymnastics) does that type of thing successfully. He tries to shake up peoples’ expectations of what performance is. At times he’ll just stop and he’ll start talking to the audience. It’s not just a spectacle, but it’s a real person on stage who is going through his own struggles and I think that’s a really interesting part of his performance.

Doing away with the fourth wall and all that. For anyone who is yet to see you, what do you think is the key element that elevates your shows into being events?

I think what we do is more bound up in the theatrical. I think it might be closer to someone performing a monologues on stage and the monologue is semi-scripted and there’s the opportunity to change the script and go beyond how a performer would normally interact with his audience.

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