Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trish Young (Clouds) interview: 2011


The current ‘90s reunion tour juggernaut continues to prosper and throw up some pretty surprising, half remembered names. Some are more obviously deserving of our attention than others - it’s a personal taste thing for sure - but the last time Sydney band Clouds played in my hometown, I was so teasingly close to experiencing their show, I've always reserved a special place for them. The over 18’s-only gig in question, resulted in a cold night stood in the venue’s car-park straining to enjoy every morsel of muffled sound cranking from the speakers. This so close, but not quite moment never abated, but only rose to a lingering obsession with one day being in the same room as the band while they played - after all, their music had already made a fan-for-life of me.

Clouds’ reunion this year falls on the anniversary of their left-field, ARIA-winning debut album, Penny Century, a record that pooled together a whole career’s worth of ideas, and one that the band would never quite equal again in popularity. Yet the most endearing elements at play remained throughout Clouds’ eight year run; the perfectly synchronized harmonies of Jodi Phillis and Trish Young - who also provided lead guitar and bass – the well-measured guitar feedback/melodic tune-ship and some seriously creative drumming, was their ongoing signature. It was after a frustrating US tour, during which time they were signed and dropped within just three months, Clouds ended tidily with the single Never Say Forever and final album, Futura in 1997. The following years were good to Trish Young, she confesses today from her home in Sydney, but she's quick to add, “Though I am really looking forward to getting out there and playing some of the old songs again!” Young explains the timing of the tour - which see’s Gen-X favourites, Jesus Jones and The Wonderstuff on the same bill -  had an added benefit for Clouds’, who were already considering making a return.

“We had put out the feelers already to see if anybody would be interested in booking us to play a couple of shows before the Jesus Jones/Wonderstuff tour came about.” Trish claims, “In the start we were told it would be a five band line-up with us, Jesus Jones, Wonderstuff, Frente and Caligula, but by the time the booking was done, Frente and Caligula had vanished from the roster. I think in the beginning the promoter wanted a full mini-festival of bands from that era.“ The planned triple bill might seem like some cobbling together of completely unrelated acts in any musical sense, but between them, they recall a very specific time in music and had all laid claim to equal billing on the alternative music charts. So much like cask wine and orange juice, it’s not strictly an obvious mix, but then all three bands had previously crossed paths during their respective peaks. Trish recounts.

“I can’t remember the exact year – it would have been around 1992 I think – but we actually supported The Wonderstuff once before, and Jesus Jones used to open for them in England quite a bit.” She continues, “ I do vaguely remember hanging back stage and chatting with (singer) Miles (Hunt) and the guitarist and having a great time, but recently I read in an interview, Miles said none of them (in Wonderstuff) got on back then and tours were always really tense, but it was not the impression I had of them at all. But who knows, maybe the tour with us was the only one they enjoyed!” Clouds frequent tours, including the first ever Big Day Out in 1992, were near legendary events on the live music calendar and attracted sell-out crowds all around the country. Trish recalls Clouds’ touring years fondly,

“When Clouds started, that was exactly the kind of life I had wanted ever since I was in school.” She exclaims, “Opposed to a lot of bands, I actually enjoyed living on the road and staying in a different hotel every night, meeting fans and doing in-stores, but then it was tough on Jodi. She used to suffer terribly from insomnia when we were on tour.” Jodi’s fatigue was never offered as a reason for the Clouds’ eventual split in 1997, but it seems reasonable to think it was a factor. “No it really wasn’t that, but it is true that Jodi wasn’t enjoying the same things that I was about being on tour.” Although Trish admits she misses Clouds, and Jodi continues to slot her 'old band's songs' in during her live solo gigs, no plans are afoot to revive the group. “It’s only a reunion in the sense that we’re playing these three shows... there won’t be any new music or plans to continue beyond the tour. There just isn’t the time anymore for us to commit to that kind of lifestyle.” At the start of Clouds’ career in 1990, the release of their debut self-titled EP in 1990 - which featured Triple J favourite, Cloud Factory – saw the band lumped in with stand-out 4AD acts of the day, Cocteau Twins and Lush. It looked too many reviewers as though fans of ‘jangly guitar/girly-harmonies pop’ had a new band to slip nicely among their This Mortal Coil collections, but Clouds were already in the process of losing their innocence.

Cloud Factory’s gentle acoustic delivery was a false indicator of what was about to come and in 1991, the band dipped into darker terrain with the release of the Loot EP, in particular, the murder ballad 4pm, which beat Nick Cave at his own game. Following Loot, and its radio single, Soul Eater, Clouds managed to chart with a gothic tribute to Flemish impressionist painter, Hieronymus Bosch (Hieronymus), giving the band a green light to go darker and stranger still. Their debut album, Penny Century released at the end of ’91, carried on their sweet but sinister turn and a sizable section of the record-buying public went along for the ride. At this stage, Clouds guitarist Dave Easton was tuning into Pixies/Sonic Youth’s cosmic radio while Jodi and Trish’s writing seemed to be channeled through punk goddess, Siouxsie Sioux. Then in 1993, the much anticipated come-back single, Bower Of Bliss - with a vagina-worship narrative that would’ve made Serge Gainsbourg blush – signaled the end of Clouds mk.1, and unfortunately the end of long-held support from Triple J. Radio barely touched Bower… or it’s parent album, Thunderhead, but Trish holds no regrets about Clouds’ rapid shift towards a heavier, ‘less popular’ sound.

“Even if there had’ve been a ‘Clouds-sound’ to use as a reference, I doubt that we could have maintained such a thing. There were four people in this band at any given time, all with different musical tastes and wanting to do different things, so just that alone meant we were never going to be about one idea, or one person’s idea of what Clouds were meant to sound like.” Indeed Trish and Jodi are the only members of Clouds who remained from start to finish. A crew of six players all-up came and went between 1990 and 1997, however the current reunion shows will feature Clouds’ longest term line-up; Dave Easton, who played guitar during the band’s peak period, ‘91-’95, and Raphael Whittingham, who drummed between ’93 and ’97. Preparations for the three-date run, Trish explains, have been a mix of spirited gatherings of old mates, and the odd memory lapse. “I’m pretty pleased actually with the amount of songs I could remember, almost start to finish, but there were a couple of times where everyone just stopped playing and no-one could remember how the next part was supposed to go!” She laughs. “We used a lot of weird structures in our songs and it was kind of funny how everyone forgot the same parts because of these sudden changes where the music would just stop, or get really fast!” Trish says, surely describing Clouds’ superb 1992 single, Anthem, in which the band knowingly replicate The TroggsWild Thing before freezing mid riff, as a chiming music box replaces an expected glam-rock guitar solo. “I’m glad you picked up on that, because there were quite a lot of gruesome guitar solos around at the time, and we were trying to sort of go against that in our own little way.” Fourteen years on from their split, regarding the Clouds catalogue, Trish reckons that the music her band made within those eight years, stands-up today, and has aged very well indeed. “I think some of the songs sound a bit dated, but most of them still feel surprisingly fresh to me.” She adds, “I honestly think we didn’t sound as though we belonged to particular time, or decade... to me it’s like Clouds could have happened at any time really.”


Jodi and Trish; an unbeatable combo.


  1. loving your blog :)

  2. Hey Trish, come on back to San Francisco some time! -- Dan

  3. hi, nice to meet you!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Thanks for the article/interview, very interesting for a Clouds fan like me.