The Indiana based Cloakroom has just released what is sure to be one of my favorite albums of the year, their eagerly awaited debut LP, Further Out. If you have been keeping up over the past couple years you may have made note of the love that the staff at B.G.M. has for Cloakroom and their efforts thus far. I have been playing their Inifinty EP on repeat since the first timed I listened to it, and I’ll be damned if someone could get me to stop. I will spare you from the page long rant explaining my love for it. It is great, and so is Further Out. In case you missed it be sure to check out Quinten’s glowing review which was published earlier this week. Just over a year ago Quinten was also very fortunate to have interviewed Cloakroom’s very humble and talented bassist Bobby Markos, in which they covered a broad range of topics. Bobby has remained in touch with us over the year and was awesome enough to let me reach out and ask about Further Out, everything Cloakroom, and basically continue his last conversation with us.
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B.G.M.: First things first, I want to just say that I am very excited to finally be able to listen to Further Out. My obsession with Infinity has become problematic as I find myself comparing music to it constantly. Cloakroom has set a new bar for my personal taste in music these days. Could you tell us a little about the writing process and recording of Further Out.
Bobby Markos: First of all thank you very much. The funny thing about that EP is that we intended on it being a “demo” of sorts. We recruited my longtime best friend Zac Montez to work the dials, and it all just came together better than expected. I mean, we recorded it in our practice space, which is an old office building in the Region. It’s cool to see so many people have heard this recording, which is really an intimate thing just because we never intended on releasing it at such a wide scale. We began writing the songs for Further Out right when we were recording the first EP. In fact, “Paper Weight,” is one of our earliest songs. When we wrote “Outta Spite,” it was originally deemed “New Bending” just because it had a similar pop vibe. The rest of the songs just sort of poured out. About halfway through we demoed a bunch of them with Zac again, and those demos are floating around on our personal PCs. We ended up rewriting a couple of the tunes so it’s cool to hear the original versions, as well as what was left behind. That was the session that those covers we did came from actually. We recorded the majority of the songs for the LP, came home, wrote some more, then went back. Some of the material was jammed in the studio too when we had down time.
How did you guys come to work with Matt Talbot (of Hum)? Side question: Which Hum album is better? You’d Prefer An Astronaut, or Downward Is Heavenward?
I was in a band that recorded at Earth Analog a couple of years ago with a different producer. I fell in love with the place and wanted to go back with Cloakroom. We actually originally intended on going with the same producer as my old band, but after talking with Matt it really clicked, so we locked down time with him. It’s funny how the little decisions you make end up playing such a huge role in your life. Here we are a year later and not only did we record a record with someone who I truly look up to, but I feel like I’ve made a great new friend too. Aside from that, Matt really gets our band and what we’re doing, so the recording process was truly chemical. Plus, he’s a wild man, truly a wild man. As far as Hum goes: Downward is Heavenward all the way, but You’d Prefer an Astronaut has some golden moments.
There was quite a bit of time between the recording of Further Out and its release, what was the reason for the delay?
Like I said, the record was recorded in two sessions that were super far apart. Matt is a really busy guy and it was hard to schedule blocks to get things done. But really, we didn’t feel much of a rush to get things done. We were taking our time, taking everything in, and I believe the record came out the way it did because of that time between. We were pretty hellbent on doing the thing completely analog, and that ended up being pretty time consuming. Then, after all was said and done, the pressing plant got behind and threw off the schedule completely. It all worked out though because that led to us doing a single and doing the song with Matt.
What was the most difficult song on the album to write or record?
I wouldn’t say that any of the songs were “difficult” per say, but some took longer than others. As I mentioned, we rewrote some songs, like “Asymmetrical”, so that song was under the scalpel for a bit. As far as recording went, I’d say the “Outta Spite/Moon Funeral” chunk. Since we recorded it analog, we had to get a straight perfect take. I remember Brian telling me “I was about halfway through and I was thinking, ‘hey I’ve got a pretty good take going’ and then I started going ‘oh shit, I’ve got a pretty good take going'”. It was hard not to get inside your head on that one, we were playing music for about 10 minutes straight.
We’ve been playing all the songs as we’ve wrote them, just because we aren’t very “conventional”. We’re a live band first and foremost. We like to practice, write and record before we like to perform. But, unless you live in Chicagoland you wouldn’t really know. I feel like the world outside of our world has no idea what we’re up to. I always forget that. That being said, I really love playing the songs live for so many reasons. Especially “Deep Sea Station” and “Asymmetrical” because they’re such emotional moments for us, and I can still feel that intensity that I felt when we finished them in the practice space.
In your previous interview with us, you mentioned that the original Cloakroom riffs were actually country-esque riffs that Doyle had been working on and you suggested be slowed down and played at half-tempo. What was the inspiration sonically behind Further Out? Or has the band kind of just found it’s natural groove?
I’d say that the band just found it’s groove. Once we had the initial writing sessions in my parent’s basements, we never really discussed our sound. We just sort of wrote. Doyle would bring riffs to the table, I would bring riffs, and Brian would bring arrangements. Doyle and I would show up to the practice space, write a riff, go get tacos and then head back to do some more. We demoed a lot more with this material, we like to use voice memos. We also never stopped writing, I mean we’ve already started new material that we’ve been playing live. I’d say we’re on a timeline now that just sort progresses and moves when its ready to.
Describe the dynamic between Doyle, Brian, and yourself.
I don’t really have a good term for it, maybe “extraterrestrial”. I’ve been in a band with people whom I considered my best friends, and it always makes the inner band dynamic take on a new personality. But with the Cloaks, I’d say there’s a weird extra factor that I’ve never experienced. I will say that I’ve never really felt stressed out or pressured by Doyle and Brian. They’re good people, good friends too. Whenever I find myself stressing about things, they reassure me that all is well and things are going fine. Hanging out with them at practice is something I look forward to every week, just because we make each other laugh and have fun jamming parts. Sometimes Doyle will just launch into a wild cover and we’ll go after it. We like to go out with each other after practice too. Sometimes we just hang out during the week, and that’s really special for me just because we’re all so busy with our personal lives. Some of my fondest memories of my mid-twenties were created within the confines of this band. I can think of two instances, driving down Highway 5 on tour in California last August, and driving around Northern England by ourselves last October. Those were two of the greatest days I’ve ever had, just because I felt like we were really out in the world on our own, and we bonded in an inexplicable way.
Have there ever been talks of additional members?
We always talk about adding our producers (Zac and Matt) just because they play such a huge role in the studio, but I think we really dig the core relationship of us three. But those two will always play huge roles in this band, I consider them additional members. They bring a lot to the table, both musically and inspirationally.
I think most people when asked would really like to avoid genre labeling and such, but it is really kind of hard to do especially describing a band’s sound. You guys get slumped in the “slow-core,” “shoegaze,” and “90’s revival” categories. I feel that a lot of the charm of the Cloakroom’s sound is it’s simplicity. Describe your personal philosophy to your bass playing in relation to Cloakroom.
To touch on your genre bit, I agree it’s hard to avoid. Being a music journalist in the past, I know it’s easy to get in the habit of using these genres that seem to be made up by the minute. They’re like Hallmark holidays, you never know when there’s going to be a new one. I think we pull influence from a lot of bands, and those bands are labeled as those things, so it’s easy to label us as such. But really, we’re just a mess of things. We have addictive personalities and when we like an album, we REALLY LIKE an album. I mean, we’ve probably listened to Failure’s Fantastic Planet hundreds of time on tour. Same with Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head. Which is funny because I never see people comparing us to those bands, but those are the comparisons that would make sense to me.
Anyway, as far as my bass playing goes, I believe the biggest challenge a bass player faces is when to shut up. But at the same time, you have to know when to have a voice. I think most guys play one way or another, they play too much or not enough. Personally, I think eloquent basslines sound silly. And I think that strumming quarter notes like a rubber band doesn’t do a song any favors. But, if you can remove yourself from a part and see just what is needed after the guitar and drums are in place, then you can come up with some cool lines that move from note to note in an interesting fashion. My favorite bass players are Krist Novoselic and Nate Mendel, and they are masters of that. They know their way around a poppy walking bassline, but can definitely provide a power backbone to a song when needed.
It also helps to have a great drummer, which Brian definitely is. We play off one another a lot, and lately it’s been unspoken which is super cool. We incorporate changes in progressions without predetermining it, which to me means we’re on the same page in a great way.
You mentioned last time we spoke with you that Cloakroom was collectively focused on more of just the recording aspect. Has this mindset changed at all? Can we expect any broad touring from you guys this year?
I’d say that not much has changed. We really like practicing and writing, and it’s really cool hearing the ideas come to life, be it on a demo or in an actual studio. But at the same time, we like getting out on tour. We call them “Cloakcations”, because touring is pretty laid back and fun. We just get to go out and play our tunes, and meet people, which is always fun. I like the experience of playing remote parts of the country, because people are excited to meet and hang out. That’s always a nice feeling. We also really like touring with bands we dig and want to watch. We were super lucky in 2014 to gig with bands like Nothing, Basement and Whirr. Not only do they write great music and are fun to watch every night, but we would hang out after the gigs too which is cool. We all know bands never really hang out on tour, but don’t worry, we Cloaks don’t bite.
I’ve had the chance to talk to a few up and coming bands over the course of the last year who have cited Cloakroom as being a big influence on what they are doing. Who are some of your peers in bands out now that really inspire you?
Well that’s mind blowing. I feel like we’re still pups you know? We’ve only been at it a couple of years. I’m glad to hear that we’ve been able to inspire anyone. Honestly, I don’t know what to say. That’s really something.
As far as inspiration, I’m an old dog and you can’t teach me new tricks. It takes me a really long time to get into music that I should be listening to. The peer who inspires me the most is Zac Montez. I think he’s an incredibly gifted producer and his solo material (House of Mountains) is really cool and textures. Aside from that, most of my heroes are old men.
Who has put on the best concert you’ve seen lately?
There’s a running joke in our camp about seeing Failure on their reunion tour last year. None of us have shut the hell up about it and its been months. Every time someone starts talking about a show they saw, I chime in about Failure. I mean, it was incredible. Best show I’ve ever seen. I hope we get to see them again this year.
As far as lately goes, I saw Jaye Jayle play over the holidays and it was amazing. They really captured a vibe and took all in attendance to a different place.
In our previous interview you had just released Orthodox with Native, and had talked about it being in somewhat of a “dark time.” Trying to figure out your situation as far as where the band was at, not having health insurance, waiting tables, etc. A couple years down the road, how are things in comparison? What have you been doing to keep busy in your downtime?
I don’t think I have it figured out. I mean, I’m only 26. My cousin once said “I thought I had it figured out when I was 25, now I’m 35 and I really have it figured out, and I’m sure I’ll say the same thing 10 years from now”. That was pretty eye opening to me, I know I have a lot of growing to do so I’m just accepting the fact that things will be a mess for a while.
I spend the majority of my time with my girlfriend. We like to cook and travel, and just stay active. I’m working on buying a house, hopefully one I can rebuild. I’ve been building a lot and working over at Janice Cabs. My father and I have been working on some documentaries that coincide with our studies. I write a lot. I just try to do something every day so I feel like I’m not wasting my mind.
You also brought up a really awesome idea. Saying you welcomed the idea of people writing “continuations” to your songs, in addition to just covering the tunes. If you could pick any two songs from any artist or album to write a continuation or a “Part 2” of, which songs would you pick? And why?
Well, not that Cloakroom or I could do it, but in a dreamlife I’d love to continue the vibe of “Dayvan Cowboy” by Boards of Canada. I know that’s kind of a cheap answer because its one of their most popular song, but the middle to the end of that song is such an incredible moment in music, I never want to see it end. I could listen to something in that vibe for probably 30 minutes straight, I mean I’ve listened to that song on repeat for hours. As for a second song, if I had to shoot off the cuff, I’d say “Great Days for the Passenger Element” by Autolux. While that song is already epic, I’d love to hear them carry into another more electronically based movement like they do on “Transit Transit”, like in “The Science of Imaginary Solutions”. Plus, the ending of “Great Days” is so beautifully epic, I just want more.
To be clear, I’m in no way critiquing those songs. I feel like the Sandison brothers and Greg Edwards are some of the finest musicians of modern time, but like I said, I have an addictive personality, I want more of what they’re bringing to the table.
Are you still rocking your magnificent beard? If so how has it enhanced your life?
I grew a beard for a year, and then I decided to shave it. It was quite a feat for me. Now I have a mustache. Next week, who knows. I like to keep people guessing.
Any other projects in the works you would like to plug?
Nothing musically. I’m really excited about this documentary and I’m really excited about the work we’re doing over at Lost Speedways. That’s a passion project of mine, something I’ve been interested in since I was a kid.
I know that it is just days since the release of Further Out, But what would you say this album represents for Cloakroom? What would you hope people would say about it in 5 to 10 years?
I think it’s really just the beginning. It’s a pretty good representation of our first couple years as a band, figuring things out, getting to know one another. I hope in 5 to 10 years people are still listening to it. I hope that it means as much to people as it does to me.