A Cloud of Ravens Interview by Tzina Dovve ( DJ Lady Davinia ) …… A Cloud Of Ravens…One of the darkest acts to emerge on the scene in late 2018… Matthew, singer and guitarist, gives a deep insight on what these newcomers from Brooklyn are all about……A Cloud Of Ravens…by Tzina Dovve ( DJ Lady Davinia )……
Tzina: A Cloud Of Ravens are a new act to emerge on the New York/US goth / dark scene. How and when exactly did you come to life and who are the members of this act?
Matthew: Hi Tzina. Beth plays bass, and I play guitar and sing. I started recording some demos in the late summer of 2018, and a friend of mine released it on his imprint (4LT4RS). It did well on Bandcamp, so I decided to do an album, which would become ‘In the Wicked Hours’. Around that time, I met Beth at a bar here in Brooklyn and we had all of this history in common; grew up on a lot of the same music, loved the same bands. Weeks later I told her about A Cloud of Ravens, which was just a solo project at that point. She mentioned she played bass as a teenager, so we decided to start working as a unit. I wasn’t even sure it’d ever be a live entity before that, so you could really say we started the band together.
Tzina: Your name brings to mind something out of dark literature.. A classic horror tale.. Where did the idea to give your band this particular title come from? What does ‘A Cloud Of Ravens’ represent to you?
Matthew: I like that analogy. I am a fan of literature, but admittedly don’t read as much as I used to. The internet has destroyed my attention span. I saw a raven on a backroad in upstate Connecticut a few years back. Sometimes you think you see a raven, but then realize it’s a crow. Crows are amazing animals too, but there’s something really awe inspiring and unmistakable when you spy a raven. They’re like the embodiment of a secret. When I was recording the first demos I didn’t have a name for the project. I thought of that resonance of seeing that lone raven, and thought about how amazing an entire flock might look against an open sky. It fit the mood of the recordings, and not to get too philosophical about it, but I tend to see those inspirations as providence. So, ‘A Cloud of Ravens’ it was.
Tzina: Your music could be described as haunting yet melodic dark poetry. Who is the main songwriter behind these dark creations? What inspires you most to write these melodies? What are your main musical influences?
Matthew: The first thing I really latch onto when I hear a song is the melody, so that’s always a focus for us with songwriting. Beth is someone who lyrics are very important to, which sets the bar high for me. If I can get her nod of approval, I’ve probably done ok. Lyrically, I’m inspired by life, love, loss, faith, passion, history, the environment, spirituality, dissent, the human condition, man’s co-opting of a world he foolishly believes is his. I try to translate it in a way that’s relatable. Sometimes I’ll invent words, or alter things just because I like the alliteration. It’s been very liberating, as I’ve gotten older, to realize that in art, there are no rules. There is no ‘right or wrong’ or boundaries in expression. It just IS. Music has been a passion for us, as with many, for our whole lives. I think people get this idea that musicians in a darkwave or gothic band only like other darkwave and gothic music, but we draw from everywhere. We draw as much from The ’Stones’ and ‘Zeppelin’ as we do from Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy. As much from Black Flag and The Clash as we do from Joy Division or The Cure. I feel you can’t limit yourself creatively by drawing from just one palate, so to speak. Beth and I were just talking about how much we love Prince. He had such a unique way of approaching songwriting. For someone who was active in music as long as he was, there’s no discernible formula to his process- it’s all ‘feel’. He had a level of genius an artist dreams of achieving. As far as ‘Ravens’ is concerned I have been the main songwriter thus far, but everything goes through Beth. I’ve corrected incalculable amounts of things because her ear is so sharp. The mixes and arrangements would be a shade of what they are if not for her sensibilities. All that being said, Beth will be contributing lyrics and vocals to the next album. More than a few people have demanded it, and I’m all for it.
Tzina: Your second full-length album ‘Another Kind Of Midnight’ was released in March this year on Cleopatra Records. A quintessentially dark masterpiece in my humble opinion. What makes this album different from your previous releases and how content are you with the outcome of this work?
Matthew: Thank you for the kind words. You can probably look at anything you create in hindsight and think ‘Hmm, I could’ve done this or that differently/better’, but we’re proud of the songs and album as a whole, and how it translated from the initial ideas to a piece of work that we feel represents us accurately as a band, in this moment. With our first single, back in 2018, and the ‘Sacred Hearts EP’, we were really finding our feet and seeing who we were. That said, I still love those songs and consider them vital to our development, and would still happily play them in a live setting today. On ‘In the Wicked Hours’ there is a more tribal element to it, and we used a lot more of an orchestral approach in the arrangements, as it relates to synth tones and structure. ‘Another Kind of Midnight’ is more of a homage to the death rock we loved as kids, stripped down and brought into current day, and through our own personal filter.
Tzina: What feedback has ‘Another Kind Of Midnight’ received by your music fans and the music press so far?
Matthew: The response has been great. It feels like we’ve kept most or all of the listeners that we attracted with the first album, and added some new. The press has been positive, as far as I’ve seen. Part of putting yourself out there is realizing that no matter what your band is, or what you create, there will always be someone who feels compelled to detract. That’s the nature of the beast, and we’re cool with it. That being said, we’re very appreciative of how the album, and us as a band, have been received. We’re very grateful. To quote the great Joe Strummer; “Without people, you’re nothing”.
Tzina: As I understand you have a seven track remix album ‘Another Kind Of Midnight (The Remixes)’ due for release at the end of this month (June) with collaborations with some well-known musicians on the dark/goth/alternative scene. Clan of Xymox and Actors just to name a few. How did this idea of a remix album come about for the band?
Matthew: Beth really spearheaded the whole remix EP. We had a handful of bands/artists that we really admire and respect, and somehow, nearly all of them were happy to contribute. Clan of Xymox were obviously a huge honor for us to have aboard, and we were blown away by what Ronny did with the song. Jason Corbett from ACTORS also just reworked the entire arrangement amazingly, as did Chris Vrenna, who gave the track an almost early NIN feel. Soren Bryce from the indie band Tummyache did an amazing job with ‘Ban-druidh [The White Witch]’. We truly love everyone’s contribution, and really feel blessed to have artists/producers like Ritual Howls, John Fryer and Ego Likeness, in a way, be a part of our little band.
Tzina: You have also released a few videos on YouTube this year with your most recent ‘World On Fire ( Clan of Xymox Remix )’. All videos are filmed in black and white. What is the concept behind this particular choice of imagery? How important is the visual side of your music to you? Are there any more videos in the pipeline?
Matthew: I think seeing things in monochrome encourages people to focus on the music, to use their imagination. It eschews that urge to be distracted by the shiny object and maybe see what’s beneath it all. It also just looks cool, haha. We had a great local filmmaker from here in Brooklyn, Kevin Condon, work with us for the first video, for ‘When it Comes’, which was our first single from the album. He really captured the essence of the city and of what we’re about. We went more rural with ‘Tithes & Offerings’, and then a mix of the two for the Xymox remix video, both of which we mostly shot and edited ourselves. Following the release of the ACTORS remix video for ‘The Earthen Call’, which was done by an amazing animator in Italy, we will likely take a break with videos until the next album. I think there’s this misconception with the videos and remixes that we’ve somehow got this huge budget from the label. We fund our projects independently/DIY, and in some cases, by the good graces of other artists, who we are fortunate enough to call friends.
Tzina: As a new act on the goth/dark scene do you have any plans to take A Cloud Of Ravens to the stage for some live shows? Is there anything lined up once the world finally re-opens?
Matthew: Playing live is what attracted me to music in my teen years, and that hasn’t changed. Writing and recording is its own reward, but nothing compares to being in front of a crowd to make it all real. We will hit the road as soon as it’s safe for bands and audiences. It’s encouraging to see bands we admire with fall tours booked. We will likely follow suit.
Tzina: Your band participated in the twenty-third Absolution Anniversary stream just last week. Great performance by the way. What are your views on these online streams that have dominated social media during the pandemic? How does it feel to be a part of this new virtual world?
Matthew: Thank you! We were honored to take part. That was our first live stream, so we’re a little late to the party. I think it’s great that bands were able to stay semi-active during shutdown. I give a lot of credit to the people/promoters who organize these huge bills so that bands can stay in front of people who want to see them. Beth and I were just having a conversation about what will happen with live streams post-pandemic, and I’d imagine they’ll still be a thing. There are probably bands that aren’t able to tour as much as they’d like to, so it’s a great way to stay active and visible. We think it’s a valuable platform and we’ll probably do more in the future.
Tzina: Deriving from Brooklyn New York, a city with an endless music history and great events that l witnessed on my visit a few years ago, what is the goth/dark scene like in your hometown today? How different do you think it is from the rest of the US?
Matthew: There’s a great local scene. When things aren’t in lockdown there’s usually a lot going on, and thankfully this is a spot where bands always stop on tour, so we consider ourselves lucky. I think there are probably more similarities than differences in scenes around the country. Sure, there will always be the ‘gatekeepers’, so to speak, but from what I’ve seen, people are generally welcoming, friendly and accepting in most places. The farthest I’ve lived from NYC in my whole life is only an hour away from it. Even with that kind of familiarity, the gravity and history of the city never seems to fade for me. One of my earliest memories is of driving around Brooklyn with my dad in the ‘70s, and there were packs of wild dogs roaming the streets. Parts were like a wasteland then. Then in the ‘80s, during my teens, it was downtown Manhattan, going to shows, record shopping on St Mark’s Place, hanging out in the streets. In the ‘90s I’d play at any number of clubs; CBGB’s, Coney Island High, Tramp’s, Brownie’s. It’s changed a lot since then, but I’m still always in awe of it.
Tzina: How much do you believe this pandemic has affected artists and the music industry over the past year? How did it affect you as creative active musicians?
Matthew: It’s had a big impact on most professions, from what I’ve seen. I feel for anyone who’s struggled to put food on the table, or pay their rent, as a result of the pandemic. The days of selling 10 million albums and sitting back are long gone. The lockdown put a lot of artists out of work. I know some who have made a little extra giving private lessons, or securing sync deals for their work, but the bread and butter these days is in touring. It’s set us back as a band, but I won’t complain. Many have had it much worse and our hearts go out to them. Beth and I are both self-employed, and there’s no real ‘safety net’, but we try to make good choices and keep our heads together. The year hasn’t been an easy one, but we got this album from it, so we consider ourselves blessed.
Tzina: Anything else you would like to share with your fans? What can they expect from A Cloud Of Ravens in the near future?
Once again, we’re grateful for the reception to the new album. We can’t wait to get out on the road, into new cities and clubs, and meet some of the great people we’ve come to know online through the band, and to see old friends as well. We’re already well into recording the next album, of which we’ll probably have more news to share in the fall. Thank you for the interview, Tzina!