Ulrich Lenffer of Australian alternative rock band, Cloud Control, speaks with the brutal honesty and calmness usually associated with bona fide musical legends. Despite their relative new appearance on the Australian and international music scene, the band has already racked up some exceptional achievements, causing Lenffer’s cool, unaffected demeanour to seem, almost, appropriate.
Rumours and fame have always tended to come hand in hand, and there is an innocent one about Cloud Control floating around that the band actually started themselves. Lenffer is quick to dispel the rumour about their formation; that all four members of the group met at rehearsals for The Pirates of Penzance.
“That’s a rumour that we propagated ourselves, as a joke, and it keeps biting us.” How the band actually formed seems dull in comparison. “We were actually just formed for a band competition, and then we just stuck together.”
Despite the somewhat unexciting formation story, the band did stick together and have continued to grow with each new success, having released two studio albums, supported a string of international acts and won the Australian Music Prize in 2011.
Lenffer credits the Australian music scene for their original success. “It’s got a great sense of community. Sydney and Melbourne have their own distinct sounds, but Australia as a whole is very, very supportive with music. There are a lot of smaller bands that are selling out huge rooms, selling a lot of albums and a lot of tickets. When we were coming though, we got a lot of support from community radio, in particular.”
Cloud Control’s first album, Bliss Release, received critical acclaim, but true to form, Lenffer doesn’t get too caught up in these reviews. “I think we did read reviews. We didn’t go through them all. I think it’s good to know that someone actually appreciates something.
“We get a lot of word of mouth, but when it’s written down somewhere, it just legitimises it that little bit more. We enjoy the albums, even if this or that person doesn’t.”
Their debut effort seems to have been a family affair. “It was recorded in the producer’s house and Jeremy’s lounge room. His parents would be coming around offering us tea and coffee and lunch. You can hear the lawnmowers in the background.”
When asked if this relaxed atmosphere had changed between the recording of the first and second album, Lenffer again astutely weighs up both the pros and cons of home recording, compared to studio recording. “The first album was so relaxed. There was no pressure. There was no studio time ticking away. If you didn’t get the take, you didn’t have to. It was quite healthy. In another regard, it just took a lot longer.”
Recording in a studio, however, allowed the band to expand and experiment with their musical sound and direction. “We were like, ‘We have a studio now. We can afford to experiment a little.’ Before we were just going to be an organic instrument, but in ‘Dojo Rising’ for example, we used a programmed beat and played over that live. It’s things like that, that we normally wouldn’t have said yes to, but this time we did.”
The band have toured extensively throughout Australia and Europe, but Lenffer admits that breaking America is “still underway.” When asked if the band had any favourite places to play, Lenffer at first slips up by naming the Netherlands. He quickly realises the correct answer, “But that said, Dublin’s great. We loved Dublin. Dublin’s always been fun. You guys really like to party.”
When asked what fans of Cloud Control can expect in the future, Lenffer is typically reserved in what he reveals. “You can expect some tours, we’ll be playing some festivals. Then when that dies down at the end of the year, we’re probably going to start recording again.”
Touring has become a way of life for this band and the band has an impressive CV of supporting slots and gigs, having opened for Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, Supergrass and The Temper Trap.
Lenffer recounts one particular experience with The Foo Fighters’ frontman, David Grohl. “That was funny. It was kind of humbling, because that was a charity concert in Australia. He just came out to play a show for free.
“They were sound-checking, and we were on the hill listening and then we just clapped at the end of the song and he thanked us, personally. He was like, ‘Yeah, thanks guys.’ That was cool, but that was about the extent of our interaction with him.”
Lenffer admits that playing with acts of such high calibre gives the group perspective. “I mean, your conception of them is of this big superstar. Supergrass was the first big band we supported. We knew their songs and their reputation.
“Then when they turned up, they were just the nicest, most interesting bunch of gentlemen. We were like, ‘You’ve been rocking for three decades, and you’re still nice, grounded people. This is alright. This is a good industry.”
His insights provide a contrasting and refreshing insight into the music industry, which in recent times has seen the self-destruction of some of its youngest and most promising names. Luckily for Cloud Control fans, it doesn’t appear that this plight will be seeping into the mindset of Lenffer anytime soon.
Cloud Control’s second album, Dream Cave, was released in September 2013