We Were Black Clouds makes powerful, heavy rock brimming with soul and emotion. That is, they used to, until the motions of life forced the group into a state of suspended animation.
After spending some time laying low, D.C.-based rock outfit is back on the scene, with a new lineup and name. In anticipation of their forthcoming show at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Friday, November 4 alongside Flavor Waster, Wanted Man and Sunndrug, I spoke with the band’s drummer and general manager, Jimmy Rhodes, about the group’s creative process, getting back into music and their plans for the future.
How has the past year been for the band?
Well, it’s been about 14 months since we’ve played a show, which is really weird. We basically had the ball in our court, we were running with it and all of a sudden it was stolen from us, deflated, then burned in a trash can.
We went through a trademark battle with our name and ended up losing the trademark that we owned, that’s why we have the new name. We also had some internal health stuff happen within the band, Justin had a baby, and the record label we were on folded due to some surreal craziness… and then we added John on guitar as a new live member. Let’s just say we are happy to be back after the last year of insanity.
You recently added a new member, guitarist John Kneip, to the lineup. How did you link up with him, and what role does he fill in the group?
John was actually in a band with us before this one. He’s taking over on the live guitar/key duties for Justin due to an ongoing scheduling conflict. Justin is still a primary songwriter and will still be recording with us, so nothing there has changed. John has been the sole reason that the band can still play shows, so we are infinitely appreciative. He’s one of the most talented guys we’ve ever known. Overall, it’s like not seeing your brother for a while, and then he decides to move back to town and hang.
How would you describe We Were Black Clouds’ philosophy as a group?
The overall philosophy is that we want to write music that is honest and that we are happy with. We generally don’t have an end goal in mind, and we like to experiment and not set any sort of limit or boundary. We like to be loud, but we also like to evoke feelings from people when they hear our songs.
Looking back, what are some of the bands proudest moments/accomplishments?
I think we can all agree that headlining 9:30 Club in July of 2013 was one of the most ultimate bucket list checks for all of us. It was also pretty cool being able to open for Marilyn Manson so last minute at the Fillmore. Putting out two records that we are completely happy with isn’t too shabby either.
How would you describe the group’s creative process?
We try and write a score to something we think about or sometimes even to an actual movie, and then we’ll slowly deconstruct some of it until it fits a defined and deliberate song. Justin (guitar/keys) and Ross (Bass) will get the blueprints down and then they’ll eventually send it or bring it to me at the practice space and we’ll go at it for a bit.
Eventually everything kind of falls in the funnel and gets firmed up and more focused. I always joke that when they bring song ideas to me it’s like getting IKEA presents for Christmas. It’s cool, but it sucks when we have to build them all.
What is your favorite part about the D.C. music scene?
For me it’s seeing this new wave of hardcore that’s happening, it’s really cool and inspiring and exciting. I would also just say the music venues in general are one of my favorite parts. We are a very lucky city to have the venues that we do.
What can we expect from your show this Friday?
We will be playing select songs off both records, Dreamcation and Everything Is Not Going To Be OK. We will have some new songs ready soon-ish, but not for this show. We wanted to make sure the transition of John joining for the live shows sounded like we had never stopped.
After the show, what’s up ahead for We Were Black Clouds?
We are going to play shows as much as we can, and write new music as much as we can. It would be cool to make up for the time we lost, and I think we are all on the same page about that.