You may have seen Cloud Cult. But you probably haven’t seen them under the confluence of events they’ll be playing with at Mayo Park Sunday.
Although Cloud Cult has been described as an orchestral rock band, members prefer an outdoor venue to a concert hall.
With swelling dynamics, building drums, and soaring vocals, sometimes indoor venues can limit how much they can push sounds, said Craig Minowa, a Cloud Cult singer/songwriter.
“A lot of the more resonant halls can actually limit what we can play,” Minowa said. “It gets kind of muddy and bloody.”
Playing at Mayo Park won’t limit their sonic dynamics, he said. The outdoor venue will have the opposite effect.
“We’re pretty invigorated when we play under the stars,” he said.
Put the nature-loving group next to a body of water, and you have some powerful forces aligned, he added.
“We approach shows like a ceremony,” Minowa said.
Playing in the driftless region, where Minowa and his family call home, means his kids can attend the show. “We’re on home turf, basically,” Minowa said.
Touring often means big venues which are in big cities. Too many days in cities and away from nature or family drain band members, he said.
“After being in city after city after city, it gets really hard to be rooted,” Minowa said.
But the group is coming to Rochester straight from their Earthology studio in the Wisconsin woods, so they’re starting out refreshed.
“It’s pretty hard not to be super charged up,” he said.
Music itself can be a source of inspiration and strength. Minowa said he tries to draw on subconscious and authentic emotions for his songwriting. Songs that were cathartic to write are cathartic to play.
“I’ve always found an attraction to music that serves as a medicine for me personally,” he said.
And he has plenty of new songs that served as medicine. Minowa’s father died a little more than a year ago. For a while, he struggled to write songs to help him deal with the recent loss. He kept getting in his own way.
“Any good art requires authenticity,” Minowa said. “Authenticity needs you to set aside your ego.”
He said he knew it was a matter of time.
“The better songs have surfaced when I’m in a more fragile state of being,” he said.
Family has been a longtime and growing inspiration for the group. In some ways, it literally sets the tone for the band. Minowa’s grandmother’s piano sits in his studio. “It’s old and has this weird tone,” he said. “It’s a big part of our sound.”
As members have had kids over the band’s run, priorities have shifted to their wellbeing.
“It’s changed a lot from the early days,” he said.
Touring offers members a chance to give their kids some first-hand education.
“That’s kind of part of the fun part of touring — having the lesson plans as we travel around the country,” he said.
The performers are also joined by on-stage painters who create works based on the performance and the audience’s reactions. Their presence is just as important as the musicians, Minowa said. When Connie Minowa, Craig Minowa’s wife, one of two painters who create works on stage during shows, wasn’t able to join the band for some time, he said he felt her absence deeply.
“When either (of the painters) are missing, I feel like one of my wings is off,” he said.
The show Sunday, the band will have both wings and the right setting.
“Playing in the elements, it just kind of brings out the deeper, ancestral parts of me,” he said.