Most people seem to like the music of Majical Cloudz the first time they hear it, though a few thoughtful listens can leave folks a little unsettled. Like most things that feel ostensibly good, the music of the Montreal band stares convention in the eye, uninterested in delivering easy hooks or lyrical puns. Instead, words like “intimate,” “minimalist,” and “gut wrenching” are thrown around to describe Impersonator, the first release from Devon Welsh and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Otto since Majical Cloudz signed with Matador Records in 2013.
“Childhood’s End” and the album’s title track feel like the seminal moments on Impersonator, with Otto’s unconventional sonic sensibilities almost luring Welsh’s stripped-down, unassuming catharsis. Indeed, the whole of Impersonator speaks for itself (and not just literally). It’s frank and beautiful, straightforward and soaring; it’s no wonder that anti-pop star Lorde tabbed the Canadian duo as openers for her current world tour, which hits the Santa Barbara Bowl this Thursday, October 9. We recently checked in with the band via email about what to expect.
What kind of adjustments have you made to your live performance to adjust for the large, Lorde-sized venues? We haven’t really made adjustments to the substance of what we do. We haven’t added anything to our setup or changed our music in any way. If we’ve made any adjustments, it’s mostly with respect to how I move onstage and speak to the crowds. When you are playing for 100 people in a very small room, everyone in the audience is perceiving you up close — they can see your smallest movements and can talk to you easily if they want to. On the bigger stages of this tour, not everyone can see the very subtle movements that a person makes onstage, so it’s helpful to do things a bit bigger. Speaking to larger crowds is different in a comparable way.
How has performing, discussing, and hearing Impersonator over the last year changed your relationship to that album? Before we released it, all of that music felt like a big secret. Over the last year it’s become something that has gone from feeling like a personal possession to something that is owned by anyone who wants to listen to it and get something out of it. The songs become the property of the people that like to hear them. The first time I ever had that experience was with the release of Impersonator. At first it was strange, but now it feels amazing.
Being a former religious studies student, would you be willing to make any book recommendations? I studied religion at McGill University. Most of the books I read for school were pretty dry and not anything I’d recommend to someone who wasn’t studying religion academically, but I can recommend some of the books I’ve read over the past year or so that I got a lot out of: Andy Kaufman Revealed! by Bob Zmuda; I Will Never Be Beautiful Enough to Make Us Beautiful Together by Mira Gonzalez; The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick; How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton; The White Album by Joan Didion.
How does performing change if/when you’re unable to connect with an audience? If you’re a performer and part of what you do involves performing to an audience and not just for an audience, you have to reach out to whoever is listening and hope they return the favor. When that doesn’t happen, it just makes performing harder and less fun because it feels like you’re talking to someone who doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. A show will always be somewhere on the spectrum; it’s rare that an audience is either 100 percent committed or 0 percent committed to what is happening onstage, but we’ve been grateful to have good audiences for the most part.
Majical Cloudz plays the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.) on Thursday, October 9, at 7 p.m. with Lorde. For info, call (805) 962-7411 or visit sbbowl.com.