Majical Cloudz is the brainchild of Montreal musician Devon Welsh, in collaboration with Matthew Otto. Since the group’s featured appearance on Grimes’ single “Nightmusic” earlier this year, curiosity about their music has grown considerably. Response to pre-release singles from their upcoming Turns Turns Turns EP has been universally positive, hype that Welsh is fully capable of delivering on.

As we learned from chatting with him Welsh has a well-defined idea of what he and Otto are trying to do musically, from their misspelled name to their audience-friendly live shows.

Do you recall the first positive feedback you ever received?

The first response that was really important to me came from a friend of mine, named Kyle, who I ended up making music with for a number of years. He was a very good musician, he knew what he was doing. I sent him songs and he was so excited — for him to be excited at that time made me feel like maybe a lot of people could like what I was doing. More recently, as for what my band mate Matt and I have been working on for the past few months, the first time I played [with the current material] was in Oakland. I played some really minimal versions of the songs, in a friend’s living room, and everyone responded really positively. That was the moment I felt strongly about this project.

Has working with Matt freed you up onstage?

Yeah. I have a pretty severe vision of what I want to do, and both in the studio and live he helps make that come to life. In a live context — it’s pretty simple music but there’s still enough going on that the way I want to perform is impossible without having someone with me. Right now it’s just me and the microphone, because I want to be free to engage with the audience, to feel and respond to what they’re really looking for. If I’m playing instruments it becomes more a rehearsed process, playing certain keyboard parts or lines and just singing over them. We’ve been approaching shows more like ... I don’t know what the word would be ... a theatrical live performance more than a musical one.

Do you mean like putting on a real show, above and beyond just playing the songs competently?

Exactly, yeah. The important thing is not to hit all the notes — obviously important, but every time you play the songs they have to come from a genuine place. They can’t just be rote memorizations. Sing the words with real feeling, and that has to change every night. Depending on the audience, sometimes it’s better to make jokes, be a bit exaggerated even though the songs are serious. Sometimes it’s better to be serious, engage with people that way. It’s like a conversation, and you know, sometimes you meet someone who wants to laugh with you, and sometimes you have to go somewhere more personal.

It sounds like you’re not afraid to really push up your energy on stage — and that’s the best kind of live show, I think, even if the sound is off I’d rather see a performer at that heightened level.

Yeah, I agree. That’s the awesome thing about the possibility of performance. You can make the audience feel something real, no matter what kind of music it is, if you give 100% to the performance. That can break people out of the routine — go to the show, band comes on, “Hey, we’re so-and-so.” They play, people stand there and check their phones. Show’s over. If you can bring people out of that routine, that’s all you need to do. 

With the new EP I think you’ve become more confident and capable as a singer. Do you agree?

Sure. Singing live has helped me with that, helped me find the ways my voice does or doesn’t work well. I’d never really given singing a full thought until this past year.

I hate to use the term because it sounds like college paper B.S., but there’s a quality of “minimalism” to your music. When you’re writing a song do you start with more and end up with less?

Originally, there was actually a lot less going on in the songs. Playing live, Matt and I decided how things could be added to make it more dynamic. The music all starts with a loop. I’ll start with that and lay the song overtop of it. There aren’t chord progressions the way a song might have if it were written on a guitar. There’s one pattern that happens over and over again.

That idea is put to great use on my favourite song of yours, “Your Eyes.” Where did the sample in that one come from?

That came from a CBC Christmas music broadcast. I just heard a small piece and recorded it onto my computer. A classical singer, singing a phrase that I took the words “your eyes” from, but I don’t think that’s what was actually being sung.

If there was a lot of thought put into it, where did the misspelling in the band’s name come from?

It was originally a name my friend Matthew Duffy came up with for some noise shows we did in 2008. He’s a writer, and he spells all kinds of words in unusual ways.

A lot of bands name themselves after everyday things, and the listener makes an association with those things. But with that the name isn’t unique to your music. By using a strange spelling there’s no confusion — the name refers to nothing else, it’s specific to our project. If it seems silly, no doubt it is, then it’s much better. The music itself is pretty serious but I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition.

The latest Majical Cloudz EP Turns Turns Turns will be available December 3 via Arbutus Records. The band will perform in Toronto December 15 at The May. 

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