Majical Cloudz: Canadian Synth-Pop Outlier Catches Seriously Deep Feelings
"The thing I take out of [Minor Threat's music] is not the guitars and drums, but the pure emotional energy."
Who: The brainchild of 24-year-old Devon Welsh, a Montreal-based, rural Ontario-bred songwriter whose minimalist, dolorous synth-pop allows plenty of space for maximum lyrical intensity. “We were in a loft with all of our friends and it was really nerve-wracking because we were playing all new music, and I had this very clear vision in my head about what I wanted the music to be and what I wanted it to mean,” Welsh says of the night five years ago when the project was unveiled alongside collaborator Matthew Otto. “It was the beginning of feeling like we were doing something that felt natural, and that made me feel like I was working on something fulfilling: I was saying what I meant and just trying to be as honest about myself as possible, getting it as clear and direct as it could possibly be.”
Tapehead: To attain this moment of clarity, Welsh returned to the DIY, self-taught songwriting method he developed as a teen listening to “bad high-school guitar music” and pop radio. “I had this tape deck with a single tape in it,” he says of his early, acoustic guitar-fueled writing sessions. “I’d work on the songs and when I ran out of tape, I’d flip it back over and record over the old stuff. I’d only keep and work with that one tape.” Eventually, as a student of religion at McGill University, Welsh started using digital recording programs Garage Band and Logic, and although he’s since embraced keyboards and loops, his method remains low-key and intimate — as evidenced by Impersonator, the project’s second album and first for Matador. “For me, anything that I make and am satisfied with, will be based in my words and my voice,” he adds. “I could call myself a musician, but it doesn’t fit in every way. It’s just me desperately wanting to share who I am and wanting to be understood and appreciated.”
Never Judge a Band By Its Name: Though Welsh gave little thought to choosing the Majical Cloudz moniker several years ago, he’s happy with it now. “It was not a name that attempted to describe anything about what we were doing or what I was doing,” he says. “There was some notion that the idea of an unGoogle-able band name was in vogue or cool or desirable for a while, but I would hope to always be Google-able. Remaining a mystery is antithetical to what I want to do as a performer. And I also appreciate the fact that people can laugh at our band name because it provides some kind of counterpoint to the supposed seriousness of the music.”
Seeing Red: Though Impersonator’s plaintive melodies and crawling tempos don’t suggest any link to hardcore punk, his brutally personal lyrical approach certainly does. “The thing I take out of it,” he says of Minor Threat’s music, in particular, “is not the guitars and drums, but the pure emotional energy. It was kind of this puritan soapbox evangelizing: ‘This is what I think, here it is in a minute-and-a-half.’ The feelings that come up inside me when I’m making music are not the feelings that exist in Minor Threat’s music. Theirs is righteous anger, mine is more melancholy. But just the principle of trying to feel what you want to say and trying to say it — I’m blown away by the feeling of that, how it’s so raw and to the point.”