Cloud Cult feels the 'Love'

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER , Vita.mn | Updated 5/1/2013

Matrimony and childbirth inspired Cloud Cult’s latest LP, “Love.”

The feel-good Cloud Cult players.
Photo by Cody York

No wonder they wound up titling their new album “Love,” a release they’ll celebrate Saturday and Sunday at First Avenue.

“It’s sort of a loaded title,” frontman Craig Minowa said.”

Cloud Cult’s mystical mastermind and the rest of his orchestral rock band — minus the two members whose job it is to paint during performances — took a break from rehearsals last month to talk about the new record and the shared love that clearly still spreads through the group, now in its second decade.

When “Love” earned prime promotion on National Public Radio’s website as a “First Listen” streaming selection a week before its March 5 release, writer Stephen Thompson aptly summed up the record by declaring Cloud Cult “quite possibly the least ironic — and least cynical — band in existence.”

Proof of that description came firsthand from keyboardist/French-horn player Sarah Elhardt-Perbix, who recounted the emotional flood that overcame her last summer while the band worked out vocal arrangements for “Meet Me Where You’re Going.”

“It happened to be two weeks before my wedding, and as we were singing it I just broke down and couldn’t stop crying,” she said, clarifying: “The good kind of crying.”

The song goes: “Will you be the rest of my life? / Every day with you I say ‘I do.’”

Last month’s rehearsals weren’t in nearly as serene a setting as last summer’s woodsy, campfire pre-recording sessions in Viroqua, Wis., where Minowa lives with his wife, Connie, one of the band’s painters. However, the group did find a space in northeast Minneapolis with big windows to let in sunlight — seemingly a crucial element for Cloud Cult’s recent music.

The last record was even called “Light Chasers,” and it became their most successful, with the urgent tracks “Running With the Wolves” and “There’s So Much Energy in Us” garnering TV and radio play.

The demands of touring, though, led to the departure of one of the group’s co-founders, cellist Sarah Young. That left painter/trumpeter Scott West as the only original member besides the Minowas.

At the same time, Cloud Cult locked down one of the most visceral rhythm sections in Minnesota music, drummer Arlen Pfeiffer and bassist Shawn McNeary. And it found a new cellist in Daniel Zamzow.

While much of “Light Chasers” was written while awaiting the birth of the Minowas’ son, Nova (now 3), “Love” was largely conceived after the 2011 birth of daughter Iris.

That’s a sharp contrast to Cloud Cult’s albums of the ’00s, which were defined by the Minowas’ sorrow and reflection after their first son, Kaidin, died in his sleep in 2002.

“After Kaidin left us, I spent a lot of time — years — not being a father, and I sort of reverted back to being a little too absorbed in myself, with free time again to ponder everything,” said the 40-year-old Minowa.

That explains one of the key lyrics on the album. In the elegant closing track “The Show Starts Now” he sings, “I wanna be the guy who lives in the moment.” Minowa put it more bluntly in our interview: “This album is really about cutting through a lot of my own personal crap.”

On a more pragmatic front, Minowa got to thinking about the ways album titles matter. “I knew that there would be all these posters and T-shirts and articles about us where the word would appear,” he explained, adding with a laugh, “It’s sort of like we’re branding ‘love.’ ”

Turns out, the hippie soul-searching bandleader also has quite a shrewd marketing mind.

CLOUD CULT

When: 7 p.m. Sat & 8 p.m. Sun.

Where: First Avenue.

Tickets: Sold out.