“When we were living in Redfern opposite a cop station… we had a studio right next to Redfern police and there was a little window that looked out to the sky and the cop sign. I remember writing Panopticon there…” Heidi Lenffer pauses – she doesn’t rush, instead, choosing her words with precision. “The hyper-presence of the police to that area helped inform all the lines of thought mulling over, regarding the surveillance state that we live in and being aware of
“The hyper-presence of the police to that area helped inform all the lines of thought mulling over, regarding the surveillance state that we live in and being aware of, y’know…” she pauses again. “Protecting one’s data and defense against all manner of information hacking… so Panopticon was, I guess, encouraged by the proximity of the police station next to our studio there.”
Cloud Control are back after more than three years with their new album Zone. Speaking with Heidi, we went through a bunch of the juiciest tracks, Eminem references, and hypothetical fish.
“Goldfish is not about an actual fish,” she states, seeming a touch put off that I thought it was about a literal fish, and gently explains the story to me. “It was more exploring that feeling of nostalgia and loss when you realise that you’ve moved away from an old friend… an old friend that I had back at uni. We hung out, and we left and I think we both felt it that we didn’t have the connection that we needed to have
“We hung out, and we left and I think we both felt it that we didn’t have the connection that we needed to have any more. I went home and wrote the song in a few hours and it allowed me to channel some of the feelings that I hadn’t worked through: “All the gold in this sunken ship will be a haven for fish” – the idea that when something dies it allows the environment for new growth, and I like the idea of the ocean being like a wellspring for new life.”
Not all of the songs are so moving and poetic – some, like Mum’s Spaghetti, have a lighter and more tongue-in-cheek tone.
“That was an Ulrich demo… I think they’re referencing an Eminem meme. That’s pretty playful – we love the internet as a band, and it’s inevitable that some of that leaks into the songs. It’s not weird to me that a song would be called that in Cloud Control world cause we’re a pretty weird band and we like to a bit weird with our stuff.
“I remember towards the end of the process we were like ‘Should we call this Mum’s Spaghetti or something normal like It’s Ready or something?’ Sometimes in band world, you have to tip your hat at what’s normal – is it ok to call a song something silly like that, are people going to think that we’re a joke band? I’m really glad that the boys are really great at going ‘Nah, of course we’ll call it Mom’s Spaghetti, there’s no other option!'”
“Treetops was recorded and written mainly in Forster in that little beach house there… but that was written beside Zone as well.”
“To me, [Zone] represents unity and it was a new found sense of working together and reaching our stride in the process of a DIY record. It came three-quarters through the process and felt like it helped unlock our ability to unlock a bunch of songs once we’d finished Zone. It was really the gateway song and it’s a moving song for me. I feel like it represents the hard times of this process as well as the secret ingredient that enabled us to pull all the threads together and brought us tighter in the process.”
Though the track may have started in that little windswept house in Forster, the finishing touches came from an old friend in the city.
“The spoken word section at the end of Zone, that happened six months after the song had finished,” she explains. “We were looking for a way to tie up the song, and we had a German friend who came to Australia 15 years ago and lived with my family and went to school for a year, so it was like an exchange student. Anyway, so we’re still friends, he came by – he works for Sony or Apple, in the music industry, he runs a record label.
“He dropped by the studio in Haymarket and we played him Zone and he has this really deep, incredible German accent, and we asked him to just talk over the end of the song, didn’t tell him what it was about but we got him to listen to it a few times through and then spontaneously see what happens, you know, hit record and see what happens.
“The first thing he said is what is on the record – so he freestyled a whole verse – really intuitive to what the song is about. We’re really grateful that we recorded it properly- as soon as I showed it to the guys they were like ‘That’s the song done.’ That was pretty incredible. No-one could predict that that’s how Zone would finish and the fact that it was a dear, you know, a brother from back in the day and he made it on the record.”
With Heidi and Ulrich making up one set of siblings in the band, excitingly, another family tie is being added to the mix. “Lately, Al [Wright]’s younger brother Doug has been playing bass, could potentially tour with us. So yeah, the reason we’ve been practicing so much is that he’s learning the bass from scratch and he’s done a really great job, and we’re now at a level that we can play together quite well. It’s been really fun, ’cause there’s two siblings in the band now. No-one can understand us. Can you imagine; two sets of siblings, in-jokes going down.”
The long years of recording have paid off, and now, equipped with these deep family bonds, new band members and a whole album of new tracks to play, Cloud Control have stood up again to surf a new wave of success with Zone both commercially and artistically.
22 September, The Metro Theatre, Sydney
23 September, The Triffid, Brisbane
28 September, The Croxton, Melbourne
29 September, The Gov, Adelaide
1 October, Badlands, Perth
22 December, Grow Your Own Festival, Tuncurry Footy Fields, Forster