INTERVIEW | Cleopold

Cleopold is a force to be reckoned with as an emerging Australian artist and songwriter. Just this week, he commenced a tour of the US upon the release of his debut EP, Altitude and Oxygen. His music ranges from downtempo to R&B grooves that are sexy and incredibly infectious. I had the chance to speak with Cleopold while he was on route to Firefly Music Festival and Washington, DC for his show at 9:30 Club with AlunaGeorge.  

K: For those who may not be familiar with you as an artist, could you tell me a little about yourself?

C: I started as a songwriter and I moved to Los Angeles about four years ago. Initially, I was trying to pitch tracks for other artists all the time. From there, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Miami Horror. We wrote a song together called “Love Like Mine,” and I was featured on it. That’s when Cleopold started, because I had to have an artist name.

At this point I had an archive of tracks, so then I started focusing more on myself and my music. Then, I released the single, “Down in Flames.” I finished the track and showed it to my friend Nick Murphy aka Chet Faker. He decided he wanted to start a label and we released the song through his label, Detail Co. Records. Then, it transformed into a complete EP. We partnered with Downtown Records for the release of the EP. It feels good to release my own music. 

K: I’ve listened to the Altitude and Oxygen EP and I felt like many of the songs had a groove and I could see myself dancing to several of these songs in the club.

C: “The Space Between” is probably the most uptempo track on the EP. But, some of the tracks are also a bit slower and moodier such as, “Down in Flames.” 

For the live set, we’ve tweaked it to feel more upbeat. As an emerging artist, I want to have more energetic live show with faster songs: it’s a bit more engaging to crowds. We’re also performing new music that hasn’t been released yet. When we performed in New York, it felt more positive in comparison to some of the other shows I’ve done in the past.

K: It’s a refreshing dichotomy to have a downtempo song “Down in Flames” on the setlist. Were there any songs that were painful to write for you?

C: Painful? Not really. Mostly, it’s the opposite. While I was writing, I was venting and getting experiences off my chest. It was a chance to express myself. So, it was quite the opposite, not painful at all. And it’s always a good feeling to finish something off and be done with it.  I really enjoyed the process of getting tracks mixed and mastered. Also, hearing my songs on the radio for the first time was exciting! It’s very satisfying to think how far the songs have come. 

K: What were some of the experiences you were writing about?

C: Relationships. “The Space Between” is about a friendship. It’s about being in limbo and the space between friendship and being infatuated with someone. 

“Cleveland” is an instrumental track. I wrote the song when I was residing in a big empty house in Cleveland, Ohio. There was no one else there and I was in my own head. I like to think this track captures what I was feeling when I was in that house, in the middle of nowhere, at that time. 

“Not Coming Down” is about being high on life, on the other side of “Down in Flames,” when you’re peaking. “Scarlet” is also about a girl. I guess there’s a bit of a theme on the EP about personal experiences with different relationships. 

In terms of songwriting, I like to pair the lyrics and music to make it suit the message and sound of the words. That’s when I have fun working with my producers, because they help me find the right sound and bring it to life. 

K: I hear a blend of genres in your music. Who are your greatest musical influences?

C: I think a lot of the influences stem from when I was a teenager, I was really exploring and listening to heaps of music. I used to listen to bands like Queens of the Stone Age when I was a teenager. 

Elliot Smith is a musical influence too; I love his songwriting and lyrics. I also like dance music.

K: What kinds of dance music?

C: Bands like Chic & Michael Jackson. But also, I tend to listen to a lot of my own music on repeat while I’m demoing. When I am writing, I focus on myself and what I am working on. I tend to go into this repeat mode where I will listen to the same song over and over for a month. It’s a different process when I’m writing. I try not to reference too many outside tracks and I am just trying to get the sounds as I want them. 

K: I am really excited you are performing at Firefly Festival this week! Are you the type of person to go to music festivals on your own time?

C: Definitely, I’ve been to Coachella four times. The last time, I went with Miami Horror and I performed “Love Like Mine.” That was a cool experience! I like going to festivals to be exposed to new music and artists that I’ve never heard of. There’s a hundred bands playing and you can float from stage to stage until you find something you like. 

It is not only a good atmosphere, it’s also a great opportunity to meet new people. When I was at Coachella, I met this artist, Nosaj Thing. I had never heard his music before and he was playing on the same stage we played on. I watched him perform the first weekend and the second weekend before I eventually approached him. His performance was a stand out show of the whole festival: the lighting, the visuals and the sound of it all was very appealing to me. I told him how it was cool to have discovered his music at the festival and let him know I am a singer and that I’d like to hear his recordings. We exchanged numbers and now we are working on a couple of demos together. Now that the EP is done, I can explore a bit and try different things. So, that’s why I like to go to festivals.

K: What a coincidence! Nosaj Thing is performing next week at U-Street Music Hall. Will you have time to spend a little bit of time at Firefly Festival or do you have to rush to DC?

C: I think we have to head to DC for our show with AlunaGeorge, but if I had my way I’d stay the whole three days and hang out. It looks like such a cool festival and the city of Dover is pretty and very green.

K: Have you met or worked with AlunaGeorge before? 

C: No. But, it’s going to be a fun show! I hope she’s able to check out some of my show. I’ve actually seen her perform at Coachella before. 

K: So you’re working with Nosaj Thing on a demo. Are there any other collabs or new music for the future?

C: For future releases, I will continue to work with Chris Stracey and Jack Glass, of Bag Raiders

K: I used to spin Bag Raiders on college radio when I was a student at Virginia Tech!

C: They are a big influence on me, as producers. We will be working together on this next EP.

K: Is there’s anything you’ve discovered while on your US tour?

C: Visiting New York on tour was a great experience! While I was there, I had the chance to spend time with Nick aka Chet Faker. He’s supportive of what I do and I am lucky to have that relationship with him. 

From the touring side of it, I’ve discovered I actually have quite a few friends who I can invite to the shows on this US tour. It’s a surreal experience to think I am performing on the other side of the world from where I am from and still have familiar faces in the crowd. I’ve also encountered those that have discovered my music. In New York, for example, I met a man from India who was visiting New York and came to my show. He discovered my music online and found I was performing nearby. It’s cool to realize how accessible music is due to the internet.

K: Thank you for speaking with me! I’ve enjoyed listening to your EP and I am looking forward to new music from you in the future.