Interviewed by Maya Preshyon and Finn Smith
“The prerogative of Crack Cloud is to create stories that allow the observer to come to their own conclusions and have them feel like it’s their own eureka moment — not ours”
Constantly outwitting preconceived notions fixed to their collective, Crack Cloud gives birth to an incredible, raw, and beautifully imperfect form of expression. Forging universes of seemingly infinite depth, the many minds of the group put their heads and hearts together to produce extraordinary multimedia storytelling. The expansive, sometimes sinister, always cathartic trip Pain Olympics (July 2020) demonstrates how Crack Cloud uses collectivity to produce boundless work. The group’s congruent intention of both expressing and healing through their art has an unmistakable air of candor. In past interviews, the band was uniquely fascinating for their candid story of punk music as therapy for addiction. That story has been told inside-out as they toured Europe, and frankly, there is a lot to say in addition to that narrative, such as how they function creatively, as a collective. As endless as their outsider intrigue is, talking with members Zach and Mohammad proved how much more there is to the story. Although they were only 2 voices out of the Crack Cloud mass, they had so much to add to the story. Carefully articulated by Zach, and passionately spouted by Mohammad, the duo filled each other’s gaps, humbly giving insight into this ridiculously cool, wildly capable collective.
Because you’re an amalgamation of so many members — and mediums — let’s start simple: what is Crack Cloud?
M: It’s just a kind of a platform, for us to get together, to conceptualize and come up with grand ideas. It’s the brainchild of Zach a little bit.
Z: I think it began that way, but at this point certainly it’s really just a platform for everyone to get together and translate ideas […] with the motivation of trying to relate to people on a scale that extends outside of our own community.
It goes without saying, you are a very large collective. How many people actually make-up Crack Cloud? What do you each add to the group?
M: It’s not really a quantifiable number. I think that just kinda loses sight of what makes it a collective in nature. It’s the manifestation of a lot of different hands and people helping out. Some songs incorporate 8 or 7 people, and some who aren’t even in the main touring lineup, so I think it’s just about keeping that freedom and openness.
Z: It’s surreal to think that Crack Cloud kind of formed 5 years ago — a lot changes over time. People have different motivations and this project can become more demanding, or less demanding. It really just comes down to how compatible it is with whoever is around — and whether or not they’re up for the challenge.
M: I think we catch people in really passionate moments of their lives, and they exude and put all that passion into something and can feel kind of a nice release. I like how malleable it is. That’s the whole concept with this collective — and sometimes people lose sight through quantifying it.
How did the group initially come together and come to the realization that this outlet could be a medium for healing? Was it more organic or intentional?
Z: I think it was absolutely an organic thing. Just having a house accessible for anyone to stroll in, or pick up an instrument, or pursue an idea visually, with the understanding that we were trying to facilitate a safe space. Zero judgement.
M: This is what I was gonna strike on — what was fundamental for me was this sense of discipline which we all carry, and that was very helpful in creating loyalty and bonds, and really trusting in the idea. That we’re going to make advances, and changes, and grow — because that was what we were always seeking with community and art, but never really had a language for it. Now we’re really using these opportunities to make the best of what we’ve worked so hard for, which is like a large community of artists. At the end of the day, it’s the sum of everybody’s effort and it really can’t be everything it is without all those pieces.
Because you are such a big and fluid group without a distinct leading, it’s more of a collective effort, how do you go about writing music?
M: I think people show leadership in different ways, but I’d be denying it if I didn’t say Zach is the pulsating heart of Crack Cloud, […] he keeps that beat going. It helps us stay creative with each other.
Z: I would describe it as just an atmosphere that we maintain here at the house and the other spaces that we work out of. A lot of just shooting the shit, but these conversations turn into ideas that we try to interpret musically. Right now, we’re really trying to focus on storytelling, and there’s a way to transcribe stories and narratives into music — I would say that you build it like lego. You create the foundation, and add melody etc. but I wouldn’t reduce Crack Cloud’s music to just that function. It’s a many-headed beast, and [our approach] is always changing.
Do you run into many creative differences or are you usually on the same-page?
M: I think the creative differences have to happen — but it’s not really differences. It’s more a process of like, let’s talk, and go down the path to how you got there.
Z: During that process of trying to communicate your thoughts to everyone else, you’re also communicating it to yourself, and I think that’s the benefit of working within a collective. It really gets to be a stream of consciousness and an exchange of ideas. We’ll be riffing in the kitchen, or in the field, or wherever, and it really helps us understand ourselves, our intentions, and each other. There are never really any creative differences — it’s more just pushing each other to try and explain ourselves better, and to try and get to the bottom of it.
M: Our differences are not always a confrontation. It may be disengaging for a couple of days, and then reigniting and feeling it again later. We don’t want to be “No” people, we don’t want to be like “that’s a bad idea, what are you talking about”, that’s like the worst thing you can do for anybody creatively.
Z: After Pain Olympics, we feel we have a bit more faith in terms of just going with our gut, and not second-guessing it.
If you want people to take something from crack cloud, what would you want it to be?
Z: I think that the actions of the art that we make, hopefully, will speak louder than anything we could say today.
M: That’s exactly it. It’s less about the messaging and for me, more about a certain prerogative. The prerogative is just creating stories that allow the observer to be able to come to their own conclusions, and have them feel like it’s their own eureka or their own moment, not our moment.
M: I think that’s kind of the blessing of the collective. It’s that hopefully, you get through to all of the corners.
You mentioned that you think Crack Cloud will become more uninhibited and ambitious in the future, so what do you think the possibilities for Crack Cloud are? Or are you just leaving it up to what naturally happens?
M: Nothings off the table. We usually say things like that because we don’t want people to think we’re just a band. But nothing’s off the table as far as Crack Cloud goes.
You can stream Crack Cloud’s latest release on all streaming services, and be sure to keep an eye out for their upcoming project this spring.