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Inside Sf59: Jeff Cloud & Rich

Never at a loss for inspiration, Jason Martin’s Starflyer 59 is on the verge to releasing two new albums with, I Am the Pegasus Blues, hitting stores this month.Relevant magazine spoke with two instrumental gents, who (with drummer, Frank Lenz) make up Martin’s unique vision. Along with playing bass in SF59 and leading Pony eXpress, Jeff Cloud is the founder of indie label, Velvet Blue Music. Keyboardist, Richard Swift, is making a name for himself as a singer-songwriter worth watching.

[RELEVANT MAGAZINE] What music, books or movies inspire your own creativity?

[JEFF CLOUD]Just bought a bunch of random stuff. Been listening to Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica, and Mars Volta.Thought Adaptation was really good.Been talking about Buffalo 66. We really liked that. Storytelling was pretty interesting.

[RICHARD SWIFT]I just finished reading The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway.He’s really inspiring ‘cause his writing is just so simple.It’s almost to the point of boredom.Like, “Why does he spend a whole chapter on what happened in this bar?”Like, it doesn’t seem to matter, but in the long run, all the boring details that make up our lives are actually important things.As for movies, I like anything from Old School to Amelie.

[RM] From an outsider’s perspective, the southern California music scene is very close-knit, with a lot of collaborating going on.Care to shed some light on this?

[JC]Sometimes it’s like, “This dude is really good at this.So, let’s get him on the record.”For the most part, it’s just a lot of stuff you record at home or at Frank’s studio, so if Dickie (Richard Swift) is around and he’s not doing anything, we’ll ask him to come over and play on this. It’s kind of like when you do music, pretty much all your friends do music.You know what I mean? Like if you were an accountant, most of your friends might be accountants.It just works out that way.

[RS] And for me in particular, it’s great because I really love playing with sound effects in music, and Brian Eno-influenced stuff.It’s a blast working with the Starflyer guys and just messing around with the atmosphere.I kind of like all aspects of it.I love the writing process and playing live … the whole thing.I love it.

[RM] How do these collaborations affect the songwriting process?

[JC]I love collaborating.It’s just really nice to bounce ideas off someone else; maybe that someone has a better idea than you do.Stuff generally works out a little better if there’s someone to work with and I think we’re all pretty easy going.Everybody in Starflyer, and with most of our friends, there’s no huge ‘ego-guy’ saying, “I have to have this part and it has to be this way!”Everyone’s pretty even-keeled.If someone throws out an idea and it’s really not the coolest idea, you can pretty much say, “You know, man, that’s not the greatest idea.”

[RS] We have a lot of fun in studio and on tour.A lot of that is ‘cause we’re all grown men and I don’t really feel like there’s a terrible amount of insecurity in the band. So, it’s never awkward.It’s just a great time.

[RM]Dickie, what’s the story behind your solo record, The Novelist?

[RS]It’s basically about a young novelist who starts out falling in love and ends up kind of losing sight of that.He kind of ends up like a bitter old man.I think there’s some redemption at the very end. It’s loosely based on a few of my experiences, my grandfather’s experiences and some writer friends of mine.

[RM]The recording you and Frank Lenzgave the songs, were chilling and filled with nostalgia.What was your process?

[RS]What happened was, we’d fill four tracks on cassette then bounce that to the computer, then bounce it back. Some of the vocal tracks were just recorded onto the computer.For the most part, the whole thing was on four-track, giving it a scratchy feel.The new album will probably cover the whole experience of trying to get my thing off the ground, losing hope and finding hope.So, I think there will be a theme to the whole record, but it won’t be as story-driven as the last one.Like in The Novelist, there’s a specific ‘on this song this is happening, and on the next song such-and-such is happening,’ along with the character building.

[RM]Cloud, your label released The Novelist to critical success. What’s it like keeping the record label on course, playing in SF59 and creating your own songs?

[JC]I usually set aside certain days for certain stuff. Like after tour, there’s really no creative stuff going on.So, I just work. Work to just catch up on label stuff and mail order, and then work the regular work.As soon as I’m caught up, I’ll take a day off and start in the morning to try and write some songs, go record stuff or whatever. Most people have a little more free time to write songs or work on stuff.I just have to literally set aside concrete time to do that.

[RM]You’re also married, which provides another set of circumstances to an artist. How do you balance everything?

[JC]The thing I do with my wife (who is also a graphic artist) is we go on tons of vacations.So, when I get back from tour (after about a week or so) we’ll go on a vacation together.It gives my wife something to look forward to, and during that time I’ll try not to do any work at all.It’s kind of goofy, but I think we have a lot more quality time versus quantity time.

[RM]How do you feel about your journey through the music industry?

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[JC]There’s tons of other stuff I’d like to complete.But, ever since early high school I really wanted to start a record label. Just like Starflyer, the label’s not huge, but it’s big enough that people know about it, and it sells records and can pay for itself. I’m pretty content with the accomplishments so far.

[RM]Is SF59 content?

[JC]I think we just try to be down-to-earth about everything.It’d be awesome to sell like 500,000 records, but if we never do, I don’t think any of us would be heartbroken.We’re not at some crazy, huge level, but we’re happy that a bunch of people come to the shows, and it’s nice to sell some t-shirts or whatever. At the end of the day, we don’t have piles of money lying around,but there’s enough money to make everything work.I think we’re actively content. Every now and then, we might ask, “Why don’t we have more people at the show tonight? Why can’t we do this or that?”But, then you talk to some other band and all they want to do is just put out a record or play a few shows or whatever.That helps to keep things in perspective.

[RM] The band’s been an icon for interesting Christian rock and roll for over a decade now. How do you stay focused?

[JC]We’ve been a band forever, so it’s nice when things naturally progress.It’s been sort of a slow progression for us, I guess, but it’s always been steady. The next record will always sell a little bit better than the last record. More people come to the show, tour after tour; we’re happy.

Be sure to see Jason Martin lead this blue-collar band when they arrive in your hometown. As the slow build continues, more and more fans will remember the first time they saw the best-kept secret in rock music.

(An infectious dramatist, J. Stephen Jorge can be seen March 4
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in Sherlock & Shaw: The Adventure of the Missing Vampire Diaries at theGorilla Theater- The game’s afoot in Tampa, Florida.)

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