Experimental indie-rock band Cloud Cult provides the soundtrack and art for Food for Thought, Food for Life, and they’ll be hosting a screening event on October 24th in their hometown of Viroqua, Wisconsin to help start the conversation. They are longtime supporters of the environment and advocates for sustainability, and with critically acclaimed live performances that even feature live painting, Cloud Cult is reimagining a better world from every angle.
Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of Cloud Cult?
Craig: Cloud Cult started as a solo studio project of mine back in the late 90s and had the first album release in 2000. I like composing and recording songs more than being out in the limelight, so I hadn’t planned to do a live band with it, but when the album “They Live on the Sun” came out in 2003, I was fortunate that it charted well enough on North American college radio to warrant demand for live performance. So musicians were brought on board and the band has gradually grown in number of members since then.
How did you come to be involved in the film, Food for Thought, Food for Life?
Craig: The co-producer of the film reached out and was interested in obtaining licenses from Cloud Cult songs to use in the film, as well as permission to use artwork from Connie and Scott. My wife, Connie, and I have a long history of working for various nonprofits on food and farming sustainability issues, so the message of the film was something that we wanted to support. We were honored to be on board.
Although I’ve done original musical scores for a number of films in the past, including some National Geographic documentaries, in this case it worked better to just give them the entire library of songs I’ve written and let them choose what worked best in the various scenes.
What is the creative process like when writing new music, and where does the band draw inspiration from?
Craig: We have a recording studio in Viroqua, Wisconsin. I will work on building drafts of songs in the studio, and then the band will come to visit every few weeks to put the flesh on the bones. The inspiration comes from trying to still the self, and get in touch with deeper energies.
How did painting become part of your live shows? What do you hope the paintings capture?
Connie: Early in the bands formation, Craig came to Scott and I and asked us if we wanted to paint on stage while the band performs. We said yes, and we’ve been doing it ever since. The paintings serve as a visual pairing with the music – the process of painting on stage and the finished piece can be an interpretation of the music, an expression of where our art is at, or something that we may be working on in the moment. Overall, we hope people enjoy watching the paintings being created and that it enriches their experience.
You incorporate sustainability and recycled items into all your packaging and production. What has that process been like, and how has it evolved?
Craig: I went to college for Environmental Science and worked for a number of environmental nonprofits, so in creating our own business, Cloud Cult and Earthology Records, it has been necessary to make sure we manufacture all products as ethically as possible. It started with using reused CD jewelcases that we cleaned by hand, then helping to develop a nontoxic PVC shrinkwrap. We helped develop the first 100% postconsumer recycled CD paperboard case and do all organic t-shirts. On tour, we’ve done everything from travel with solar panels on the van roof, to doing biodiesel, to planting thousands of trees to absorb our CO2 output. Our recording studio is 100% powered by the sun, and we try to grow as much of our own produce as the tour schedule will allow. We also run our own nonprofit environmental organization, Earthology Institute.
As touring musicians and artists, you see a lot of the country – which means seeing a lot of farmland. How did the messages of Food for Thought, Food for Life interconnect with what you’ve seen on the road?
Connie: We’ve been working on farming issues for a long time now and we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. There is such a revitalization to keep food local within communities, especially when it comes to young people, that it gives me hope that we can have a healthier and more sustainable approach to growing food in the country and the city. Examples of this are popping up almost everywhere you look and it’s so exciting to see. Craig and I have been eating organic for twenty years, but to look around and see so many people realizing the importance of buying from their local farmer’s markets, feeding organic food to their babies and children, sourcing straight from the farm…etc., it’s just amazing. We are headed in the right direction, we’re getting there more efficiently, and we’re taking back our food system.