"Emo" as a genre identifier may still conjure one of two divergent, but equally cringe-inducing images -- as either soft and unashamedly cathartic or as abrasive and melodramatic. However, a resurgence of in the emo aesthetic and styling is taking root and does not reflect anything close to Victory Records or My Chemical Romance. While a majority of artists promoting the emo revival borrow from the likes of Mineral and the Promise Ring, others are digging further. Chicago-based Cloud Mouth is one such band, drawing from the Washington, D.C. post-hardcore scene of the mid-1980s and infusing it with updated and revised punk ideals. However, much like the fluid nature of the bands that comprised the early emo scene, Cloud Mouth has decided to call it a day. Just before the group sorts out its final affairs, Punknews contributor Matthew Bentel sat down with John and Matt Harmon to discuss the band's final plans, running a DIY space, and living without regret.
After a little less than four years, you guys are calling it quits. What circumstance prompted this? Matt Harmon: Wellâ¦less change, I think, between the three of us. I donât think it has much to do with the band or the music or the way we approach things, I think its just probably the things the three of us have going on in our lives prompting it more than anything.
John Harmon: Yeah. There was certainly a catalyst and from there I think all of us realized that maybe it was time to start pursuing other things and its amazing how quickly things have changed. I think we agreed that we wanted to see some things through and maybe try some other things and its just amazing how fast its kind of spiraled from there. Weâve all made our own plans and plans to move, and its comeâ¦its come fast. But yeah, I think changing life circumstances, and its time to try some new things before weâre worn out.
Matt: Also, another thing is I think the second it was tossed out there that maybe it was time that we agreed- that we were going to do A, B, and C and letâs justâ¦I think we agreed we didnât want to be one of those bands that started practicing every three months and then playing every, you know- not nearly as often- we didnât just want to, you know, fizzle out- John: Keep our pace until the end.
Matt: Go out like we started.
Yeah. It kind of reminds me of Sandy Koufax [a renowned pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers] who was an amazing pitcher, but, confronted with the prospect of a debilitating injury, left baseball on top of the world. Matt: [laughs] Yeah, weâre leaving on top of the world.
Still, was that a conscious decision from the band? John: To a certain extent, yes. I mean, weâve operated the band this way and this way, and lets continue as thus and be done. And I think, to be honest, it took me a minute to come to terms with the fact that was happening because I think when you hold something pretty closely for four years, its hard to realize when you got to let it go. I mean, itâs been weird the way weâve approached this. Weâve had six months to maybe â¦slowly die. [laughs] But, in that time, Iâve had some time to realize that maybe this is for the best and this is not a bad thing and that weâre getting to do some cool things as friends and band mates. And, I think, when I approach it rationally I donât think Iâd want to approach it any other way. I mean, like I said, I wouldnât want to fizzle out and justâ¦start to hate it. Itâs… its been cool.
So what are the final plans before the proverbial big sleep? Matt: Uh, I think this all kind of came aboutâ¦we sat down and- it was weird, we were sitting in here [our apartment] just talking as friends and roommates and it just kind of came up and I think it caught us by surprise a little bit. But once we cooled out and rationally sat down, we thought, "what do we want to do." Since then, we- kind of the beginning of this year we got to play with some really exciting bands, some that weâve liked for a while. Then, we agreed we were going to record the final songs weâve been writing. So, in May, we toured out to Philly and recorded with Steve Roche [from Permanent Hearing Damage], which was pretty exciting. We got to go on tour with our best friends this summer, we got to make another trip up to Canada, weâre going to get another record out, and then weâre going to get to fly across the world with each other and play for some people, which I thinkâ¦I think we were talking about doing that like that the second we were a band. [laughs]
John: We were talking- like what was that, a year and a half ago? We were talking about going to Malaysia then and it just didnât happen. I think it got put on the back burner for a little bit, but then I think when this came about we were just like, "bullshit, if we want to do this, this is kind of the time to make it happen." It was kind of amazing but I think we set some goals and busted ass over the past six months, and I feel like all of the goals we set for ourselves are kind of coming to light. So, I feel like if you set some shit within reason, its kind of amazing what you can do in a short period of time.
Matt: And we certainly decided that we wanted to do this, this and this, and we definitely had to-
John: Cut some things out.
Matt: Like, we couldnât continue to play every weekend. And this has been the most frustrating, but weâve even had to cut back on practice and stuff, which has been hard but we all are at work 50 hours a week in order to make these things happen. But, I can only hope that we are all satisfied with the way this is going down.
John: Iâm super stoked. And, like, we have two more Chicago shows, and weâre getting to play with some friends, and then going on this trip. You know, weâve had to step back a bit playing local shows, and even touring a little bit. Like with that Canadian trip we were going to go further east and we decided to cut that out. And that was a little hard, but then its like, weâre doing this in order to do this. But yeah, Iâm pretty satisfied where things are.
What was the impetus for touring Malaysia? Matt: Go weird or go home. [laughs] Itâs like- as Iâve been saying, from the beginning of this band it has been a vehicle to, as friends, go make more friends and see places, and I donât think weâve ever looked at touring as a-
John: A means to get ahead.
Matt: Yeah. Itâs really like a means to an end. Itâs our means to travel, itâs our vacation. Weâve worked so hard to get all this. I think we were like, if we get to do this where do we want to go. Europe? I mean, Iâve never been- outside of Canada, Iâve never been outside of the county, so this is unbelievably exciting for me. It was like, we could go to Europe, that would be amazing, and I think to a certain extent bands go to Europe because thatâs what makes sense, thatâs where you go to break your band. And we thought, "yeah we could do that," but we can always do that. This may be a once in a lifetime chance.
John: I have no doubt in one regard or another weâll all find ourselves in a musical project one way or another, and it may not do all the same things Cloud Mouth did, but I feel like Europe is an opportunity that will come up again, whereas going to South East Asia isâ¦I donât know. Itâs more of an adventure, more of a cultural experience.
Matt: I think we just want to get our minds blown there.
John: Itâs just getting to see part of the world, play for some people who are super stoked on it, and- I donât know. Beyond that, weâve had some friends who have gotten a chance to travel over there from Chicago and just based on the stories Iâve heard it sounds amazingly cool and it sounds like they have an incredibly organized punk scene. And itâsâ¦ on the other side of the world, you know. It just sounds pretty cool.
Matt:: Basically, we just wanted to go where you couldnât get any further away. [laughs] Until the space tour.
You mentioned the potentiality of future musical projects. John: you already know whatâs coming next?
John: I do. Iâm going to play with a band from Grand Rapids, Michigan called Jowls, who weâve just known through playing music, gotten to be pretty good friends, awesome dudes, and always have the best time when we get to hang out with those guys. So, there was an offer extended to get to go hang with them and it just seemed like a very logical decision for me. Nervous as shit making the move from Chicago, but Iâm also excited. It should be cool.
Itâs a little smaller than Chicago, and because of that I think that is why Iâm a little nervous. Like, I really love Chicago. Itâs just going to be a really big transition; I have to find a new job, find a way to make it work up there, but Iâm pretty excited to play with those guys. If I canât play with Matt and Zach, I canât think of two other boneheads Iâd rather get to jam with. [laughs]
Itâs interesting you referenced the size. One thing I appreciate about Chicago is how itâs a big city that I can still wrap my arms around. John: Yeah. We never made it to the west coast, and there are still places I havenât seen. But, itâs been cool getting to tour and see other cities, and- itâs not until you get to the east coast that you start seeing cities comparable [to Chicago], of course. But a lot of them justâ¦I donât know, Chicago just has good vibes to it. Iâm from a small town in the Midwest, and Chicago still has those Midwest vibes to it, even though itâs a big city. So, itâs a big small town, you know?
For sure. And you, Matt? Matt: I, too, am very happy with my time in Chicago, but I also am ready to get out. I feel Iâm ready to downsize. Chicago is pretty easy to live in, butâ¦ Iâm definitely feeling that certain parts of the city are getting to me and Iâm ready to maybe get out. I mean, Iâm going to Boston with my girlfriend, hopefully get to school out there, and learn how to build furniture.
Pertaining to music, I have spent the last 10 years doing this with John for pretty much the most part.
John: Too many shitty bands. [laughs]
Matt: But, I donât really foresee a time in my life where Iâm not in a band. I mean, every time Iâm not playing music Iâm a mess, I cry. [laughs] I need that outlet very much, and Iâm exited about, for the first time in my life, pursuing another creative outlet, butâ¦Iâm always going to have to play music], and its probably always going to be a loud obnoxious punk band. [laughs] John: Boston needs more dude music. [laughs]
Matt: But, Iâm terribly excited about trying something new with music. I donât know if Iâm going to go out there and try to get into a band that is going to tour right away. I think I can be very content getting together with some people and practicing once a week and writing music and just taking it like that for the time being. But, again, Iâm going to be playing music. I donât know if it would be very fair to speak for Zach, but that is very apparent for him.
Yeah, in my conversations with him he has always expressed his diverse experiences with playing music, like playing withâ¦jazz side projects? John: Soul. Zachâs first love is soul. And itâs been cool because I think itâs brought a unique aspect to our band, him bringing a different angle.
Matt: He doesnât play just like a hardcore punk rock drummer, he plays-
John: I think Zach grew up on punk rock, but at a certain point he started realizing he really loved soul music. And I think he is going to continue to find hisâ¦like he plays with a soul project right now. And like I said, I donât think itâs fair for me to speak for him, but I come home and I always hear him messing around with something. Right now, some of the shit he is doing is really interesting, mashing up stuff. Heâs putting beats to samples of soul songs, and some of it is very cool.
I donât quite know if he knows exactly what he is doing, but I think maybe that is good for him because he is going to get to experiment with some new shit, and I think anything Zach winds up doing is going to be pretty interesting. And, I do know he has some opportunities in front of him, I just donât want to speak for him.
For your final release, Keep Well, should fans expect what theyâve come to know from Cloud Mouth, or are there any notable changes? Matt: I think it will beâ¦probably pretty similar. Definitely tried some new things, and I think that just comes with being in a band together for four years; like, you kind of have to.
John: Yeah, I donât think anyone wants to write the same record again.
Matt: And thatâs kind of been easy for us at one point or another, just out of necessity, because things within the band change. Like, we actually lost a member. It was a year and a half into it, and we almost became a band for the second time. We wrote a lot of music that I think Iâm most proud because that creative process from that time was probably the most satisfying thing Iâve ever been a part of.
John: Yeah, I really feel like we were hitting on all cylinders after that, after we lost a member. We went on tour and over the course of that tour we became a three-piece, and I think at that point things really started clicking.
Matt: And then after, like, two years of serious touring, we sat down to write again and we just had to try new things. Like, a lot of it wasnât intentional, it just kind of came out.
In regards to the new record, its just four songs, but- John: I think itâs a logical continuation from our last record. I donât think you are going to listen to it and think, "oh, this is a different band" or "this is mind-blowingly different." But, I think there are a couple songs on there that would seem out of place two years ago. So, to us, it is just a logical continuation of us trying some new things, and-
Matt: Who knows if, had we continued, [the sound on this record] was just a short version there for a while or maybe it was a rough draft of what was to come. It was frustrating but pretty exciting writing those songs. We tried more melodic stuff, but also on the record is probably, arguably, one of the heaviest songs we ever wrote. I think it meshed fairly well. And, as always, it was all three of us bring things to the table.
John: And, it can get incredibly frustrating trying to piece these songs together because someone will bring an idea, and weâll build it up and then tear it apart, and you get frustrated starting over. But I donât even think those songs were finished until we got into the studio with Steve-