Photo Credit: Melissa Schriek
When we first met Cloud Cukkoo, I was instantly enamored with her “danceable depression,” and since then it seems like the rest of the world is starting to catch up. From playing shows with the likes of Sara Hartman to being featured on billboards in Berlin, Cloud Cukkoo has been here, there, and everywhere – so we were happy to get a chance to sit down with her once more to talk about her latest single, “Anna,” as well as Lizzo’s impact, the beauty of instrumentation, and so much more!
Kendra: Since we last spoke you’ve been doing so well. I always enjoy seeing new accolades coming from your direction. With that, how’ve you been since we last touched base?
Cloud Cukkoo: Thank you, so much has happened! When we spoke for the first time, I had just moved to Berlin. I relocated so I could meet new writers, find producers to produce with, and just experience life abroad. To be honest with you, I didn’t expect it to be so important for me. I realized how anxious I was before I moved – being alone in a new city without any friends, and having to figure out everything by yourself.
Being that cliché small-town girl, I’m not sure if I’d ever even been in a metro station all alone, haha. But it’s been so good for me and I even thought about staying! In the future, I might move back, because it’s been so nice. I’ve met the most amazing and caring people and found a wonderful creative community that included me right away, called Osmosis. My friend Hannah would invite writers, and painters – you name it – over and host creative nights where Tai (our friend) would cook and everyone would work on their art and help each other. I think finding such a warm, cool group of people around me, made me feel so welcome in Berlin. I also met my amazing friend called Freia, who I’ve learned so much about and she has taught me so much about the city.
Besides that, moving to Berlin really allowed me to work on my songs. I’d sit in the park and write my lyrics without feeling the pressure of having to finish everything so quickly. I started working with my producer Francis, who owns Tricone Studios in Funkhaus – an iconic old radio building in East Berlin. He’s amazing and really prioritizes the ideas I have about my music and pushes me to play every instrument myself (which is not always a good thing, you don’t wanna hear me on drums, haha). Right now we’re still working together remotely and I travel back and forth to work on new material with him.
Kendra: So you’ve got your new single, “Anna,” inspired by a man you saw on the streets of Dublin. It reminded me a lot of what a modern-day Fleetwood Mac would sound like. Other than the man and his cup in hand, were there any musical inspirations you pulled from for this one?
Cloud Cukkoo: Thank you for the compliment, I’m a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. It’s a song I’ve been working on for a long time. I started writing it when I was still in school at The Rock Academy in The Netherlands. I wrote it after we got an assignment to write a song about homelessness. After about four years (when I took the trip to Dublin) I rewrote it for the third time and it became the song it is right now. Since it has ‘traveled over time’ with me, I feel like it’s been inspired by a lot of artists and bands I’ve listened to over the years – Daughter, St. Vincent, Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo, for instance. It’s funny: the demo I created a few years ago sounds like this dark, never-ending soundscapy song, built on drums and a repetitive bass. The song right now is much more focused on storytelling and became quite poppy, with a lot more room to breathe.
Kendra: When you see something like that and are moved to write, is it an instantaneous feeling or did you go home, remember it, and then have that spark of creativity?
Cloud Cukkoo: Since I love to write with an instrument (so I can place my melodies with chords right away), I didn’t start writing immediately in Dublin. Normally I record ideas, melody lines, or lyrics on my phone, or write down ideas or lyrics in my notes. This time I remember thinking ‘Anna, I have to remember that name’. I think it was the weekend right after that trip we had a weekend (but in the country), with a big group of friends.
We were actually staying in a riding school/horse ranch and there was a piano in the community room. I remember everyone being hungover in bed, or on the couch. I sat down behind the piano and instantly played the chorus of the song.
Kendra: Your music, as beautiful as you sound, does cover some darker aspects of our reality from homelessness to mental health. Do you feel like with art there is a responsibility to enact change on a larger scale rather than to just entertain?
Cloud Cukkoo: Not only can music inspire, entertain or touch – it can also heal. I haven’t been doing my best lately after so much has happened in my life and I didn’t really take the time to take a breather. I find so much comfort and reassurance in listening to other musicians or artists going through the same thing. Music is a place where a lot of people are able to write about stuff they don’t know how to talk about. Apart from that, it doesn’t always have to come from a sad place.
Lizzo’s music, for instance, has really empowered me as a fat woman. Seeing a plus-size person headlining major festivals, winning Grammys, being on magazine covers, and having such a warm and supportive community around them – it’s so empowering to the new generation of musicians and the ones who are already there. And look at Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Sam Smith – such important role models who are paving the way for other new, queer artists.
Kendra: You kicked off the year with “Anna.” Have you had any other instances in your life that have made your mind get to work on more new music since then?
Cloud Cukkoo: Right now I’m mainly busy with focusing on live. Getting the perfect band together, making sure everyone blends and it sounds amazing together. Other than that, I’m traveling back and forth to Berlin to work on songs I’ve written during my time there. Being an independent artist also means you’re actually doing everything yourself – emailing, booking shows, social media, videos, etc. I’m trying not to complain, but lately, I’ve been drowned with ‘administrational’ work, so it’s been hard to get my mind to a creative space where I feel like I have the time to write. I really miss that about Berlin – I felt like I was allowing myself to be creative so much more. Luckily I’ve already set some dates where I’ll be in Berlin to work on songs and drafts and in the meantime, I’m going to write and produce new stuff in The Netherlands.
Kendra: So time for a side note – with love in the air, I’d love to know what is the #1 song you’d put on a mixtape as part of a Valentine’s Day gift?
Cloud Cukkoo: Such a fun question! I’ve been looking in my own playlist for this one, but funny enough I’m only finding sad songs and songs about heartbreak. I’d probably go for “Give Me All Your Love” by Alabama Shakes. Brittany Howard is such an amazing songwriter and inspiration to me, but I also find it super funny and beautiful at the same time that the song is so aggressive and full of emotion.
Kendra: Lastly, with “Anna” out now, what else is in the works as we head towards the spring??
Cloud Cukkoo: New music! I can already tell you that the next single I’ll release is called “Cocaine Kisses.” It’s my favorite one so far! I arranged these super weirdly sounding, detuned keys and I love it so much. Can’t wait for that song to be released. Other than that I’ll start playing live again, with a brand new band. There’s a live video of ‘Anna’ coming out and I’m working on my debut EP. You can follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my fun, glittery newsletter on my site to be updated about everything.