Expose Yourself - an interview with Brooklyn's Of Clocks and Clouds

Psychedelic jam band explore negative space and emptiness

By: Dave Cromwell @davecromwell, photo by AmandaKaye Photo

February 06, 2018

"For me, themes that run through an artist’s work is something that keeps me coming back for more. I like the ideas of time travel and of some sort of looming apocalypse- and those ideas tend to bounce around in my lyrics."

With their Brooklyn born and bred line-up of musicians, Of Clocks and Clouds belong to the ever shrinking group of bands that are actually "from NYC." Founding core members Joe Salgo (vocals, guitar, electronics) and Ross Procaccio (drums, vocals, electronics) recently enrolled fellow Brooklynite Max Devlin on bass. Their modern electronic psych-rock is powerful and deliberate, with a slow burn tension that builds towards explosive sonic highs. Riff heavy guitars and deep voices weave in and around each other over steady locked down rhythms. The following interview comes by way of qualifying for The Music Building's Expose Yourself Campaign.

Do you feel your Brooklyn origins give you a “street smart” advantage over other bands and musicians that may have moved to NYC?

Hey This is Joe Salgo (guitar/vocals). Being born and raised in Brooklyn is actually a rare thing these days. We’re like unicorns - people are like: “WOW can I touch you?” It can get kind of creepy. And sexy.

I will say that the Brooklyn that we grew up in, is very different than the Urban Outfitters, cold brew, thrift store, post 9/11 version of Brooklyn that was sold to the Mid West and the rest of the world. I got mugged for the first time when I was 10. You grew up fast here because you had no choice.

As far as “street smart” goes- I guess you could say that. Whether it’s an advantage or not is up for debate. Brooklyn has changed so much in our lifetimes. I’m sure even in the time that I’m replying to you three DIY venues in Bushwick have shuddered to make room for grey brick condos.

After releasing two full length albums previously, you opted to put out the two song EP “Hole” in late 2017. Leadoff track “Burn A Hole Pt. 2”is an expanded over four minute production of a song that appeared in half the length on prior album “Better Off.” Talk about the evolution of this song and why you felt the need to use an outside producer this time.

“Burn a Hole Pt 2” was never intended to be a song- more of an intro track, which is how it appears on “Better Off.” We started jamming on it one day and it began to develop a new structure. All of a sudden we had a “verse chorus verse” thing happening with an outro build. We started adding it to our live shows and it quickly became a fan favorite, and in my opinion- our best song.

We decided the new and improved extended version was too good not to track. We also had a song “Hole in my Head” that was finding its way into our live sets that we wanted to record. We figured if we were only doing two tracks this time, why not work with someone with some expertise. So we enlisted the expertise of Jeff Berner (Psychic TV, Shilpa Ray, Naam) at Studio G (Pretty Lights, Lettuce).

We had never tracked in a legit studio as a band before. Ross Procaccio (drums) and I had recorded our first two albums in his home studio. So this was a real treat. Like an all you can eat buffet with all the gear, pedals, guitars and amps they have there. There was even a waffle and omelet station.

 The second track on there “Hole In My Head” is built around heavy descending riffs, while allowing space for the vocals during quieter passages. There is a recurring theme of “holes” in all of your recordings (with “Burn A Hole In The Sky” from 2014's “You” as that records example). What draws you towards this literary imagery and compels you to explore it?

I’m glad you picked up on that. For me, themes that run through an artist’s work is something that keeps me coming back for more. I like the ideas of time travel and of some sort of looming apocalypse- and those ideas tend to bounce around in my lyrics. Black holes sort of encompass both those ideas. Negative space and emptiness. These are very visual and visceral images for me. “Hole in my Head” is about all those things- and drugs. Another recurring theme in our songs.

You've uploaded an almost twenty minute jam called “Mutations” to your soundcloud that suggests an evolution to your sound. Was that entire piece improvised, or did you have some kind of structural idea written before recording it?

Yes- we started playing with a new bass player Max Devlin (Kaptive, Wool Over Eyes) last year. That was literally the first thing we ever played together and it was completely improvised. Something special happens in spontaneity and I think that is apparent when you listen to that. I like the imperfections. There is something about a recorded song when it sounds too polished that completely turns me off.

An even more recent track has emerged you are calling “psychedelic improvisational demo” that is an impressive hybrid of fusion-style bass guitar and drumming, with Pink Floydian guitar atmospherics on top. Is this the direction the band is now headed?

We start out all of our practices with a free jam. On this particular day things really gelled. Max’s 5 string slap and finger tapping bass playing has really brought our sound to another dimension. It’s emblematic of the direction our music is headed. We’re adding more time in our sets for open improvisation- but we’re not abandoning songs and structure. Sonically, there are things in the latest track that you can expect more of.

What's in store for the band on the live front? Will you be participating in any of the jam band festival circuits that are on the horizon?

We are opening for Mungion at the Knitting Factory on 2/21 and playing with our homies Lord Electro up in Albany at the Hollow on 3/3. We are looking to play festivals this summer- Disc Jam in particular is on the radar. We will be playing the Wave Length Fest in PA.

What big bands out there now do you currently admire, or feel an affinity for? Who would you most like to appear on the same stage with at a festival?

This question get me every time. If you you asked each member of the band the same question you’d get a different answer. I’ve been obsessed with Umphreys McGee lately. They are a metal edged prog jam band. They recently celebrated their 20th anniversary at the Beacon Theater. It would be a huge honor to play the same stage as those dudes. - Dave Cromwell