"I don’t know if I will ever get over this feeling of how proud I am of this record and what we did.”
cleopatrick have just released their debut full-length album 'BUMMER' via Nowhere Special Recordings.
Raw, real and raucous in all right ways, best friends Luke Gruntz and Ian Fraser have crafted the perfect record to encapsulate who they are and how they got here. As deeply personal and ferociously fresh, it's a record made for late nights, long drives and sweaty venues as much as it is for moments alone with your deepest and darkest thoughts. It's also only the beginning in terms of what the band want to achieve.
We jumped on the phone with the duo to dissect and discuss the ins and outs of a record they have been waiting their whole lives to drop...
With all of the moving parts that make up cleopatrick, where did the debut album fit into all of that?
Ian: “The idea of a debut has been a goal of ours for the entire length of this band. Doing EPs first was the route that made the most sense initially, but having a ten-song album has been the biggest aim for as long as I can remember. It started piecing itself together after the ‘The Boys’ EP. It was a slow process. We’re not the fastest songwriters, after all. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment where it became the focus because it has always been on our minds."
Luke: “I think we were in Kansas where it all became a bit more real. We were on this crazy drive, and it was the moment we realised we didn’t want to be hitting the breaks anymore. We understood what our band was and what we needed to do. A debut album to us is about making a statement. As everybody always says, ‘You only get to make your debut album once’, so we have always been precious with it. So in the middle of this mid-west US tour was when it all clicked. We knew what kind of band we wanted to be.”
In the fast-paced world of what being an artist means has become, to keep control over your art and how you want to present it is so important. The respect of the album being a statement is often lost these days…
Luke: “Absolutely. I think there is gravity in music, especially guitar music, that pulls you towards putting out as much music as possible as soon as possible. That’s the road to success right now, what with how disposable music has become. It’s more about singles than albums, and that’s a weird climate for people like Ian and me, and our audience, to be in. I don’t see us putting out our second album until we know for sure we have something to say. That could be super soon, or it could take a bit. But there’s a trust there from our fans that we aren’t going to half-ass something. We only want to make stuff that we really love.”
What was it that you wanted to say with this record then? What was the conclusion that you came down to when piecing it all together?
Luke: “This album came a lot from touring. It’s not a road record by any means, but it came from us learning a lot about ourselves whilst out on the road. We had never done it before or had the chance to meet people worldwide and have something to talk to them about, that being our music. We met so many incredible characters that came up to us and told us what parts of our songs resonated with them. It was always the most personal songs or the songs that felt so personal that I didn’t think anybody could relate to them. There was a power that we found in that. 51% of the goal with this record was to make something that simply sounded sick. The other 49% was to hide this sense of vulnerability in the lyrics and storytelling that if anyone wants to sit back and dive in, then it’s there. It’s a Trojan horse of an album in that sense. Sonically it’s full-on, lyrically it’s a total bummer. I like that, though. We have met specific people through touring that this album is for, and I like that they can either have fun or feel something with it. We’ve just tried to contrast those two sides and find an equilibrium.”
When the two of you are so used to talking to each other and experiencing things your way, you don’t consider how those specific events could possibly influence or inspire someone you’ve never met. But that depth is so powerful if you can harness it correctly…
Luke: “All of the touring was so transformative because of that. And when we made that decision whilst driving across Kansas, it was so important too. This band started just being for Ian and me. It was our thing to have fun. We discovered some more meaning along the way, and we chose to embrace that.”
So what was the actual process of putting these songs together? What is the cleopatrick way of bringing an idea to life, and did that differ because of the context of what you were making?
Ian: “I think that we’re still figuring it all out. This period felt the most aware of what we were doing compared to older material. We were growing differently when we were making that. I think we still are now. It’s cool that we have taken the time that we did with this album in particular. We were allowed to put ourselves in the sort of position where everything just felt right. Getting to record with our best friend Jig [Dubé], who is on the same unspoken wavelength as us, and putting everything we have into it with him was eye-opening. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what Luke and I were capable of, but to put it into practice and have a bit more of the responsibility in getting it from the mind to becoming a song showed so much. It felt like we almost levelled up in a sense.”
So much of what makes cleopatrick what it is comes from the relationship between the two of you. Though for you to be this far into your friendship and still learn things from each other and the people around you is rare. Not a lot of people can be as honest as you are in your approach…
Luke: “I feel like right now we are the closest we have ever been to being real professionals. I don’t think that’s something either of us cares too much about, but it’s there. In terms of writing now and then looking forwards to the next stage, we love this record, but we’re most excited about the stuff we haven’t been able to put on the table yet. We’ve only dipped our toes right now, but there is so much more to explore. I’m very grateful to walk away from an album thinking, ‘That was cool, but I think we can take it this much further.”
Ian: "I hope we never get past that feeling. There’s a certain level of uncertainty that comes with moving forwards. It’s easy to get comfortable with something you’ve done and then choose to do it again. I don’t think we have any real interest in making ‘Bummer Two’. We’re very intrigued by the idea of progressing musically, not just for the sake of doing something different but also expanding ourselves artistically and personally. Sometimes a band can change and do something different then that’s as far as it goes, which is disappointing as there is so much more to find. You always wish they took it a step further. The room to grow is very important.”
For all of that, and the success that it brings, to come from just the deep feeling of wanting to create is as tantalising as it gets. And it only gets more tantalising the further you go…
Ian: “With anything as fragile as songwriting, it can be one of the most tedious and upsetting processes in moments. It’s a very weird and subjective thing. Though to find those little moments of revelation along the way, that’s what makes all of the not so lovable moments worth it. It makes me want to keep pushing and keep wanting to do better for myself.”
When did you step into the studio to record then?
Luke: “We did it in the summer of last year. We were supposed to be doing it in April, but that was when everything changed. It was our first time leaving our houses as the regulations loosened, and things opened. It was a bit like a movie. Emerging from the songwriting cave into the city full of people.”
That’s such a unique spot to make a record in these times as well, strangely. It’s not like this batch of songs has been sat on for two or three years. It’s as fresh as it gets…
Ian: “There’s such a mixture of different elements that went into this period felt. Time as a whole felt like it was moving at double speed whilst also feeling the opposite. Then the mixture of different anxieties and fears, it’s been a scary time. But we both feel grateful to have had this album as a lighthouse in one of the foggiest seas you could ever imagine. It didn’t feel like anything was normal whilst we were working on it, but it allowed us to thrive as much as possible despite the circumstances. Looking back, it’s the only way that it could have happened, if you know what I mean? I think we both believe in fate pretty strongly. And now, it still all feels as fresh to me right now as it did when we were tracking. I don’t know if I will ever get over this feeling of how proud I am of this record and what we did.”
Do you feel as though your understanding of what cleopatrick is and what it will be has been heightened because of this experience?
Luke: “I think ironically it has made it less clear but in a good way. I don’t find myself thinking about the end of the goals that are at the end of the line for us right now. This whole process, and time alone, has made us both better at living in the moment and being present. We’re looking forward to getting back out on tour and performing these songs for the people they are meant for. Though what does success look like after this album? I don’t know. I may have had a five-year plan initially, but it was pretty much faded away, and I love that. I like that it feels like it is going to go wherever it will naturally go. Even this album turned out completely different to what I ever thought it would. So we’re going to continue trusting our guts and playing our songs and seeing what happens.”