The Last Clouds are Matt Schott and Al Quarterman. The Cheshire duo’s upward trajectory on the Manchester scene has been momentarily delayed by the lockdown, but the duo has used the time to record FRAGILE, a five-track EP. Read on to find out more about the band and their music.
What made you want to get into music?
Matt: I grew in a family where music was always playing in the back ground, my earliest memories are sitting on my dads knee as a toddler watching TOTP, so it feels like its always been part of my DNA. I am probably one of biggest music fans going.. my friends and family are always sick of me telling them what new bands they should be listening too, I honestly believe that in order to make great music you have to be passionate about and excited by new music.
Al: I started learning guitar at the age of 13 because I wanted to be the fastest guitarist in the world…or my bedroom at least. Of course that failed but left me with a knowledge of music theory I’m still thankful for to this day…and still learning if I’m honest. Music is such a weird thing that can add a great deal of colour to one’s life; it can be a constant source of companionship. Who wouldn’t want to be involved!
What inspires you to write?
Matt: Great songs inspire me to write, last week I was doing some housework with my Sonos on shuffle and Vienna by Ultravox came on, and I stopped dead and couldn’t concentrate on whatever I was doing at the time, the drums and synths are so atmospheric, they capture a moment so perfectly that you have to stop and experience it. I want to write music like that, music that makes people stop and time pause.
Al: I have no idea. Ha ha. Moods I guess. Most of my music in is the minor key which of course traditionally is the more pensive or sadder key. You won’t find any upbeat happy tunes here haha. That hopefully doesn’t make me look like a glum individual, I tend towards having a laugh in my day to day life but for me any artistic pursuits are always about looking a bit deeper behind the dashboard of the day to day. I think that’s where Matt and I work well; I provide an musical environment for his searching lyrics.
Who has had the most influence on your music?
Matt: Its impossible to say because I have been obsessed with so much music over the years .. I can tell you the contenders? The Sparks/ Suede/ Manics /Bowie/ Duran Duran/ Depeche Mode/ Tubeway Army
Al: I don’t think I can really point a finger at any particular artist, it’s all a mish-mash of lots of different sources really. Early electronic pioneers like Jarre, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream are still a source of inspiration along with more rock based outfits like Led Zeppelin. A big influence for me was the German techno/ambient artist Pete Namlook who died far too young and was prolific in his output. He just had a beautiful vision of what synthesiser music could be.
Also, and it wasn’t really a thing to be into back when I was a teenager but I was also very interested in film soundtracks and I think that can come through in some of our music. I’ve done a couple of short film soundtracks which were fun and inspiring to do. There is a big scene now centered around film composing and some of the sample libraries are just stunning like LA Strings and the Native Instruments Symphony Series…some of which I deploy on our tracks to EPIC them up haha!
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
Matt: Getting people to press ‘play’… the easiest part is always making music, but self promotion has always been our biggest weakness. Its probably a confidence thing, so I should probably change my answer to ‘confidence’ .. I think you get to a stage in your life though where the need to follow your heart and just be ‘you’ overshadows any self doubt, that’s where I’m currently at.
Al: What he said.
What has been the nicest thing ever written about you?
Matt: We had a live review published recently by website of which I have always been a massive fan, that stated ‘With just a few tweaks this duo could take it to the next level’ .. that meant the world, and was a wake up call that this could be more than just us writing songs that we want to listen to, I have been smiling pretty much ever since, and it’s given me a whole new determination.
Al: I agree with Matt, it was a great review, although I would never refer to myself as a ‘synth wizard’ personally haha!
What has been the best and worst gig you’ve ever played?
Matt: Worst gig ever was our first ever gig, I had no confidence whatsoever and remember visibly shaking on stage. I tried to over-compensate with a backing tracking of backing vocals and harmonies, which I have no doubt came across as an 80’s tribute act. These days we have a much more raw approach to the live shows with a commitment that the songs will shine through whatever we do.
Best gig was actually the last one, we played supporting a local heavy metal act, and the crowd was full of metal heads and absolutely amazing .. real music fans. After we finished the first song (Sacrificed In Light) one of the kids from the crowd let out a big cry of complimentary expletives (Holy F**k!!) we decided this is the barometer going forward that all crowds must beat.
Al: Again, I’d have to agree with Matt here. The problem with electronic music is always how best to perform it. I tend to take the Prodigy approach and have the tracks laid out in a set in Ableton with parts missing which I play but I also have ‘free’ tracks in there with synths and FX loaded which I play around with. I’m still finding my way in that realm to be honest but I like that every gig we do is an experiment; hopefully gives it that organic live sound…Matt’s jumping around and hanging from fittings certainly adds greatly to that ha ha.
What was the last album you played on Spotify?
Matt: Give it up Son – By White Tail Falls, its not an album it’s a single song release. I have been a little obsessed with this song recently, its simplistic but hits like a hammer with its words and melodies.
Al: Ooh I don’t know actually. Looking on my Spotify just now the last one was Johann Johannson’s Orphee which is just a beautiful album…another one who died too soon. He’s probably best remembered for his Arrival soundtrack which is again is fantastic. The album I listened to before that was Blanck Mass’s Animated Violence Mild – I think that basically sums me up, couldn’t be two more contrasting albums.
If you could support anyone, who would it be and why?
Matt: It would be the Editors, I keep telling my lady that one day is she lets me spend lots of time writing and recording we’ll get free tickets to see some of the bands we love. I would love to say ‘I told you so’
Al: Like Matt I think Editors are great so yes, that’d be a very exciting prospect. Other than that I don’t really know, I don’t know who we’d fit with.
What other bands do we need to be checking out right now?
Matt: White Tail falls (as previously mentioned) / October Drift / Twin Tribes / IST IST / Whispering Sons / Molchat Doma
Al: Couldn’t really say about bands, that’s Matt’s domain really but I’d check out (in no particular order) Blanck Mass, Max Cooper, Alex Banks, Forest Swords, Rival Consoles and Lorn.
Give us a few hints on what’s in store next for the band…
Matt: We want to escape the lock down and play for people so they listen to out new EP FRAGILE and fall a little in love with it. We are hoping to have another EP out in the next few months.
Al: We were hoping to get some festival slots this summer but that’s not going happen now by the looks of things. I’d like us to get another EP done and work out some sort of AV angle to our gigs for when we get out there again!