In just one decade, Cloud Rat have released an incredible number of albums: four full-lengths, 11 EPs and splits, a live album, and various other compilations. On Sept. 13, the Michigan-based grindcore band returned with Pollinator, their most intense and blistering recording to date, out via Artoffact Records.

“With this new one, we wanted to make a more cohesive thing,” guitarist Rorik Brooks says, “maybe even get a little bit less experimental with the proper album itself and more aggressive but still retain some of that kind of weirder stuff we were going into. It wasn’t an initial vision at first. It grew into itself while we were writing it over the year 2018.”

Photos by Matt Oberski

The process of creating Pollinator wasn’t easy for Brooks, vocalist Madison Marshall, and drummer Brandon Hill. “There were so many challenges. The biggest one right now is just actually physically getting together in the same room,” Brooks says. “We live three hours apart in three different directions. It’s close enough to be able to make practice happen every couple of months, but writing a record is ridiculous.”

“I think that most of the problems were personal stuff,” Brooks continues. “I had an injury, and I couldn’t walk for a couple of months, and so, I didn’t work. That’s where a lot of the initial writing started, because I couldn’t leave my house. [There were] severe mental health issues as well for all three of us, which we, unfortunately, share as a unit it seems.”

“Also, where everybody’s at in their lives has been changing a lot,” he adds. “I have two kids who are getting older, and they take a lot of my time on top of work and stuff. Then, Madison is a nanny, and Brandon works, like, four jobs. Being in a band is being in a relationship. All that stuff came up through the record and made its mark on it. You can hear some of the tension sometimes, but thankfully, we’re good friends first, so we’re able to get on the same page.”

These emotions bleed through every note and tormented scream, and the entire album plays like one continuous song. “Pollinator is our most complete and accomplished work yet,” Brooks admits. “I wanted the production to be even better and clearer but also not sterile. I feel like we struck a balance the best we ever have between it being visceral but also hefty at the same time.”

Jason Tipton

The lyrics touch on suffering and memories, relationships and communication problems, as well as the cruelty of society. “The concept behind the record started as a visual idea that Madison came up with before there was even a title and she was just formulating lyrics,” Brooks remembers. “It was a two-faced monster that sort of looks like the old theater faces, comedy and tragedy, but it’s one being the real face that resides in each of us and the other is the one we put out into the world, which, nowadays, is done via social media. Then, Pollinator came in because each of our brains is being pollinated every day with too much information. Whatever goes out of that continues on and on until we have a sensory overload. So, the visual idea grew into that.”

“It feels grim all the time,” Brooks reveals, “and I’m trying my best to stay as positive as possible, but it truly feels like a psychedelic, delusional time, mostly because of the internet. I think a lot of the themes of the lyrics touch on that kind of stuff.”

As a companion piece to Pollinator, Cloud Rat have devoted an entire seven-song EP to its more experimental leanings. Artoffact released Do Not Let Me Off the Cliff, also on Sept. 13, as the second disc in a double-CD Digipak version of Pollinator. “Some of that material we recorded right at the same time as the Pollinatorsession at the studio,” Brooks says. “The idea was to have a complementary piece that you can listen to if you desire to feel a different vibe that’s not so extreme but maybe explores some of the feelings of paranoia and sadness that come along with the main record.”

“I think of music like magic: it changes moods and entire vibes of places, and it can shape your life in ways,” Brooks continues. “After all these years, it’s still just three of us making loud sounds. We still have a lot of the same ideologies—I mean, veganism and anti-fascism, but we’re not always pushing that from the band perspective. Every turn, everywhere, it’s always getting drilled into your brain; whether it’s from people or corporations or whatever, everybody’s got something to say about their political thing, and I wanted the band to start being—a lot of people who listen to us probably know what we’re about, and maybe it’s stupid to assume that, but with our music, I want it to be a more positive, not just fuck-everything-all-the-time, image. Does that sound silly?”

 

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