The future is here, the future is now; the future has a sound and style much unlike anything heard before. So what is this future, you ask? The future is Cloakroom. Today, we will be discussing this marvel, and not only why they are a headline for us here at Everything Is Noise as our Weekly Featured Artist, but also why you will need to listen to them ASAP if the Cloak Gang is not already on your radar, .
Born in the cold and flat Lake Michigan as well as Chicago metropolitan area-neighboring Northwest Indiana region, Cloakroom found their start in 2012. Originally founded by guitarist and vocalist Doyle Martin, bassist Bobby Markos, and drummer Brian Busch, the band found a rather quick uptick of attraction, signing with the Bostonian independent label Run For Cover Records a year later in 2013. Under this label, the world was graced with both their first extended play, Infinity – featuring magical, droney, dreamy tracks such as “Bending”, “Mind Funeral”, and “Dream Journal” – as well as their first full-length, Further Out. Even in the earliest stages, it was clear from both of these releases that Cloakroom were something special.
In fact, Further Out was received so well upon its 2015 release that it earned them an opening spot for Brand New after Jesse Lacey and his wife heard the album. A year later, the band would also tour with the mind-boggling sonic experimenters Russian Circles. At this point in their history, three years in to be exact, they already covered enough ground to have their name muttered in territories much beyond just Northwest Indiana, but their work was far from finished.
As the mid point of 2017 arrived, so did one of the band’s finest releases, their second full-length Time Well. By this point, the band would enter a whole new phase of their career, distributing the album via Relapse Records, who they are signed under to this day, as well as finally becoming discovered by myself, the author of this article! Finding Cloakroom via their music video for “Seedless Star”, I found myself instantly a fan. The gritty, hazey, haunting sound of sludgey guitars that could only come from use of the good ‘ole Green Russian Big Muff effects pedal by Electro-Harmonix; the wispy, tenor-style vocals that make you feel like a ritual is taking place; and just the slow, down-tuned, grooved, doomy tempo of the drums and bass overall… it was impossible not to get hooked.
A sound that blended everything I love about doom metal and sludge rock with alternative, indie rock, post-rock, and shoegaze – this was an instant hit to me. Listening to the entirety of the album still gives me chills even today. Tracks like “Gone But Not Entirely”, “Big World”, and “52hz Whale” just get better every time I hit play. There’s a certain flavor of matured, catchy, balanced, and just well-composed song structure and audible genius to what Cloakroom does here that, no matter how it’s described with any measure of syntax or expression, it makes most sense to anyone as soon as they listen.
More than just a band that makes sense and pleases the ears of many music snobs such as myself, it’s almost as if they have the perfect sound. Cloakroom not only blends everything with such a precision, but I don’t know anyone who has heard them for the first time and not found something to really enjoy about their style. Fans of all backgrounds can easily take to the calming, blues-like crooning of Doyle Martin’s vocals, the pounding rhythms of current drummer Tim Bemis’ complex-yet-simple drum approach, the sometimes distorted and ever-present low end of Bobby Markos, and (of course) the jangly clean strums, fuzzy distorted chord chunks, and dreamy, melodic, reverb-soaked leads of Doyle’s guitar. It’s like all the finest highlights of Stone Temple Pilots, Fleetwood Mac, Hum, and The Eagles somehow combined into something that is actually much better than it appears, however strange that mixing of artists may come across to the reader.
Perhaps their most accurate depiction of the above, 2022’s Dissolution Wave – their most recent release – sees the band in its most refined form. Even despite parting ways with Brian Busch in 2019, which saw Tim Bemis become his full-time replacement shortly thereafter, as well as enduring a myriad of losses associated with the pandemic lockdown and otherwise, Dissolution Wave is nothing short of a high point for the band. Even with how busy Doyle’s been keeping the secondary guitar power strong with good friends and labelmates Nothing, as well as the 5-year period between Dissolution Wave and Time Well, as he recalls in an interview with Treble Zine, the album is a reflection of just how passionate and careful the band is with what it puts out:
‘I feel like when we wrote this record, we wanted to make it really diverse. Just everything we were good at. After releasing Time Well and seeing the pageantry of a release, we learned from that. So this record kind of trims the fat a little. It’s weird to say but maybe we kind of wrote it a bit as a commodity, to showcase more what we’re good at.’
As Doyle also points out in relation to the subject matter of the record, sometimes the goal of an artist’s creation isn’t exactly reflecting their own perspective, or necessarily exclusively what has happened to them; sometimes it is a bit more compartmentalized, or even turned into something else that still serves its therapeutic duties, but winds up just a tad more open and inviting of interpretation than might be expected. The timespan between Time Well and Dissolution Wave presented plenty of challenges for the band, which Doyle seems to not feel much need to elaborate on, as he responded with ‘It’s not important. It really isn’t’ when asked about these personal experiences in the Treble Zine interview. But, as he also discusses in the article, sometimes what you do with your experiences is even bigger than what they mean merely to you:
‘I get a lot of nice messages every once in a while, especially over the pandemic, people were like, ‘holy shit your music helped me through some crazy stuff.’ And that’s not necessarily why I made it, but it was helping me through some crazy stuff too. So it’s a mutual thing. Listener and creator, maybe we’re getting the same benefits.’
It is this exact level of forward-thinking that I believe, even if subconsciously or without totally realizing it until recently, has drawn me and so many more to Cloakroom and their music. Sure, the music is great. The sound is basically flawless, production quality is as tight as ever, there’s plenty of familiar and simultaneously fresh elements within the style the band possesses. But it’s that passion, that audible depth of sincerity – almost like the band inked every note with a vial of their own blood – that is a big factor in what makes it all stick out. Cloakroom has their very own aura, whether or not they mean to and regardless of how much they feel they do or don’t put into it.
If somehow you have not heard Dissolution Wave, do yourself the favor of at least checking out the following tracks: “A Force at Play”, “Doubts”, and “Lambspring”.
Why “A Force at Play”? The song is timeless. It has a beautifully done music video associated with it, while also covering what I interpret as a reflection of youthful love and innocence that has only aged like a fine wine. It’s a track that will make the pains and oftentimes bitterness of getting old feel more at ease. It’s that smirk you give when you see youngsters jumping into their first junker and going on a date for the first time; that feeling when your child takes their first step; the warm brush over your heart when you and your partner watch your old family home videos, or even your wedding footage. This song was simply made for those who have lived and loved through anything, and it will absolutely make you feel something.
Why “Doubts”? This track is one for the bar jukebox, no doubt (pun maybe intended?). It has a bluesy, almost folk-y aura to it that instantly takes you back to the ‘good times’ you’ve had with anyone close to you, even if the lyrics and vibe of the song feel sad and, well, doubtful. This track feels almost like it is conveying an acceptance of the inevitable, unavoidable, uncontrollable aspects of life… but again, with a big smirk of saying ‘Okay, fine, I’ll be a part of this world!‘
For me, “Doubts” is the track that hits my soul hardest. The sound alone reminds me of old jam sessions I used to have with my dad before I left home and him and my mom divorced. Growing up, learning to play guitar, and just always wanting to go further and further with music myself, my parents were integral influences and supporters of that, both essentially being hippies and massive music fans themselves. My dad managed a couple bands and played in some himself. He stands as one of the biggest influences and reasons for why I play guitar myself at all.
My dad was (and is) a blues guy, for sure. Blues, bluegrass, and folk were always his priorities and highest interests in music, though he was willing to give anything a chance. Him and my mother got me into Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower, John Prine, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and the likes. All the ‘greats’, if you will. This WFA is on Cloakroom, so I will try to keep my personal life bits brief, as I simply do not wish to delve into too much detail, but my father got an severe, life-threatening infection a couple years ago, which forced him to get an amputation of his right hand. He’s been doing well since, for the most part, and may even be able to afford a decent prosthetic hand, but hasn’t been able to touch a guitar since, obviously. Being that we used to play together all the time, it was a bit heartbreaking, but nowhere near as tragic as losing him would have been.
So I guess my reason for mentioning this is that every time I put “Doubts” on, despite how sad a song it may be lyrically, it always gives me a nice reminder of the bluesy jam sessions I used to have with my pops. We’d amp up, play some basic chord progressions, and just take turns trading off on leads. We’d do it for hours a day, even. I became a better player from that, and I think so did he. Regretfully, it hasn’t been until recently, in about the past five years, that I’ve really reflected on that and found a deeper appreciation for it as I should have from the beginning, especially now.
Every time I listen to “Doubts” and hear that outro lead each time, it sounds, not even exaggerating, pretty much exactly like something my dad used to play. It gives me chills from time to time, but also a warm comfort of sorts. A nice, cool breeze of serotonin, if you will. For that reason, I don’t care whatever happens with Cloakroom, they’ve got an immensely close place in my heart forever; for even just this one moment, more than they’ll likely ever know… unless of course they read this and hopefully don’t feel put off by it!
Lastly, why “Lambspring”? Other than it just being a really great song, with its dreamy atmosphere and indie rock drive, I feel like this one helps the brain work better. There’s been studies before on how sound waves and decibel levels or particular frequencies affect the brain and its functions. I believe this song makes a good case for that, as any time I listen to it, whatever task I’m partaking in (housecleaning, long drives, studies, writing this article, etc.) feels easier, if that makes sense. Perhaps it’s the peaceful reminiscence of clean, reverbed guitars that take you back to the heydays of Death Cab For Cutie, Band of Horses, and Interpol, or maybe the tone of the vocals just induces the same sort of feelings as a cup of hot chamomile tea. But at any rate, this track is absolutely worth spinning nonetheless.
Don’t just stop at these three tracks, though. While they serve as personal highlights for the album, I can guarantee that, from start to finish, it has plenty of strength to keep you coming back. In all its 8-track glory, Dissolution Wave is a pinnacle for the band, sonically, emotionally, and even commercially! This ‘commodity’ of the band’s labor of love is, simply put, a commodity for all the rest of us as well.
So have you been dissolved in this wave of text detailing why I love Cloakroom? Enough to give them a listen if you haven’t by now? Whether or not you have, one truth still stands: the Cloak Gang have and will continue to make a significant mark in music. Even if they are never recognized to the same caliber as bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, or Stone Temple Pilots – the impact is still there, and their relevance is still clear.
Doyle Martin – Guitars, vocals
Bobby Markos – Bass
Tim Bemis – Drums
If you know what’s good for you and your ears, dissolve into the masterful frequencies of Cloakroom today! Catch the wave of the Cloaknet via their Facebook, Instagram, or Bandcamp at the associated links! If ever there was one band I’d tell anyone I met, friend and stranger alike, that they absolutely must check out, Cloakroom is at least one of them, if not the one and only. Get about it! Listen today!