Clouds Are Ghosts: What Is Dark Is Also Uplifting

It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're trying hard to find meaning in the oddest monikers.

The music of Clouds are Ghosts is hard to quantify. At first we were comparing the Austin group to the Legendary Pink Dots except that they're more danceable. Then we checked out "Fields" and now we think they sound more like the Irrepressibles. Either way, what they are laying down upon thee is a sonic assault of avant-garde activism that is frightening in its terrible beauty.

Each song flows so well from one to another that it's difficult to really identify the individual parts instead of viewing their music as one unified whole. It's definitely a walk outside of the typical, but comfortably pop for all that. You can certainly just appreciate the melodies and the beats without really delving down into the deeply disturbing lyrics that seem to make up their songs.

Sure, the Clouds are Ghosts will be one of those bands that few seem to know but everyone eventually acknowledges for their genius. We are certainly in their camp after hearing just a few tracks. However, that name...

The Clouds are Ghosts? The clouds aren't ghosts. They're just condensation reflecting sunlight, or the possible home of the Care Bears. Either way, they are not freakin' haunted. How messed-up in the noggin do you have to be where you stare at the fluffy white bits of Heaven and think that they are spirits who cannot find rest?

The question behind the band's name galled at us. Galled, we say. In the end we asked lead singer Jason Morris to meet us at the big hill beside Miller Outdoor Theatre. There's no better place in all of Houston for cloud-watching. Lying down beside the auteur, we noticed one cloud in the exact shape of Muncie, Indiana. Seemed like a good place to broach the subject we'd come to broach.

"We wanted a name that had a dichotomy to it, and left interpretation up to the person hearing it," said Morris. "Clouds can be soft and white on a sunny day or dark and ominous before a storm. Ghosts can also be viewed in different ways. You say ghosts to some people and they think of tortured souls unable to pass into the next realm, and others think of loved ones who are gone, but still look over us.

"As a result, I feel our name is almost interpreted to be whatever their particular view may be. It ends up not being as easy to assume we sound any sort of way. I suppose you are going to assume that it is darker music, but lots of music which is dark is also uplifting, and that is the feeling we are trying to evoke."

In other words, he's just linking together two things that can have very different incarnations. We can get behind that, but honestly the whole thing sort of made us shiver. Ghosts are Rocks Off's particular freakout. We do not traffic in places that are supposed to be haunted, and frankly we now had the uncomfortable feeling of an oppressive number of spirits riding the harsh sun beams down towards us.

"The type of ghost very much depends on your state of mind," mused Morris beside us. "Sometimes ghosts are harbingers of death, reminders of the brutal truth that we are tiny in the grand scheme of nature, and sometimes a reminder of how peaceful and serene life can be when you are on a road trip with nothing but open sky around you."

They always said heaven was in the clouds. That's what all the pictures show, anyway. God looking all James Mason-y up in the clouds while naked Hallmark mascots dance around him. If the clouds are ghosts, does that mean that Heaven is built on the backs of the dead?

"Heaven is optimism incarnate in my opinion." said Morris. "Can't imagine anyone who believes in Heaven believing that it is built on the backs of the dead. Not that I necessarily believe in Heaven, but if there is such a place I would imagine it is built on truth."

With that, we sat up, shook the hand of the strange man beside us, and walked off down the hill. The sky has been something of a negative over the course of this sweltering summer. Clouds have been few, and rains even fewer. What rain we get seems to be falling from the clear blue sky, and is as hot a water from a boiling tea kettle.

Maybe the clouds are ghosts. Maybe another Austin band is just using an esoteric name to freak out an easily spooked reporter. Either way, we're spending more time indoors.


The Clouds are Ghosts (n): 1. The inverse properties of fluffy sky-cake and pants-shitting terror. 2. An erroneous interpretation of Heaven. 3. Sweet Austin weirdness in musical form.

The Clouds are Ghosts plays the Mink Saturday with Sickle of Leaves, Co-Pilot, The Calm Blue Sea, Sleeping Ancient, Defending the Kingdom, Peloton, and Odessa. Doors at 4 p.m.

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