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Lost City

Champyun Clouds Shed Light on Album Made in Lockdown

19 July 21 interview: Serena Haththotuwa
photos: Asa Hudson & Neil Tolliday

After releasing their impressive self-titled debut album, Nottingham duo Champyun Clouds have received praise from far and wide. Having made the record without meeting at all, members Asa Hudson and Neil Tolliday describe what it was like collaborating on their eclectic first piece of music together and tell us what might be in store for the future...

You’ve released your debut album in the midst of a global pandemic. How much did that have a part to play in the creation of the record, and did it affect your sound? 
Neil: I wouldn’t say it affected the sound or process of creating the album at all, it just meant we couldn’t be in the same room together whilst making it. We didn’t have time to think about it, we just went with it. The majority of the tracks were done by myself and just sat around for over two years waiting to see the light of day.

How did the opportunity to create the album come along?
Asa: I’ve known Neil since the days of The Music Exchange when we worked there and I got to know him more over the years and became aware of his work with Bent, DiY, his solo stuff and other aliases and projects which I greatly admire. I kept on hinting at wanting to work with him - ‘pestering’ would be a good word to describe it. But in mid-2020 he sent me a track he made years ago called How Far and asked me to put some guitar to it, which I did, sent it to him and he released it on one of his many Bandcamp pages. Around late January 2021 Neil sent me around thirty more instrumentals to work on in the hope that it would shut me up. 
Neil: Yeah. That kinda backfired and now I have to work with him.
Asa: Hot Delivery was the first track I started work on and when I sent it to him he said he liked it, so I went on to finish more and the rest is history.

Did the sound of the album have deliberate direction, or do you think it gradually evolved? 
: There wasn't a specific direction. Hot Delivery is totally different to a track like Lime O’Clock, for example. I don’t really think about what I’m making. It generally depends on the day with whatever is in my head or what mood I’m in at the time. 
Asa: For myself, being a solo artist over the last ten years most of the time, it was the first time not being part of the process of actually creating a track from scratch, which I really enjoyed as every day I didn’t know what Neil was going to send me and that helped me channel different styles lyrically and vocally. He would bake the cake and I would apply the icing, if that makes for a decent analogy. 

The album touches on having paranoid feelings and the desire to feel ‘alright’. Lyrically, would you say most of the album is coloured with your own personal experiences or did you gain inspiration elsewhere? 
Asa: It’s a little bit of both, yes. I felt like with Champyun Clouds I was able to talk about various topics that I felt I couldn’t as a solo act, and to try and encourage myself to discuss more universal topics that may resonate with listeners in a more direct fashion. Like the pop hits of the sixties which can be drenched in psychedelic melodies but at the same time contain very straightforward lyrics. I feel the same way about eighties music too. 

I always avoided writing ‘love songs’ or topics dealing with loss or witnessing close friends slip away as it felt too painful and surreal to dive into that for me personally. But here I felt I could achieve that. It felt like a big weight off my shoulders being able to appear more vulnerable in my words and I was able to get a lot off my chest. 

I felt that with Champyun Clouds I was able to talk about various topics that I felt I couldn’t as a solo act, and to try and encourage myself to discuss more universal topics that may resonate with listeners in a more direct fashion

Which song on the album is the most meaningful to each of you and why?
: I don’t think I could pick a single track as I see it all as one single body of work. Asa was completing three songs a day at one point and didn’t have time to think, but I knew it was all good. 
Asa: Every track for me is equally meaningful for various reasons. I guess if you had to push me for an answer I would probably say Lime O’Clock as I’d always wanted to make a tune like that. It reminded me a lot of Japan, and therefore my naive dream of becoming David Sylvian and Mick Karn for a day seemed like a reality, hence the fretless bass towards the end. 

What does ‘Champyun Clouds’ mean? 
: It was gonna be First Born Champions as Asa means ‘first born’. Neil means ‘champion’ but also ‘clouds’ - so basically it’s all about me
Asa: ‘Champyun’ is just how we pronounce ‘champion’. It’s how my dad says it too. We were toying with the idea of being called ‘Bargain Wilson’ at one point, but that story’s for another day. 

As we see the UK return to a ‘new normal’, what does the future hold for Champyun Clouds? 
: Another album before the end of the year, rehearsals for playing live will commence soon, remixes, maybe even being in the same room together whilst recording. 
Asa: We have a four-track 7” out on limited splatter vinyl with artwork by Beth Ellen (@beefchop) which is being released through Hongo Malo Records. Recording lots more new music and hopefully being able to collaborate with other artists. We recorded a track with Little Barrie and it would be nice to get other people involved at some point. Emperor Mingus plays fretless bass on one of the tracks on the 7” and that sounds mint. I kinda see us like Steely Dan where its two main instigators calling the shots and we can bring disciples in as and when we like. Tea and coffee will be provided. Maybe some biscuits if we like what we hear. 

Music available from Champion Clouds official Bandcamp page, Rough Trade & Juno Records

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