The Story Behind Every Song On Spirit Was’ Debut Album Heaven’s Just A Cloud

The Story Behind Every Song On Spirit Was’ Debut Album Heaven’s Just A Cloud

It’s a good time to be a LVL UP fan. Though the band broke up in 2018, all three of its principal songwriters have kept going: Mike Caridi co-runs the label Double Double Whammy and has his own project, the Glow; Dave Benton is Trace Mountains, whose new album HOUSE OF CONFUSION is out today; and Nick Corbo has just released his debut full-length as Spirit Was, Heaven’s Just A Cloud. (Greg Rutkin, LVL UP’s drummer, has played with all three of his former bandmate’s new ventures.)

Corbo was responsible for some of the heavier moments on LVL UP’s records, and he continues down that dark and mottled path on his own. Heaven’s Just A Cloud is often pummeling and heavy, influenced by metal and hardcore and other doom-and-gloom sounds that wouldn’t necessarily have made sense in the context of LVL UP’s fried garage-rock sound.

Corbo played almost all the instruments on Heaven’s Just A Cloud himself — minus cello playing Rashaad Jones and synths from Griffin Koelbel — and by moving over from playing exclusively bass in LVL UP to composing primarily on the guitar, he leans into some show-offy solos and thick riffs that land hard. The album alternates between a tenderhearted, near-country warble and blistering intensity. There’s a mysticism that hangs over Heaven’s Just A Cloud and all of Corbo’s songwriting — it’s zoned-out and superstitious, circling back to lyrics and ideas he had when he was with LVL UP — proven water rites and floating spirits and daydreams that turn into nightmares — and shading them in with ever darker hues.

It’s an impressive first outing for Spirit Was, and Corbo provided us with a track-by-track breakdown of his new album. Listen to Heaven’s Just A Cloud and check out all that below.

1. “I Saw The Wheel”

“I Saw The Wheel” was written as a two part song to open up the record. I’ve never written a song as an opening song on purpose like this before but this one fell into place nicely. It’s about waking up in the back of the van on the highway in the middle of the country with nothing out there on either side and coming to the realization your band is gonna break up soon. Also about the bizarre sensation of finally seeing a shape in perspective while making a drawing.

2. “Oblivion Banter”

One of the first songs I wrote for the album was “Heaven’s Just a Cloud,” and it had this thematic kind of melody that became a guide for some of the other songs. I decided to stick that song in the middle of the album, at the start of side B, and bring that melody back 2 more times, at the beginning and the end of the record. Truthfully I think of “I Saw the Wheel” in two pieces, the second half being “Oblivion Banter” that ends in a sound interlude. The tracks are divided up this way so you can listen to the first two together as a pair, separate from the interlude. On the vinyl these first few songs all just sort of flow together seamlessly.

3. “Stranger To The One”

This is the first song I’ve written completely, front to back, just in my head. The lyrics and the music and everything. I wrote it absentmindedly when I was walking around over the course of 2 or 3 years and was able to organize it all together for this album and figure it out on guitar. A lot of the time individual parts will come up in my head like that but this was the first time I wrote the entire song before learning it on an instrument at all. Mostly about daydreaming.

4. “Proven Water Rites”

Wrote this song originally for my previous band, LVL UP, a while ago, and redesigned it around the same time I wrote “Golden Soul,” which I think was probably the first song I wrote for this project. About casting some kind of spooky spell to sweep the bad stuff out and keep the good stuff around.

5. “Here Comes My Man”

Classic song about summoning the devil. Wrote the second half in a similar way to “Stranger To The One,” in my head on the subway. While writing this record I thought a lot about how you can hear specific music in your mind, like when a song is stuck in your head and you can hear it even after you’ve stopped listening. You can use your imagination to sort of practice songs like this in your head whenever your mind wanders. You can “listen” through and kind of visualize yourself singing or performing the song. Sometimes when you do this with an unfinished song it can help lead you onto the next part you haven’t written yet. All of my favorite songs of mine were written this way.

6. “Olive Branch & Brown Dove”

Another song written early on in the project, trying to learn how I wanted to play guitar and write fun riffs. This and the previous song are the only two on the record in standard tuning. One of the many songs here featuring amazing performances by friends Z Santos on vocals, and Rashaad Jones on cello. Z is an old friend from school. We used to play together with our friend Ryan Galloway in a band called Crying. They live in Olympia, WA, and are part of some really amazing projects. My favorite right now is a punk band called Posy. This song was originally self-recorded at home and released as part of a single in 2018 before it was re-recorded for this album. The digital version features an extra solo at the end plus a funny phone recording that isn’t on the vinyl.

7. “Heaven’s Just A Cloud”

Here it is y’all, our title moment was one of the first things I wrote for this project and it really resonated with me and guided me through this whole album. I spent around 8 years with LVL UP, playing bass and writing songs from a bass playing perspective, not really digging into how guitar works. Drummer Greg Rutkin and I were working with two really great guitar players, Mike Caridi, now The Glow, and Dave Benton of Trace Mountains, so I tried to leave a lot of the guitar playing to them. When we stopped working together in 2018 I had to take some time to figure out how I wanted to play guitar in this project. Writing this song was a big learning experience for me in that way and influenced all the songs that came after.

8. “Golden Soul”

“Golden Soul” is the first song I wrote for this project. It’s about getting lost in the woods and freezing. Following a ghost. Recorded previously, in 2018, and released as a single on Flexi-disc with a music video. We made this new recording to make it sound at home with the others. I wrote a lot of this melody in my head as well. When you’re just singing a little melody to yourself you don’t have to be playing an instrument while you’re doing it, so you’re free to stretch out time and phrases and let them kind of go wherever they want and figure out the rest after. Z really made it happen at the end there after the solo, it’s one of my favorite moments on the album.

9. “Spirt Was”

This song was made by running a tape recording of the guitar part in “Golden Soul” backwards and re-recording it, resulting in some classic fantasy type sounding melodies. “Spirit Was” is also the name of one of my songs on the last LVL UP album but I thought it would be funny to have two tracks out there with the same name, a link between the two projects. The end of this song features a phone recording from talented engineer Matt Labozza plunking out “Here Comes My Man” on his mom’s upright piano. Matt did an incredible job recording this album in Peekskill, NY and was a joy to work with.

10. “Come Back Up To The House”

Like many others on this album, this song once again features beautiful performances of Z Santos singing and Rashaad Jones on cello. The singalong type of ending was inspired by one of my favorite records, Link Wray’s self titled album from 1971. I can’t tell if I really captured what initially inspired me from that album, but regardless, this song was really fun to write and remains one of my favorites to play and sing. More daydreaming about home decorating and seeing ghosts.

11. “Caught In A Dream”

I wrote this song while walking back and forth to a really gross practice studio I was renting with friends in Queens. I was so happy when I discovered I could transition back into that thematic melody from “Heaven’s Just a Cloud” and knew this song belonged at the end of the record. I originally thought of this song as a kind of medley of different melodic ideas from the album. I wouldn’t call this record a “concept album” by any means, but I did have a lot of fun repeating a lot of the lyrical and melodic ideas throughout. I’ve always loved when projects are self- and cross-referential across songs and albums and even projects. I hope any LVL UP fans out there are happy with some of these references. I’m really proud of the work we did together and I wanted to keep that energy alive in this project as well. While working on this album we also recorded a full band version of this song and another bonus track that will be released soon.

Dave Medina

Heaven’s Just A Cloud is out now via Danger Collective Records.

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