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Interview: Jacob Cloutier of Vanilla Bloom

26 August 2022

Photo Credit: Jack Guse

Vanilla Bloom is a psychedelic pop music project founded by Jacob Cloutier. The debut album, “Promise”, utilizes an immersive coming-of-age narrative which explores the progression of the inner child. The production approach includes genre blending, nontraditional song structures, colorful synthesizers, and layered vocals. These ingredients create a distinctive sonic environment. The intention is to portray the psychedelic experience honestly and encourage a deeper connection to yourself.

—>Exclusive for The Big Takeover:

“This song represents the magnetic draw to put on a mask and mirror the people around you. It can be easy to sacrifice authenticity for acceptance with the one life that you have. However, it seems far better to answer the question, “who am I?”, for yourself. I was extremely happy with how the visual artist captured these ideas in the music video and hope other people enjoy it as well.”

Vanilla Bloom’s trippy and drearily soulful new music video “Ithaca (On & On)” just dropped July 7:

Interview with Jacob from Vanilla Bloom:

1. What is your new album about?

Promise is a coming-of-age story at its core. Due to my upbringing and cultural context, I was able to preserve a significant amount of naivete well into early adulthood. I tried desperately to cling to a feigned “child-like” perspective on the world for as long as possible. As such, my loss of innocence was quite jarring and the only coping skills I had were immature and self-destructive. Along the way I stumbled upon psychedelics which showed me all of the ways in which I was directly contributing to my own suffering. Towards the end of the album I find a more balanced perspective where I can see the beauty of life like a child, but take responsibility for myself like an adult (still in progress, haha). The goal was to plunge the listener into that journey and hope they resonate with some aspects of it.

2. Is there any one song you love on this album and why?

“Skyflower” is my favorite from the album. I think it most effectively conveys its intended emotion – one which happens to be very potent for me personally. Battling substance abuse is the biggest challenge of my existence by far. I had to learn the hard way that I have a toxic relationship with recreational drugs. I wanted to be honest about that and show how easily things got out of control as an addict.

3. What did you learn about yourself when writing, singing and recording this album?

I learned that my obsessive nature can actually have some positive effects on my life when applied in the right context. Each of these songs has had at least a dozen different demo versions with hundreds of hours of tweaking. I also learned that the capabilities of home recording in the modern era far surpass what I could have imagined which is pretty cool.

4. Did anyone influence this album and if so who and why?

My friend Kenneth Zierman influenced the album more than anyone else. It most certainly would not exist without him for many different reasons. He laid down essential musical elements from the electric guitar, bass, synthesizer, roto toms, and a myriad of other instruments. He recorded and produced a significant amount of the sounds that you hear on the album. He mixed the entire thing. He poked and prodded me over the course of three years to get my depressed ass into gear and actually see the project through to completion. I can’t thank him enough for all the work he put in and I will shout out his band, White Line Darko, who are all excellent musicians.

5. Tell us about your writing/creative process.

My creative process is obsessive to the point of being arduous and unenjoyable to be honest with you. I will not give up on a song until I feel that it is absolutely perfect – so some of them have taken many months to finish. Oftentimes I’m writing around a dozen songs at once and I will switch between them if I start to get bored or bogged down… just to keep things interesting I guess. My primary emphasis is on crafting melodies and creating a specific feeling. Then once I have the structure of the song nailed down, I will add lyrics.

6. How are you able to successfully add such a distinct psychedelic element to your music, which is so critical to your sound?

I approach the music production process from a visual standpoint. Oftentimes I use synthesizer/organ/atmospheric sounds to function as a sonic fabric that I can picture in my head. Essentially the goal is to create a psychedelic universe for the primary melody and rhythmic elements to exist within – if that makes any sense. Or perhaps I’ve just done a little too much acid for my own good.

7. What are you listening to these days?

I try to strike a balance between older music while keeping up with what’s relevant. Some of my favorite albums lately have been: Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas, The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention, Lingua Ignota – SINNER GET READY, Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale, and The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle.

8. What effect, if any, do drugs have on your creative process and ability to function as an artist?

I will say that psychedelics caused me to think differently about music and life in general than I ever would have without them. However, I would have been much better off if I had explored the effects of those substances a handful of times and bid farewell. Instead I mentally correlated being under the influence of recreational drugs to “accessing my creativity”. As you can imagine, this resulted in very problematic behaviors that led me into a cycle of substance abuse and self destruction. None of this is helpful to the creative process whatsoever and it caused significant delays to producing and promoting this album. At a certain point I realized that I could write songs just as well being sober and mentally healthy. It has not been easy to get clean, but I’m on a much better path now.

9. Do you have any upcoming shows? What is next for the band?

Currently I don’t have a backing band and do all of the writing myself. My goal is to put together a set of songs that lends itself to a solo acoustic set of some sort while still implementing some of the psychedelic elements that we’ve talked about. So I have things in the works, but nothing definite yet. Other than that, I have roughly four albums’ worth of demos and am eager to get into the studio and start recording. The key will be assembling the time, resources, and motivation to make it happen.

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