When Maria Quiles (vocals and guitar) and Rory Cloud (vocals and guitar) met in 2011, both were adrift. Maria had quit her job, given up her San Francisco apartment, and moved in with her uncle in order to pursue music full-time. Rory had left behind a stable schedule of gigs and music lessons in Southern California to seek a new music community elsewhere. He eventually wound up living out of his Toyota Corolla in San Francisco, where he first heard Maria at an open mic. “As a lead guitar player, I could immediately hear myself in her songs.” Rory remembers.
They started playing together shortly thereafter, and it was an instant fit. As Rory puts it, “At the time, I had no commitments. I was living on food stamps and busking in Sausalito, and occasionally getting 50 dollars for gigs. It was a challenging transition in my life, but it was very intentional. I wanted the freedom to live a life with music that really spoke to me, and so did Maria. The beauty in that was being untethered to the point where, every single day, I could say the same thing to her: ‘Hey, do you want to do this again tomorrow?’ ”
Rory and Maria dubbed their new project Quiles & Cloud. They played together nearly every day, and recorded their first album 5 months after they first met. They began touring almost immediately – often for months at a time. The duo’s experiences on the road caused them to open themselves up even further – both to one another, and to the people they met along the way – becoming more receptive to the kinds of connections that they could create through music.
“It was really exciting,” Maria remembers. “We threw ourselves on the mercy of this traveling life. We relied on a lot of people, and it really opened my heart. There are so many amazing, connectable people in the world. When you put yourself out there and travel to new places, life becomes sort of technicolor. We were having very intense experiences, and wanted to put them in the music.”
Several years of touring and spending nearly every day together allowed Quiles & Cloud to develop a unique sound – one that is characterized by soulful melodies, close harmonies, and interweaving guitar lines that owe as much to jazz and classical music as to folk and bluegrass. The addition of Oscar Westesson (upright bass) in 2013 pushed them even further as songwriters, resulting in darker, more complex, and more dissonant arrangements.
Their sound has struck a chord with audiences all over the country. Folk Alley has lauded the group’s “continued ability to combine subtle precision with stark grit and creative exploration.” Acoustic Guitar has called them “a compelling new voice on the Americana scene.” Quiles & Cloud have now played hundreds of shows, won the 2014 FreshGrass Duo Award, and caught the attention of Grammy Award-winning banjo player Alison Brown – who produced their third album Beyond The Rain, which comes out on Compass Records soon.
Beyond The Rain is stripped-down, yet dense. There are musical and lyrical traces of the blues, bluegrass, folk, rock, soul, and classical music. In addition to their original songs, there are reinterpreted versions of the traditional blues number “Deep Ellum Blues”, the traditional folk tune “Worried Man Blues”, and Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”. One gets the feeling of being on a widescreen road trip through America’s past and present, with multiple eras and traditions folding in upon each other. The result sounds familiar and roadworn, yet completely new – a quality that Quiles & Cloud share with some of American music’s greatest innovators.
Quiles & Cloud have already traveled far. As they see it, though, this is only the beginning of a lifelong journey – one of exploring connection, deepening their partnership, and examining the threads that tie us all together.