“Everyone loved ‘Hieronymus’,” says Adalita, frontwoman of noisy grunge rockers Magic Dirt and solo artist.
“A lot of my friends at the time were usually all too cool for school and listened to a lot of snotty, grotty punk music but when ‘Hieronymus’ would come on the radio or someone would play it a party they went all goo-goo eyed and sang along and turned it way up!"
“It’s just such a classic song, so beautifully crafted and so original and unique. And I’ve always loved the video. It was just so very cool and awesome. I still listen to it today! One of my all-time favourite songs ever!”
You might not have known or guessed that Adalita would gush so hard about her fandom of Sydney four piece The Clouds.
‘Hieronymus’ is the blissful sounding opening track from The Clouds’ Penny Century and that aforementioned video is indeed memorable. Featuring burning roses, spiked and spinning implements of torture, totem figures and viscous fluids bubbling and gurgling, the video gave a good indication of a group with a very strong sense of the visual imagery that would best suit their songs.
When asked about it on triple j in 1991, they put it down to the fact that they had a great bunch of talented friends around them. At the same time though, Jodi Phillis did also affirm that the band were “…really adamant about what we like and dislike.”
Their clear sense of identity as a band was a large part of what drew Adalita and Magic Dirt to The Clouds.
“They had great songs and seemed like a really self-assured band,” Adalita says. “And Jodi Phillis and Trish Young, were just amazing front women, which I think gave the band an edge that other bands didn’t have and we loved that. They were just cool and doing their own thing. And they came around at exactly the time when the music world needed them. Such an incredibly important band.”
Rather than moan, rail against or push back the darkness, there was a curiosity and willingness to explore and embrace it.
The album’s title came from a troubled ‘80s comic book character, ‘Immorta’ was inspired by a John Keats poem which personified tuberculosis as a woman, and Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams was re-imagined for ‘Foxes Wedding’. Each song has very dark undertones.
The aforementioned ‘Hieronymus’, named after 16th century Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch, perhaps provides the strongest visual reference points. His paintings depict good and evil, the sexual and surreal, the bizarre and macabre with the heavily religious.
Jodi remembers getting lost in these pictures as a teenager and loving the way they made her feel, a feeling she was attempting to transmit through the song for which her band is best known.
You can see why a teenage Adalita – who loved writing poetry, and whose music went on to be marked by her own distinct and heavy melodicism – was such a fan of The Clouds.
“I was always drawn to The Clouds’ lyrics,” she says. “They were really evocative."
“They seemed like a smart band, deep and with a great aesthetic and pop sensibility which was evident in their artwork and videos. They maintained that bit of darkness in their music but everything was kind of wrapped up in a gorgeous candy coloured way.”
That sweetness in their sound was in large part due to the beautiful blend of Trish and Jodi’s voices, which also had both a defiance and a mystical quality.
People say you should never meet your heroes for fear that your fantasy impression of them might be destroyed. For Adalita, it only inflated her admiration for the band.
“I met Jodi at a Big Day Out once,” she recalls. “Of course I was such a huge fan to begin with and I think it was probably around the time of Penny Century being released, I think The Clouds were doing the whole Big Day Out.
“But we [Magic Dirt] were just babies then and possibly doing our first Big Day Out on one of the little stages. But I remember going to ladies’ loo and bumping into Jodi as she was leaving. I was just so excited and blurted out to her that I loved her and loved the band and she was just so nice and knew who I was too and said she liked my music too.
“I nearly died and was just totally blown away. I have always remembered that.”