In March of 2010, Cleveland-based band Cloud Nothings played at show at DC9 to a crowd of about five people (I know this because I was one of those five). But in January, the band released a self-titled pop-punk album to critical acclaim, and recently released an especially grim single from its forthcoming album Attack on Memory. The track shows the band’s constant, necessary evolution in a genre dictated by a handful of blogs. Cloud Nothings is led by 20-year-old Dylan Baldi, whom I spoke to about Dischord Records’ influence on his new album, the weirdness of CMJ, and that empty DC9 show in 2010. Cloud Nothings plays the Black Cat Backstage with Medications tomorrow—-surely to a crowd that will exceed single digits.

Washington City Paper: Your second full-length album is coming out in January. How is it different than [the compilation] Turning On and the self-titled LP? Your title track (“No Future/No Past”) sounds almost like ’90s emo. What were you influenced by?

Dylan Baldi: It’s a lot darker and heavier, it’s a little more of a true form, I want to say rock album as opposed to the pop-punk stuff we were doing in our last one. And yeah, sort of —-that’s a lot of the kind of stuff I listen to, you know, like ’90s Dischord and all of those labels so that was a heavy influence on our record.

WCP: Steve Albini produced this record for you—-what was it like working with him?

DB: It was alright, he didn’t really do much, he just set up to record and we just played our songs and it took a really quick time, he didn’t have any input on what we were doing, he just kind of stepped back and let us do what we were doing. It was pretty nice.

WCP: This is your third time coming to D.C. in the last two years. Both your last shows were at DC9 and now you’ve moved up to the bigger Black Cat. What’s it been like to gradually progress to bigger venues?

DB: It’s kind of been like that, mostly on the East Coast because we’re playing in the South right now and we’ll play in tiny places to almost no people. But playing in the East Coast each time we’ve been there it’s been a little bit of a step up as far as the amount of people the came back and came to the show.

WCP: Yeah, I saw you guys in 2010 in D.C. and I think I was one of five people.

DB: At DC9? Oh whoa, that goes way back.

WCP: You played the beginning of CMJ this year. Have you played CMJ before? What was that like?

DB: We played at CMJ last year too , this year we kind of just went to play our new stuff to see how people responded and it was, I don’t know, CMJ is kind of weird because it is just a press and industry event. You don’t go with the kinds people who are really excited to hear your music or anything. Everyone’s kind of there to see what’s happening with this band they might have heard about online somewhere. But it’s still fun to play shows and it seemed like people liked the new stuff more than the old stuff actually.

WCP: On the note of CMJ, do you guys have any favorite new artists?

DB: Favorite new artist? Uh … [to TJ Duke, bassist] Hey TJ, do we have a favorite new artist? Like a musician artist … I guess new of the world, 2011 style. I don’t know, we don’t really have a favorite new artist, we don’t really pay attention. Like, we play shows with bands that we had no idea who they were. We’re really out of touch. Getting old.

WCP: Is it strange that some of your most hardcore fans are the same age as you?

DB: I don’t think about it really. The only time I think about how old I am is when they make me put Xs on my hand at a club or something because I’m under 21 but for the most part I don’t really even consider that stuff because everyone else in the band is older than me and most of the people I know at home are older than me so I never really thought about that kind of thing as being important.

WCP: Are any of Cloud Nothings in other bands? Do you have any side projects planned after touring?

DB: Our guitarist and drummer play in Total Babes and our bassist is in a band called Mole People. Everyone in the band kind of plays in little local Cleveland bands but no one is really doing anything yet, not like a touring-big-deal thing, we just play around in Cleveland a lot. We’re doing a quick tour now until the 12th and then we have about a month of hanging out and then the album comes out and we go on like a three-month tour of the U.S. We’ve never done one that long, the longest it’s been was like three weeks, so we’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to it.

WCP: Last time you were in D.C. you had lost your voice. Will you have any ailments this time?

DB: I might lose my voice again because these songs are a little more intense. Last time I lost it because I was kind of sick, this time if I lose it it’s because I’m screaming all the time. But if I do, I’m going to be very sorry if I have any kind of illness again. Was it weird drinking the honey on stage? Did that look weird? Did people know what I was doing?

WCP: No, there was just some guy heckling you—-as if you were taking shots—-that was a sort of a jerk.