Cumulus: Life’s soundtrack

Sometimes, good things happen to good people, and sometimes a great band gets a great break and lives are forever changed. Such is the case of Seattle’s Alex Niedzialkowski and her band Cumulus, fantastic indie pop with emotional and engaging lyrics, perfect hooks and a wonderful spirit. The band proves that good things happen to good people, especially those making great music.
Cumulus began in Bellingham in 2008. A student at the time, Alex had written some songs and was performing in town. “I was just playing shows around Bellingham and having fun with it. I didn’t know it was something I was going to try and continue doing,” she said. But the more she played, the more Alex found her voice within music and it soon became something she couldn’t stop.
After graduating from Western in 2010, Alex said goodbye to her band mates Anna Arvin and Peter Woiwood, and moved to Seattle where she first performed as a solo artist including a house show with Damien Jurardo, one of her musical heroes.
Before moving, Alex played a solo show with Shenandoah Davis, a Seattle musician who was well connected in the music scene. Shenandoah had a room open in her house in Seattle, and with that, Alex had unknowingly landed in the perfect situation. “She really encouraged me to get into music. She’s really prolific with all of her solo recordings and her ambition. Having someone like that was really helpful to navigate through Seattle,” she said.
In early 2011, Alex connected with Lance Umble, formerly of the Anacortes band Oregon Donor and the two started playing music together. They connected with drummer Ryan Sprute and the catalyst of the band was formed.
Over the next year and a half, Cumulus found their footing – they played shows, went through band members and figured out how the songs, which were written by Alex as a solo artist, would sound as a full band. The band also developed a following, which led to some great opening slots at venues like The Tractor Tavern. Cumulus also added Leah Julies and the band was formed (Ryan is not officially a member of the band, but is a regular contributor).
As the band developed, Lance talked to Nicholas Wilbur who has The Unknown, a recording studio in Anacortes. He gave the band a great deal and suddenly, having a document of the Cumulus songs was a possibility. After scraping their money together, the band recorded with Nicholas and decided to have the album mixed by Sam Winston who did the first Lonely Forest records.
“We knew we wanted it to be professionally mixed and mastered,” Alex said.
As luck would have it, Sam mixed the record in the studio owned by Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie and part owner of the Trans record label). Every day Chris would come into work as Sam mixed the record and he liked what he heard. “Chris Walla jokingly told me was waiting to hear a song he didn’t like – he heard it (their music) and sincerely loved the record.”
The band was one day away from ordering CDS to self release their album when they received an email from Chris Walla asking if they would like Trans to put it out. “It was amazing, it was something that I never imagined would happen,” Alex excitedly said. “There aren’t many words to describe the feeling. It totally changed our lives!”
Fast forward to Oct. 1, 2013 with the release of I Never Meant It To Be Like This – 10 wonderful pop songs that document Alex’s life, much of it as she grew up during her time at Western. “It’s basically a soundtrack to my life from 2008 to now. All my stress. I can think of the exact moments when I wrote each song. It’s how I process my thoughts through music,” Alex said.
The album itself is exactly how it was recorded. “He (Chris) didn’t want to change anything about it. He loved all the imperfections of it – it’s great having someone loving you for exactly who you are.”
With the release of the album, Cumulus the band kicked into high gear. Trans has made a huge radio push getting the record played on college stations all across the U.S. while they toured in October with label mates The Lonely Forest (the band had never toured prior), playing 29 shows in 31 days.  Alex notes that signing to a label like Trans doesn’t mean life is suddenly easier for you, “it means we get to work a lot harder than we do and it’s totally amazing.”
In mid-November, the band broke into the top 100 of CMJ and were the number five most added recorded. “That means there’s a lot of college radio stations playing around us,” Alex said. “College students are really passionate about music – going to shows and seeing music. I love the idea of Syracuse, NY rotating our record.”
While everything could seem overwhelming, Alex instead talks about how natural it all feels. “It’s like work, but your job is pretty awesome,” she said with a laugh.
As the band heads into 2014, they will see more shows and a lot more touring as early as January.
“I really enjoy playing in front of people – and sharing music with people,” she said. “We were super excited and proud of the record. We put so much work and heart into it. Those songs are a huge part of my life.”
See Cumulus at The Shakedown on Dec. 13. For more information, check out www.cumulusband.com or follow them on Facebook.