Clouds Forming Crowns


On this page:  Clouds Forming Crowns discography, Biography, Tobias Brothers Early History, and a pre-Clouds discography

Clouds Forming Crowns: Tim Tobias, Brian Noga, Nick Cross, Scott Pickering



  • Listen/ DOWNLOAD/ buy CDs from Clouds Forming Crowns now at BANDCAMP:













CFC 7 (2008)












REVIEW: Race to the Blackout has nary an ounce of fat on it, as the brothers Tobias choose instead to cut the crap and stuff the record full with some of the dirtiest, meatiest blues riffs this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. Within the first five seconds of album-opener "Phantom Dog Black Water," you’re hit with ball-breaking distortion and grimey cymbal decay. The song segues into the second track, "Animal Drunk," without skipping a beat, shifting into an ingenious variation on the main riff of "Phantom Dog." On one of my favorite songs, "Matter of Choice," grungy guitars and psychedelic moans stutter and collide with breakneck intensity. The following tracks, "Have a Dream" and "Satellite Ingestion," are vastly subdued, airy pieces, like Bob Dylan’s songs after he went electric. And "Floating" features an utterly brilliant, floating chorus that just elegantly drops the bottom out when the up-tempo, bobbing verse and bridge screeches to a halt.

 -Matt Cohen (excerpt from his review at delusions of adequacy)   


CLOUDS FORMING CROWNS (self-titled) (2005)




REVIEWFormer Guided By Voices members Tim and Todd Tobias unite for a unique and genius-drenched stroll through the cornflake meadows and cigarette smoke clouds of life. Exactly the kind of album to put on during an autumnal afternoon spent in bed with all the lights in the house low and nothing but you and a little navel gazing going on (but not in the sad, depressed way). Clouds Forming Crowns is the kind of band - and the kind of record - you can’t let go of once it has you in its grips. Thank you, brothers Tobias for giving this to us. May you make many more. – Jedd Beaudoin (Copper Press)









Clouds Forming Crowns'  first homemade "studio" recording. Produced by Todd Tobias. Lyrics by Tim Tobias. Music by Tim and Todd Tobias. 

REVIEW of All the Pharmacies
by Jenn Young, A&E Editor, Morgantown, West Virginia

Clouds Forming Crowns' debut is both refreshing and beautiful in its scope. Through trance-like guitar riffs and production that exhibits both intelligence and depth, this proves to be a record of delicate brilliance. It's one of those albums that sound as though it were composed with a nobler intention. Lyrically, CFC faces a number of demons and, musically, scare them back into their place. This is music that doesn't strive to be anything it's not. It's what makes it so damn good. Although much of the album has a somber Wilco -meets- late Mercury Rev quality to it, it remains nicely balanced by songs like the forth and ninth track that take on lives of their own with a bigger, louder demonstration of what the band is capable of.     



Following his engagement as bass player with Guided by Voices, Tim Tobias formed Clouds Forming Crowns with brother Todd, who had been playing in bands with Tim since their school days. Tim is the principal songwriter and lyricist, and does the singing and most of the guitar work, while Todd (who also produces records, including releases from Guided by Voices and solo work from Robert Pollard) provides the musical backup. Most of the recording is done at home on 4-track cassette and 8-track reel tape.

Tim: "During breaks in my tour schedule, I would write sketches and skeletal parts for songs-most of the time just guitars and vocals on my 4 track here at home. Then I'd pass these skeletons on to Todd, who would put flesh to everything and made them what they are today. We've been writing together going on 20 years now. Sometimes we don't see eye to eye in the long standing Brothers-Who-Make-Music-Together 'tradition', but thus far we've avoided any physical confrontations....

Aside from the recording core of the Tobias Brothers, there is another Clouds Forming Crowns: the LIVE BAND. Playing alongside Tim are Brian Noga (bass), Nick Cross (guitar, from Cleveland's Coffinberry)and ex-Gem pal Scott Pickering on drums. 

EARLY HISTORYTim and Todd grew up near Akron, Ohio (Little West Virginia) on the outskirts of a suburb, in a sort of no-man’s land between two  different worlds. On one side lived the friendly churchgoing folk who kept their lawns tidy and smiled at you when you rode by on your bike.  On the other side, along the rough, pot-holed roads and high weeds  lived the surly, secretive folk.  The brothers were among the churchgoers, but the evil vibrations coming from the woods at the edge of the back yard, including the lonely sound of a howling electric guitar that seemed to call to them and scare them all at once, produced a strange attraction. The guitar came from the loft of a cabin in the woods – one of a clustered group of several houses and cabins belonging to a secretive clan, who according to whispered rumor, worshiped the devil, practiced incest and made their living from growing and manufacturing illegal drugs.

One day a bloody, skinned animal was found hanging upside- down from a tree in the woods directly behind the Tobias property. This was taken to be a marker of some kind, or a warning.  After that the weird vibes coming from the woods intensified.  While the brothers never ventured into the part of the woods inhabited by the secretive clan, the sense of the world being populated with shadowy elements took hold.  To the searching minds of young boys raised in a Christian home, the elements of rock and roll, the woods, drugs, the devil, lycanthropy, dirty magazines, the general weirdness of rural clans, and anything having to do with older boys who smoked marijuana and played electric guitar, all meshed into a picture of life in serious tension with the picture of life painted by the church and by the wholesome suburban community at large, which by the way still has more churches per capita than any city in the state of Ohio.

The tension manifest in this 1970's semi-suburban, semi-rural landscape, carries over to Tim and Todd’s music, including Clouds Forming Crowns, and the musical elements of Circus Devils as well as Todd’s instrumental music.  The music is built on internal tension -- tension between elements in a song,  and tension between different songs on a given album.  The tension gives the music a sense of movement within a landscape. 

Todd: "I like to listen to some albums because they take me on a trip. The trip is not just an escape. It's an affirmation of a way of seeing the world that starts when you're a child, when things aren't sorted out yet. When you're a kid, you feel things more than you think about them. When everything is new and strange, the whole experience of life is different. Some people feel a nostalgia for that experience, but they don't know it, or at least they don't think of it in those terms. Creating landscapes in music to move through is a way of staying enchanted in an adult world where nothing seems new and surprising."

With the  late 70’s and early 80's came an avalanche of new bands to discover. Out went the Rush and Foghat records and in came Roxy Music,  the Clash, Gang of Four, Joy Division, and local boys Devo along with older records like Revolver, the White album, , Let it Bleed, Ziggy Stardust, and Pink Floyd's Meddle, all of which were new discoveries thanks to a vacuum in local rock radio. 

In 1980 thereabouts, Tim saved his allowance and bought a cheap Les Paul copy. The brothers’ mom bought Todd a drum set from a neighbor, and they started to play spaz-style three-chord punk. After Tim found a schoolmate to join on bass and keyboard, the trio became "Map of Africa," doing originals along with Sex Pistols, the Clash and Devo covers.  In the mid 80's, punk gave way to gloomy dramatic dirges, and the brothers combined this with their punk attack to form "the Ghost Sonata", including younger sister Jenny on bass.  By the late 80's, Tim and Todd just wanted to play hard rock again, and The Four Coyotes were born, with Mark Kunz on bass and Chris Candio on guitar. When the Coyotes broke in 1992, Tim joined guitarist Doug Gillard and current Clouds Forming Crowns drummer Scott Pickering in the pop rock band Gem.  Following Gem’s first release "Hexed," Todd joined the band on bass.  In 1999, Gem released their second and final CD "Sunglare Serenades." (Those interested in pre-Clouds Tobias recordings see the discography below). During the Gem years, Robert Pollard asked Doug Gillard to join Guided by Voices, and soon after Tim was invited to join as well, putting aside the guitar to take up bass in that band.  In 2000, Robert Pollard got hold of a cassette of Todd's home-recorded instrumentals.  Shortly thereafter, Robert proposed that he, Tim and Todd form a new band called Circus Devils.  As of 2013, Circus Devils has released 11 albums.  After Tim left Guided by Voices in 2003, he focused on his own songwriting. You can see the rest of the story above in the "CLOUDS FORMING CROWNS  BIO."

Tobias Brothers Pre-Clouds Forming Crowns Discography: 

Ghost Sonata (1983-1987)

(Tim: gtr, vocals / Todd: drums)

We Walked on /One Way 7" (Scat)

Hotel Cleveland compilation 1 (3 songs)

4 Coyotes (1988-1992)

(Tim: guitar, vocals / Todd: drums)

Float in the Eye 7" ep(Scat)

Wishbone Fight 7" ep (Scat)

Dreamt Up an Ocean 7" ep (September Gurls)



Roaring Third LP(Scat)

3,128 Seconds over Cleveland (Scat)

GEM (1993-2000)

(Tim: gtr, vocals / Todd: bass)

Sunglare Serenades LP (pitch-a-tent)

Hexed LP (Restless) Suburban Girl/Drool 7" single (Carcrash)

Sheep/Smiling All the While 7" single (Carcrash)

split 7" with JennieMae (can't remember the label)

3,128 Seconds Over Cleveland comp (WUJC) I Am A Tree 12" ep (Scat)

Guided By Voices

(Tim: bass / Todd: production, keyboards)

Half Smiles of the Decomposed (Matador)

Earthquake Glue (Matador)

Universal Truths and Cycles (Matador)

The Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet (Fading Captain Series)

Isolation Drills (TVT)

many 7"s, CD ep's, 'official' bootlegs