ABOVE: MAT COTHRAN OF ELVIS DEPRESSEDLY
For the better part of the last five years, South Carolina’s Mat Cothran has plied his trade under the name Coma Cinema. Over four albums under that Joy Division-referencing moniker, Cothran has explored the limits of moody, downtrodden songwriting. These are tracks that mine the darker parts of his upbringing and his menial day-to-day to reveal sublime transmutations of singer-songwriter tropes.
But the beauty of Cothran’s work is that it isn’t entirely centered on darkness and futility. For Cothran, it’s just as important to be able to laugh into the void. That much is evident even in the name of his onetime side project, Elvis Depressedly. Though his work under the Depressedly banner is largely simpler and shorter than his album-length statements as Coma Cinema, these full-band efforts have illustrated the full breadth and depth of his songwriting repertoire. With Delaney Mills and new bassist Michael Roberts, Cothran is in the process of crafting his first proper full length under the Elvis Depressedly name, called New Alhambra. Over the phone from his South Carolina home, Cothran detailed how Elvis Depressedly has changed over its short life span and told us a little about the new record, from which we’re happy to premiere “No More Sad Songs” below.
COLIN JOYCE: Tell me a little bit about the beginning of Elvis Depressedly. I know you started doing Coma Cinema when you were a teenager.
MAT COTHRAN: The first Elvis Depressedly record was totally different than anything I’ve ever done. It’s not wordless, but the words are inconsequential. You can barely tell what they are, anyway. I wanted to do something entirely different. Then I got that out of my system and started doing something really similar. But there weren’t any expectations on it. That was good. I could do songs that I’d never do for a Coma Cinema record. It’s weird because now it’s flipped. I’m still working on stuff for Coma Cinema, but now that’s the more background project where I can be more laid-back about it.
JOYCE: Those early recordings were way stranger than what you were doing as Coma Cinema.
COTHRAN: I was trying new things. I still am. I got stuck in such a rut with the first Coma albums. I don’t think I have OCD, but I have these really bizarre rules I’ll place on myself for no reason. I had a rule for a long time, and it was really stupid, but I couldn’t pan anything on my records. Nothing could be on the left or right side. But you can do all these weird little things! I learned all these tricks that were popular in the advent of stereo that fell off because they were deemed gimmicky. But I feel like gimmicks are cool. I tried a lot of gimmicks with Elvis early on. A lot worked and a lot didn’t. It’s cool to be free and to step out of your comfort zone.
JOYCE: You made those early recordings with a pretty bare-bones recording setup, right? How’d that end up happening after what you were doing with Coma Cinema?
COTHRAN: It was just stereotypical hard times. Everything has its reason, but I ended up in a pretty bad spot where I didn’t have any money and I had to get rid of a lot of equipment to keep afloat. I kept the bare necessities. I’ve used the same recording machine for every single thing I’ve done except Posthumous Release. This goes back to trying all these new things. I didn’t have a drum set, so I had to figure out how to make drum sounds. I bought a bunch of shitty keyboards at the time. It was a terrible time, in a way, but it helped me as a songwriter a lot.
JOYCE: Because you figured things out when you were working with less.
COTHRAN: Yeah, I was able to use induction. I was able to turn something small into something big later, when I had more shit or whatever. It’s good to be able to be productive no matter your situation. I was transient, sort of, for those early records. A couple of those songs were recorded in this laundry room at my friend’s house. I was lucky to have a lot of people who would record parts and help me out.
JOYCE: Is that part of the appeal of Elvis Depressedly versus Coma Cinema these days, that you get to work with other people?
COTHRAN: It is. There’s stuff that I could never play on Holo Pleasures. Delaney plays keyboard lines that I’d be afraid to do. Sometimes I’m afraid of getting dissonant. I tend to take the safe route when it comes to a lot of things. With meeting her and having her to be on the recordings.
JOYCE: Does that come in conflict with what you describe as your almost OCD tendencies?
COTHRAN: It’s hard for me to let go of things, even though every time I do, it ends up being beneficial. It’s hard to remember that, especially when you dedicate so much of your mind to creating. It can be terrifying to let other people do what they want on it. But if I don’t like it, I can just delete it. That’s why music’s better than real life, because when you fuck up you can just “undo.”
JOYCE: So you’ve been working on this new record for a while. How’s it coming along?
COTHRAN: It started late last year, right around Christmas time. I always wanted to do a record where all the songs tie into each other. Maybe not thematically. I grew up listening to like Pink Floyd records and stuff and I loved how the records could be like one long song. That was always my favorite thing as a kid. I wanted to do something like that. We’re over the halfway point at this point. I’m working a lot faster now because I quit my job. It was fucking with my life too much. I was making enough to survive minimally off of performing and selling records and stuff. I’d rather just survive minimally and work on what I care about then spend an hour a week on what I care about and the rest of my time just suffering.
JOYCE: Can you tell me a little bit about “No More Sad Songs”? It strikes me as in line with the production experiments you’ve always done with Elvis Depressedly.
COTHRAN: Yeah. The tendency with our music is to look at it as depressing music. Or music to sit in your bedroom and cry to. That was never my intention. A lot of things that I say in songs are hilarious to me and to someone else, they’re crying listening to it. That’s shocking to me. It’s like crying watching Looney Tunes or something. It doesn’t make any sense. Everyone’s got their own thing. I wanted to speak purely about how I feel about the world and why I don’t think our music is that depressing. I mean, our name is Depressedly, but that’s supposed to be a joke! I want our music to be fun overall. But I guess sitting around and crying is fun too. It’s fun to feel like your personal issues are the center of the world or something.
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