Track Premiere + Interview: Cool Original—’Funny Before’
Posted: by The Editor
Cool Original are getting ready to drop their excellent new LP I Never Said I Didn’t Care, the bands first since changing their name from Cool American. Just ahead of that albums release this Friday, we’re sharing “Funny Before”, a breezy and clever mid-tempo rocker brimming with the energy of late 90s/early 2000s alternative rock. I had a great conversation with songwriter Nathan Tucker about the new album, what’s next for the band, and what it’s like to create art in 2019.
The Alternative: I know that you spend a lot time on the road touring with both Cool American and Strange Ranger, so I’m curious as to when you started working on I Never Said I Didn’t Care. Was there a specific moment when you realized that you had a whole album’s worth of material?
Nathan Tucker: I think it was when I got back from the last big Strange Ranger tour we did for Daymoon, in March of last year. I didn’t have a place to live lined up, so I took a house sitting gig for an old college professor and ended up finishing the last couple songs and demoing most of the record at that house. Some of those demos became the skeletons of the sessions for the album, which we started tracking in July of last year. I always have a bunch of songs I’m working on and I’m always sort of vaguely thinking about them in terms of being the next record, but I typically need time to sit down by myself and think through how they fit together before I can be like, “OK, time to start actually making this.”
When you start working on lyrics for a new album, is your instinct to write something autobiographical or from the perspective of somebody else?
My instinct is definitely autobiographical, which I think is pretty apparent in the songs on this album. Some of them came out quicker than I’ve been able to write anything in years, and that’s generally a function of how personal the material is, in my experience. But I’ve been experimenting more with writing from other perspectives just to try and get out of my comfort zone—so far it’s been by embellishing details to fit the song better, as opposed to inventing stories wholesale or anything. I’m no Townes Van Zandt.
Aside from the name change, what other ways do you think Cool Original has evolved? Where do you see the project going forward?
With this new record I feel like I tried to synthesize a lot of the different styles the project has explored into one collection of songs. To be completely honest, I’m not sure it really worked, at least in terms of producing something cohesive that doesn’t feel confusing to the listener. But I’ve always loved song writers that can function as sort of pop music chameleons, trying out different styles successfully while the songwriting instincts and choices keep building on the same path. So my records are probably going to get more and more all over the place, and hopefully i can figure out how to make it cohere.
Are there any books, movies, or records from this year that have left a strong impression on you?
I’m really not very current in my consumption of art. I feel like the culture around being in bands and hanging out with music people comes with the expectation that you’re super up on everything recent in your scene, broadly speaking, which I find to be exhausting and overwhelming, not to mention an unhealthy contribution to my own imposter-syndrome-adjacent neuroses about my music. As a result I unfortunately tend to ignore a lot of new releases. Some records that I’ve been spending a lot of time with recently include that Foxwarren record from late last year, Songs from Northern Britain by Teenage Fanclub (a later career gem that I’d somehow overlooked), Landmarks by Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, and Feeding Frenzy by C.H.E.W.
I’ve been going through a sort of embarrassingly academic non-fiction phase in my reading. Right now I’m reading a book called “The Grand Hotel Abyss” that’s about a group of cultural theorists called the Frankfurt School who tried to explain the social and economic origins of reactionary politics in the 1930s and onward. Apart from the obvious contemporary political implications, I find them relatable because they’re largely Marxists who were conflicted and motivated in part by self-loathing towards their relatively privileged upbringings.
Speaking of privilege and self loathing, the last movie I saw that really left an impression was probably “The Favorite.”
2019 feels like such a fucked time to exist, do you ever struggle to create art in such a strange and volatile time?
I don’t struggle to make art, but I definitely struggle to expect anyone to give a shit about the art I make. Living in these times does make me question the utility of pop music though. It’s a form I love dearly and feel invested in making, but I worry that it’s just a tonic for the otherwise unfamiliar and strange nature of most of modern life, that it just makes you feel comfortable when we ought to be interrogating how uncomfortable everything is. On the other hand I do think pop music of all stripes has real utopian potential, in the sense of encouraging people to fight for a world that is closer to how they feel things ought to be. I don’t think what I do has really hit that note yet, but I hope maybe one day it will.
Michael Brooks // @nomichaelbrooks
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