Coma Cinema’s Mat Cothran talks new project Gremlins
Columbia’s Mat Cothran may well be the Carolinas’ most restless songwriter. In the past year he’s released two records of bummed-out bedroom pop as Coma Cinema, three EPs of even-more-bummed-out bedroom pop as Elvis Depressedly and now another EP with his new band Gremlins. Seriously, when does this guy find time to sleep?
Gremlins is new territory for Cothran. Principally a collaboration with Toro Y Moi bassist Patrick Jeffords, the band is filled out with beats from Ricky Eat Acid‘s Sam Ray and keyboards from Braids‘ Katie Lee. The sound approaches the fuzzed-out funk of Toro’s Underneath the Pine while maintaining the ramshackle drum machine vibe of Coma Cinema. Into this warm and intoxicating sound, Cothran inserts his typically downtrodden narratives, mumbling with a pain that’s genuine enough to ward off cliche.
The band’s new self-titled EP (streaming below) is officially released on Feb. 29. Shuffle’s Jordan Lawrence caught up with Cothran to discuss the new project.
Shuffle: How did Gremlins start?
Mat Cothran: Patrick is a really good friend of mine. There was a couple of weeks where he wasn’t touring with Toro and stuff like that. We wanted to make some music together, and I kind of had this idea: I wanted to make electronic music that was structured the way Blonde on Blonde is structured, where all the instruments kind of show up at once and don’t leave and just kind of jam on one thing and make it kind of lyrical or something. He was into it. I got my friend Sam, who’s in this band Ricky Eat Acid, and I was like, ‘Hey man, you make these really great drum beats. Will you send me drum beats, and we’ll like put somethings on it?’ And he did.
Me and Patrick just sort of sat down with the drum beats and just started laying stuff on it. I don’t know. It sounds really cool. I’m really stoked on it. I think we succeeded in what we were trying to do for the most part.
Shuffle: This is the third music outlet you’ve got going right now. Why do you feel the need to separate that out?
MC: There was a point where I thought I couldn’t record music anymore because I had no money, and I had no instruments. I had been really sick and in the hospital. I just had a lot of crazy things happen that kind of ruined everything. I pretty much thought my life was over. I had basically quit and told everybody that I wasn’t doing music anymore. When I moved up to Columbia (from Spartanburg) I tried to record like a black metal record because I’ve liked black metal a lot for a long time. I kind of wanted to be able to do something like that, and all of that music is really isolationist. I did, and I made it under Elvis Depressedly. (Ed. Note: The record he’s referring to is save the planet kill yourself) And it doesn’t really sound like black metal; I mean, to me it does.
From there, I thought Coma Cinema was dead, so I couldn’t go back to it. So I just started writing whatever songs I would normally be writing under this Elvis name. I guess there’s no real difference. It’s so ridiculous. I have this manager under Elvis Depressedly, but he’s not interested in Coma Cinema whatsoever. But he’s like shopping me around to all these big people. We’re doing this thing with this clothing company. They’re like real trendy. I don’t know. I recorded some songs for them. The whole thing is getting blown out of proportion and getting way bigger than it should have been, and I kind of just wish it would go away in a way. So I can get back to things that matter — like Gremlins and like Coma and stuff like that.
Shuffle: Gremlins is different than either Coma Cinema or Elvis Depressedly. It’s kind of funky, kind of warmer than what you’re normally about. Where were you coming from to get to that point?
MC: All the funkiness comes from basically everyone in the band. Sam, he makes either ambient drone music or these like hip-hop beat oriented, really great songs. Patrick, with Toro and stuff has been keeping it funky this whole time. And Katie, she’s in Braids, and they do all this danceable, noisy music. Being around all those people, it’s kind of come out that way, and I guess my job was to make it more bleak because the idea was to make something really, really, really bleak, like as bleak as possible to reflect the time.
It’s definitely super bleak. There so much in there. Like that one song is called ‘Maim my Bitch,’ which itself I guess is itself an offensive phrase. But there’s all these snuff porn and rape porn samples all throughout it, and people hear it and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s an orgasm.’ But we put it in there because there’s all these simulated rape videos from like Russia that you can find. It’s all staged, but it looks real and the acting is pretty good. People hear it, and they’re like, ‘That’s sexy,’ but secretly it’s violent.
That song called ‘JonBenét’ has samples of Columbine victims, like the parents, talking about their experience, kind of littered throughout the song. So it’s all like bleak, sort of nihilistic dance music I guess — or funk music.
Shuffle: The darkness of your narratives is pretty similar to the ones you deploy in Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly. What do you enjoy about putting that same persona in different contexts?
MC: For the last year I’ve been getting involved in some weird, dark head space because it’s been rough out here. I listen to Coma records, and I guess it’s bummed out, but it’s not as destructive as some of the Elvis songs are, or all the Gremlins songs are. They definitely want — or whoever’s speaking in there — wants to see people get hurt. There’s a lot of violent music like black metal or gangsta rap. But you don’t hear that kind of violence in other genres usually, especially something with upbeat rhythms and stuff like that. I thought it would be nice to have such a wild juxtaposition. I don’t want people to misinterpret it. I want it to be very clear that this is a bleak record. This is a record that doesn’t like you, that wants to make you uncomfortable.