Mat Cothran talks new Elvis Depressedly album, future of Coma Cinema
“mickey’s dead” is the simplest, most devastating entry into the suddenly extensive catalog of Columbia’s Mat Cothran. Dropping the typical electronic flourishes of his spastic, lo-fi bedroom pop, he croons over simple folk picking and tortured harmonica peels, addressing his parents with a sense of pained estrangement. “I ain’t loved my father since I can’t remember when,” he confesses. “I don’t know if I’ll ever love him.” These are two of the song’s four lines, the other couplet expressing a similar lack of connection to his mother.
At 10 songs and just more than 20 minutes, mickey’s dead (streaming below) is the first full-length collection from Elvis Depressedly, Cothran’s alter-ego escape from his more popular Coma Cinema project. Like the three 2011 EPs that preceeded it, it’s a direct and unadorned album, spartan acoustic strums bolstered by economic rhythms and flashes of abrasive color. It’s a profoundly effective mix, and it adds up to Cothran’s most cohesive collection yet. Shuffle‘s Jordan Lawrence caught up with Cothran via e-mail to ask him about the album, its sad subject matter and what the future holds for Elvis Depressedly and Coma Cinema.
Shuffle: I want to start with the title — mickey’s dead. I know you’ve sometimes referred to yourself as Mickey in the past. What’s the significance of calling the record that, and what are going for with the song that also goes by that name?
Mat Cothran: It’s something someone I was very close to said to me at a very low point in my life. Mickey was my granddad’s name. It was my nickname as a kid. It’s something I grew into, and I don’t know why. The song with that title came after a really intense hallucinogen experience I had where a friend of mine took me to a landfill and gave me a lot of mushrooms for some kind of film she was making. It fucked up my brain and made me confront things I’d been hiding inside forever . . . it’s mostly about killing the persona, being yourself, understanding the issues you have . . . in my case with my parents and myself.
Shuffle: Tell me about the recording process. Was it any different this time out?
MC: I know I tell you this every time we talk, but I have even less functioning equipment now. It was a struggle . . . I live in a place where I get no peace and quiet, and I’m always dealing with weird mishaps, electrical issues, etc. I work my shitty day job constantly. It was a constant battle to find the time and the freedom away from Columbia’s neediness. I hate this place and what it represents.
Shuffle: I know last time you did Elvis Depressedly stuff you had just moved to Columbia from Spartanburg and were using it as an experiment outside of Coma Cinema. What’s the purpose this time out? Why did Elvis Depressedly need a more full-length release?
MC: The last Coma Cinema song I recorded was in Spartanburg. I am beginning to wonder if Coma can even exist in a place like this. The people here are psychotic, self-obsessed, murderers, addicts, wild animals. Elvis is a persona. It’s something to escape into away from the expectations people have on Coma Cinema and me. It’s a place I can be honest because not as many people listen to it as my other projects.
Shuffle: This is the most straightforward record I’ve heard from you as far as the songs — very little distortion on your voice or interference that keeps the listener from hearing your words. Why did you decide to go that way here?
MC: In life there is this wild desire to be emotional. You go through life thinking what you feel means something when it truly doesn’t, but if you don’t let it out it tears you into pieces and makes you useless. I had to be as straightforward as possible and try to get the deepest parts that have been clinging to my being the longest away from me. This is a record about escaping a desperate situation, if only temporarily. It’s self-created though. It’s a problem that comes from being a problem.
Shuffle: Speaking of your words, they’re as dark as ever, but there’s not so much anger as there is resignation. Where were you coming from as far as writing was concerned?
MC: Anger is something you feel when you think you can make a difference. The older I get the more I realize that you cannot. I have learned that I have to accept fear and use the truth as a shelter from it. This is my reality. I created it, and if I don’t learn to accept it then I won’t survive. I think that’s universal, that anyone can understand it. The response to the record has been more intense than anything else I’ve done. People tell me that certain songs articulated their thoughts. Getting old is about becoming one with the struggle of every living thing, finding a way to survive together.
Shuffle: What else is gong on? How is the new Coma Cinema record coming? Any other plans?
MC: I’ve got a tour of the Southeast in late July. The Coma record isn’t going well, but when it needs to happen it will. Two more Elvis records are coming out this year . . . and this is really the first time I’ve told anyone. One is called BD$M, and it’s all samples . . . a lot of really vile samples from the worst parts of documented humanity making these kind of disturbed songs. It’s a record about being tired.
The other is called the late great planet earth, and it’s a lot more like mickey’s dead. I go between these personas. Right now Elvis and Mickey are ruling my brain. That’s how it goes being human. No one is one person. I just give names to all the people I am.