On Wednesday, October 5th, I sat down with Luke Atlas (guitar and vocals) and Coleman Trapp (lead vocals) of LA-based indie-pop band Coast Modern before their performance at the Theatre of Living Arts (TLA). Coast Modern is currently opening for The Temper Trap on the North American leg of their tour. They have only four singles in circulation, but those proved enough to draw dedicated fans to the South Street venue for the night—it appeared that more than a few concertgoers were just as much fans of Coast Modern as they were of the main act as they called out requests and cheered every time they recognized the next song. The duo also previewed new tracks that will be included on their upcoming album, slated for an ambiguous 2017 release.I walked up to TLA’s doors (after passing some members of The Temper Trap wandering down the street on the hunt for food) just as Coast Modern’s van pulled up, fresh off a performance in Boston the previous night. We began the interview as the pair finished a quick bowl of soup.
How did you two meet?
Atlas: The time between our meeting and starting the band was about three years. I moved to LA from Seattle to do songwriting and producing – didn’t know anybody and just took a chance. A mutual friend introduced me to Coleman who was also writing and producing, so in the beginning we were writing and working for other artists.
Trapp: The whole time we were just throwing things back and forth, jams and other projects, pitches for commercials and artists in weird organizations all over the map.
When did the idea of a starting a band really take off?
Trapp: It was actually a third party hearing our music and being really into it. The label that we ended up signing with found our music online and thought that we were a band – which we were at the time, but very unofficially. We had been tossing around the idea and talked about the possibility of starting a band before.
Atlas: We weren’t a band then, just making fake projects all the time. But having this third party come through saying that we should be band was a sign that we should ride the wave. Getting offered a record deal before you’re a real band is a pretty good sign.
How did you come up with the name “Coast Modern?” What does it mean to you?
Atlas: I think it just fits our music—we’re from the coast, and one of our big goals is to push music and kind of break free of genres and so that’s the “modern” part.
Trapp: Also, bad puns are cool.
Atlas: We’re big fans of puns. Coleman is the punisher, notoriously. We were playing around with the word post-modern. We did all the worst ones before Coast Modern came around (even tried out Toast Modern), and then we typed it out we knew that was it.
Were there differences in the musical direction you wanted to go?
Trapp: Always. Now and always. I think that opposite magnetism creates our sound. We have a lot of similar tastes and we agree on a lot, but we are definitely very individual and our sound comes from those two different voices.
What are the biggest influences on your music?
Atlas: For me, going into this project, we had the mindset of doing what we want instead of what is cool at the moment. That returns me to Weezer and Beck, artists that I listened to when music was cool.
Trapp: I always had an appreciation for good writing and production. I didn’t really idealize a lot of artists but I did idealize a lot of songs or productions. I always mythologized the magic of how they were able to stitch together everything, and then certain bands that were able to do it more often are the ones that I am most amazed by. Growing up, Pharrell as a producer was like a superhero to me because he could make that many hits.
What is your creation and writing process?
Atlas: The songs that are out are the ones that were super easy, that just came really quickly in a few hours to an afternoon – if they take longer than that then it’s usually not a good song. We can grind on something but it doesn’t make it better. Capturing the spark of inspiration is a big thing for us. Leaving that raw, more humanness in the song is important and not overthinking the lyrics too much, just letting it flow. About 90% flow and the rest is tweaking little bits here and there.
Trapp: We actually wrote Guru and Animals on the same day. Just—bam—wrote it, had lunch, came back and then wrote the other one.
Atlas: Than there are just weeks when you’re stuck and doing nothing, it’s a process.
Are you working on more songs right now? Any plans for an EP or LP in the future?
Trapp: We actually have an album in the can right now, but we are holding off releasing it, probably early 2017.
You have a pretty large fan base for a band relatively new to the scene. Are you surprised by that?
Trapp: It’s pretty amazing. Art is notoriously difficult, and to have any kind of appreciation for what we’re doing is crazy – I want to say “why, how, and thank you.”
Atlas: it’s really cool. We were pushing for a long time trying to meet other people’s ideals in pop music or trying to get songs in ads and stuff like that and so it’s not really what we actually like, and when we started just doing stuff that we liked and didn’t care about what people thought, then people started responding. It’s kind of backwards, but weird how that works. The internet and social media helped a lot.
Trapp and Atlas: Twitter is definitely the voice of Coast Modern. Instagram is the eyes. Facebook is…the sweater vest. The Christmas sweater vest. Snapchat is the middle finger. We are the feet of Coast Modern, walking and trudging along. (They were very dedicated to extending this allegory to its maximum potential).
When did you start actually touring and performing with bands? I know you toured with BØRNS and The Wombats before this tour with The Temper Trap.
Atlas: Our first show was less than two months before the BØRNS tour, which must sound insane to anybody but we’ve just kind of been gripping onto this crazy surfboard ride. Our first show was South by Southwest where we performed four shows over a few days.
Did you two talk about how you were going to present yourselves and perform on stage before your performances?
Trapp: We should’ve—we’ve just kind of been going for it, we’ve had surprisingly little discussion about anything.
Atlas: For now, we’re just letting our freak flag fly. Maybe later on we’ll choreograph some dance moves.
What do you do when you’re not performing? What do you miss doing in downtime?
Trapp: The first thing that I’ve been able to bring on the road that I do at home is meditation. The last two tours I wasn’t able to do it but this one I’ve been able to meditate every day which has made so much of a difference. I also miss writing, because that’s something I haven’t done at all. When we’re back home we’re in the studio writing almost every day. I think being on tour is the longest I’ve been away from the creative writing process.
Atlas: I miss hiking and exploring in nature, there’s not a lot of that out here. We’re lucky if there’s a few hours to explore the area. We do try and check out where we are when there’s time.
Trapp: Our band has huge foodies. I would consider us foodies, but our drummer and bass player really plan out where we’re eating before we even get there. So we eat a lot of good food at every stop.
Atlas: We’re always trying to find the third wave coffee shop, the fancy hipster stuff. Some cities are better at coffee than others, which is interesting to explore.
Is there anything you don’t like about touring, or are you still in the honeymoon phase?
Trapp: I love it. It’s a dream. I have no complaints, it’s so cool.
Atlas: it’s very fulfilling for the deep human desire to explore and keep moving; you don’t get bogged down. We’re born to wander.
Trapp: There’s something very adaptive about the constant stimuli—and it’s definitely good stimuli.
Any pre-show rituals?
Atlas: We touch fingertips before the show in a circle with everyone. We get really hype and psyched for the show. Throwing things, jumping, screaming, primal yells.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Trapp: I’d be a hermit, a recluse for sure. I’d probably be a mountain man writer guy.
Atlas: I’d design chairs, sofas. Still might, you never know.
Trapp: I’d also be a perfumer too. We can still do that under the Coast Modern umbrella. Ours could be called “Essence of Man.”
If you could see anyone perform live who would it be?
Trapp: Mozart. It’d also be cool to see Robert Johnson, one of those super old school blues cats during Great Depression America, just stomping and spitting on a porch.
Atlas: I feel like I’ve seen everyone I’d want to see, except maybe the Beatles, but I’ve seen Paul McCartney so that kind of counts. Definitely the Beatles during their Hamburg era.
For more tour dates and information,see http://coastmodernmusic.com/