I have checked out many buzz bands lately, but Coast Modern, the LA duo comprised of Coleman Trapp and Luke Atlas is a band that I’m really excited about. They utilize a mix of electronic and live music components that are crafted into well written melodic jams full of summer vibes. I was most impressed about the mixing and production of the songs which I learned they do themselves during this Coast Modern interview. The word “modern” is really fitting in the way they approach and create their music, but these two are simply great songwriters with a lot of talent and a ear for melody. They’ll be at SXSW in a few weeks and with a tour and an album on the way, 2016 will certainly be a big year for these guys!
SONIC HIGHLARK: You guys use both live instruments as well as programmed elements in your music, was there a thought process behind that?
COLEMAN TRAPP: It’s what we’re both good at. He (Luke) is great with live instruments and I’m good at percussion and we’ve both been doing computer music forever.
LUKE ATLAS: It did come pretty naturally when writing “Hollow Life.” We weren’t setting out to make any sort of song, we said “Let’s do what excites us. Let’s just explore, no agenda.” And it’s just what came out. No premeditation.
SONIC: When there are digital elements it’s a little bit harder to translate the music into a live setting. What is the approach for your live shows?
LUKE:We try to make it as “live” as we can. We have a full live band.
COLEMAN: If it’s a synth bass we just figure it out on a live bass. Our drummers kick ass and they’re great with translating those ideas.
LUKE:We feel like the energy, you can’t quite replicate it if we just have a bunch of electronic stuff. We do incorporate those elements but it’s nice to have that human-ness.
SONIC: You guys do your own production?
COLEMAN: Yeah we do.
SONIC: Awesome! The mix is really great in your songs, I notice a nice pocket for the bass line in particular.
SONIC: Is there specific gear that you guys stick to? It can be instruments or sampler or something?
COLEMAN:(To Luke) What’s that tambourine thing? It’s like a children’s toy?
LUKE: Yeah, it’s whatever is at hand. We don’t really think about it. Usually when we’re writing we are also recording. It’s a quick process so we just grab whatever guitar is nearby and just throw it in standing up without a mic even.
COLEMAN: One time we actually had a cassette. Like a stereo thing with a little microphone and he (Luke) did a guitar into that and it gave it this sound that people spend a lot of time trying to get with effects and stuff.
LUKE: We’re trying to create momentum and not think too much.
SONIC: Do you start with a melody line when writing?
COLEMAN: As far as lyrics and melody, we’re both into absorbing stuff to output stuff. We find concepts we like and start a session talking about those things so when we jump into production mode it’s usually high energy and we’re getting it to a place that’s very inspiring. Then usually those concepts will almost seamlessly connect. We’d say “Oh, this is kind of high energy, or this is more angst-y.” We’ve been reading about this or thinking about this and it’s kind of a seamless marriage of the two.
SONIC: What’s more difficult to create? The music or the lyrics?
COLEMAN: Beats flow easily for us I think. If there is an aspect that we spend more time crafting, I’d say it might be the top line, but that’s not always the case. We have a song coming out soon called “Dive” and we spent a lot of time on the production. It’s really just whatever flows and feels right.
LUKE: Yeah, sometimes if it’s not working naturally we’d say “Maybe something’s wrong here.” and put it aside so usually the good ones are the ones that come quickly.
COLEMAN: Like “Animals.” That one, the production and the lyrics, everything came together in one afternoon. But then there are other sessions where nothing comes out.
LUKE: It’s part of the process.
SONIC: How did that session for “Animals” start?
LUKE: We do this thing every once in a while it’s called ‘song explosion day.’ We’ll be separate in our own places just writing. The goal is to create as many starts of songs as we can.
COLEMAN: And it (“Animals”) came out of that. Actually two of our songs came out of ‘song explosion day’ in one day.
LUKE: It’s like the ultimate of not thinking too much. It just came out so quick, we just thought the beat was so awesome and the lyrics came in a similar fashion the next day.
COLEMAN: Yeah the lyrics usually comes at the same time, just singing it out.
LUKE: They have to work together.
SONIC: That’s cool, a lot of the elements in your song have this melodic quality. It’s not just the vocal melody line, but several other melody lines played by an instrument mixed in. Do you ever take a synth line for example and say “Maybe it’ll be better if we sung this?” Do you start writing with the vocal line in mind?
COLEMAN:I think we always start with the beat.
LUKE: We like to put too much stuff on the beat at first. It’s flowing really quickly so we say “Let’s put this synth lead because it’s awesome and then we try this other thing.” Then we pull it back from there and see where the vocal melody will fit in.
COLEMAN: Sometimes there will be a vocal melody that we are having a hard time fitting in, so we might say “Oh maybe this will be a guitar part.”
SONIC: Not sure if you guys have your phone with you, this is a question I like to ask lately but what was the last thing you Googled?
LUKE: (laughs) It’s probably how to get here.
COLEMAN: Manhattan transit map.
LUKE: I Googled Eric Koston, the skateboarder. I was eating dinner next to him in LA. I was like “I played you in Tony Hawk (video game), how can you not recognize me!”
SONIC: (laughing) I notice you guys have a theme going on artwork wise. How did you come up with that style?
LUKE: It’s all from this amazing artist from Argentina, Daiana Ruiz. We just found her on Tumblr and we just thought it was awesome the stuff she’s done.
COLEMAN: We kind of like that simply visual thing. We were looking into few other artists but hers stood out.
LUKE: It feels fresh and modern and it fits. We just reached out to her and she was into it. There are few more covers in the works. It just felt right and she’s super easy to work with.
SONIC: That always helps! What were you searching on Tumblr were you just flipping through or were you searching for artists?
LUKE: We follow a lot of artists on Instagram and stuff like that. We’re really into visual art so it was just someone that came across our feed so we saved it.
COLEMAN: I think we were actually talking about large solid colors and wondering who did that type of stuff.
SONIC: We feature artists on our site regularly, so I always love hearing about new artists. Who are some of your favorites?
LUKE:I’m really into this guy, I think he’s from London, Danny Fox. He does large scale paintings. They’re almost like child like depictions of imagined scenes from history, like dudes on horseback.
SONIC: Large scale, like murals?
LUKE: No, just large scale canvases. It’s painted very simply and child like. I kind of like that simpleness.
COLEMAN: Oh cool.
SONIC: What about you (to Coleman) ?
COLEMAN: Let me look (looks at his phone). This dude is cool, Xavier Schipani. He’s got a similar style to Daiana (Ruiz).
SONIC: Yeah, it’s cool stuff. I definitely see the resemblance in style.
COLEMAN: It looks vectorized but I think he paints these.
SONIC: So what’s a typical day for you guys? I guess an off day?
COLEMAN: I have a little bit of a routine. I feel like to be able to create, you have to give yourself a little bit of down time. I feel like creating takes a lot of energy, a lot more than people think. I’ll wake up, I like to meditate or go on a hike. Maybe read. Just because after a long session you have pent up energy. It’s not so much of a release like people think, it’s more of like a winding up.
SONIC: I hear you. You can’t write great songs everyday so you need to replenish the creative pool.
LUKE:Yeah, it’s like sowing seeds. You can’t always be harvesting.
COLEMAN: (to Luke) You like to explore a lot around the neighborhood.
LUKE:Yeah, I’m really into hiking too. There’s a lot of hiking areas in LA. Or I like hitting up small shops and explore around.
COLEMAN: There are so much little stuff in LA. I grew up there, but he (Luke) just moved here few years ago so he’s coming from that place of seeing it as a place of discovery. I grew up there so I’ve been disconnected from it. He’ll be like “Have you checked out this place?” and I’ll say “What? I’ve never heard of it.”
SONIC: It’s sort of related question but how do you remedy a writer’s block situation?
LUKE: I think you have to let yourself suck sometimes. If it’s not good, just get it out. Kind of see it to a certain point then put it aside.
COLEMAN: I think a lot of people’s instinct is to throw it to the side. Although that might be a good idea, I like going down the road and seeing how far you can go with it, even if it’s shitty. Sometimes it can open up, you change one little thing and then it hits you. So really getting it to the shittiest it can be before you give up on it (laughs).
SONIC: That’s actually a good process maybe, let’s just make it as shitty as possible.
LUKE: Right, if it’s going to be bad let’s just go as far down as we can go.
SONIC: Yup, you can only go up from there. Are there times when you wake up the next day and listen to what you did the day before and go “What were we thinking” ?
COLEMAN: Definitely. More often we are afraid that’ll happen. “Shit, I hope we like this tomorrow.”
LUKE: I think when you wake up with it still in your head you know it’s good. It’s almost like you’re in a different world hearing it the next day.
SONIC: Right because you were so in the zone when writing it.
LUKE: Yeah, can’t see it objectively.
SONIC: How is the dating scene in LA? What’s going on out there?
COLEMAN: Dating scene in LA is odd. I think people in general feel disconnected.
LUKE:It’s such a spread out city. There are no huge scenes. I feel that’s where music is helpful. Going to a show, you know the people there are somewhat like minded.
SONIC: I hear it all the time that in LA people always want something from you, so I think you’re right. Going to a show or something cuts that element out, the people are just there to check out the band.
COLEMAN: I would say though that the fear of everybody wanting something also keeps people apart. I lived in Colorado for a little while just to get away from LA. I noticed it was so much easier to just start a conversation or get to know people. People do have ulterior motives in LA, but also the fear of people have ulterior motives keeps people apart.
SONIC: Last thing, I know you guys will be at SXSW and some tours coming up but what else is next for you guys?
COLEMAN: A lot more songs.
LUKE: We’re looking at the summer as a release for an album.
SONIC: Nice! So pretty soon then!
LUKE: Yeah, it’s summery music so.
COLEMAN: We’ll release some songs before then too.
LUKE: SXSW will be fun. It’s like music spring break.
SONIC: We’ll be there too.
LUKE: Nice! We’ll be touring in the summer with The Wombats, so we’re just excited to go places we’ve never been.
COLEMAN:We can’t wait to get the music out there. It’s one thing to be in the studio which is fun, but to get to connect with people is such a plus of being in the music world.