Read our interview with Coliseum frontman, Ryan Patterson!
Coliseum is a punk trio from Louisville, Kentucky. Their new album, Anxiety’s Kiss, is due out on May 5th via Deathwish Inc, and is the follow-up to their 2013 LP, Sister Faith. Anxiety’s Kiss will be available on a few different colored vinyl variants, and you can pre-order your copy via Deathwish Inc here.
We got the opportunity to sit down with frontman Ryan Patterson to talk about the upcoming album, discuss the lyrical themes and some of the hidden film references in his lyrics, and to talk about some of his favorite vinyl and more!
CV: You’ve got a new album, Anxiety’s Kiss, coming out on May 5th. What can you share about the new album?
RP: That’s our fifth album and it’s our first new release on Deathwish Inc. label. We did a reissue of our first record with them last year and we did the 7” with them in 2009. It was recorded by J. Robbins in Baltimore. We’re stoked on it.
CV: Any fun facts you can share about the album that listeners or fans might not know?
RP: It’s actually our shortest run time in a long time. Normally we always do 12 or 13 songs, but we’re like “Let’s make it ten songs, really concise, and trim the fat”. I’m excited about it. I think it’s probably our most melodic [album], so it’s kind of experimental for us in that way because it’s treading a lot of new ground stylistically. And everybody from the band contributed songwriting more than ever before. I’m the singer and the guitarist and there are songs that I don’t even play guitar on, which is a first. So some cool stuff like that, that just kind of came together and was totally new for us.
CV: How would you compare Anxiety’s Kiss with your previous album?
RP: I think it’s part of the same progression, House With A Curse in 2010, which was our third record, is kind of when we started going in a more melodic direction. I think some post-punk elements were creeping in there a little more than Sister Faith. To me it seems like a very similar record, it doesn’t seem crazy. Some other people hear it and are like “Wow, I didn’t expect this direction”. I don’t know what direction that is because to me it’s very natural; it’s a new batch of songs. I’m curious to see how people relate to it. This week we’re releasing the second single from it, and it’s by far the most melodic song we’ve ever done. It doesn’t seem that strange to me, but my wife is like “Wow, people are going to be really shocked by this!”
CV: What are some of the lyrical themes fans can encounter on the new album?
RP: It’s mostly personal, but also, as time has gone on, I’ve tried to be better at writing in a narrative. You know, writing less straightforward and less on the nose, and less specifically inspired by the events of the moment. It’s more about thoughts and situations that relate to me, but putting those out in terms of characters of a song, or more of story, which I think is more of a way to keep inspired. A lot of the writers that I really respect do that. So that’s one of the things, lyrically, that I’m most excited about with the new record is that there are things that are direct narratives and direct stories that paint a picture and create a scene in your mind that are personal to me but someone might not ever know exactly what that means. I love that about songs. It comes from one place in me and you put it out in the world and it takes on a whole different thing. We have songs from our first record that totally over all these years have become completely different. But, what inspired me initially almost doesn’t matter. What it becomes is what’s important. In a way, it’s like a human being. All the experiences in life have led you to this point, and it makes you who you are now. Of course, all of it is important but what’s more important is what you’ve grown into. And I like that about a song. A song is like a little spawn, and it changes. I’m really excited to get this out there. There’s a song about obsession and love, but almost in the narrative of like a vampire. It’s not specifically a horror song but I’m really excited to see how people react to it.
CV: Do you ever go back to some of your previous work and find new meanings and/or themes?
RP: Absolutely. There’s a song called “Give up and Drive” that was kind of inspired after a dinner I had with somebody from my life when I was younger, and how they interpreted our relationship and how we knew each other. What they said to me about things that we had known about each other or done together stuck with them. But then that person, after that dinner, went off and I’ve not seen that person again. And it was a song about that but over all these years it became this “road anthem”, just a song of power and moving on. So in a way it has a similar theme but it’s not really any more about this personal meeting. It’s more about this anthem of empowerment. I find that really interesting, it’s really cool. Of course, songs are misinterpreted sometimes too. I’ve always tried to put little references from other things, especially film. Sometimes I fear that they’ve fallen on deaf ears that nobody’s noticed it, but then I realize that not everyone’s going to. If I picked up a reference in someone else’s song, I’m not going to write them a letter and say, “I got that!” So, I’m assuming somewhere, somebody caught this reference to this actor or this film, or other things that I’m really into that I’ve connected into music. So those things are still planted in there and I’m always curious if people pick them up.
CV: So they’re kind of like hidden “easter eggs” in your songs?
RP: Yeah, in a way. We have a song on a 7” called “Last Wave” that’s named after a Peter Weir movie that’s about the apocalypse. You know, and that seems really obvious, but nobody’s ever said, “Oh yeah, that’s from the Peter Weir movie with Richard Chamberlain.” There’s a song on House With A Curse called “Isela Vega” and it’s named after an actress but it’s more about her character in the movie “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia” which is a Sam Peckinpah movie. So those kinds of things are in the songs and I really have no idea if anyone has ever picked up on it.
CV: Have you ever ran into anybody that has asked you about some of the film references in your songs?
RP: Yeah, the most recent one is about a song we’re going to release next week is called “Sunlight in a Snowstorm”; it’s from the new record. It has a reference that mentions the title of a movie called “Meshes of the Afternoon” which is a 40s experimental film by a filmmaker named Maya Deren. The woman who’s making the video for our new song knows that film, and she picked up on it. She’s like, “Was that a reference to Maya Deren!?” I told her “Yeah!” So that was great that she’s making a clip for us and totally picked up on the references. So she can integrate that, and that was really meaningful. Somebody’s actually involved in something we’re doing and picked up on the reference and it completes that circle.
CV: So I hear you’re pretty involved with the creative and art direction of the band. Is that something that you’re passionate about? What’s it like working on designs for your band’s merch?
RP: Yeah, it’s cool, and I’m very passionate about it. From the get-go, the band always tried to have a really clear visual identity. We had a logo from before we even started out. I designed our first record cover before we were a band. I think that’s great for us in that we’ve always had a clear visual aesthetic and our shirts are visible from far away and our records, even though they kind of vary, are generally pretty easily recognizable. It’s important to me, it enables me to invest more of myself in it. I don’t feel detached from any element, and it’s cool because when we’re done with a record, I know I get to design this record. I get to design a bunch of shirts. On this tour, I just designed around 10 new shirts for all of the things that are going to come off the touring, and that’s really fun and really exciting. I’ve done that for other bands, but I generally end up doing my best work for us. The only thing that is difficult about it is that when you do have a really specific aesthetic, visually, it’s hard to break out of it. A couple occasions we’ve hired other people, either friends or people who we really respect, and it’s worked out well. Sometimes, I’d really like to work with other people but I just know we can’t because we need to do this. We had a great record cover drawn by Rick Froberg from Hot Snakes. He did awesome, everybody loved the record cover, but then we made a shirt of it and the shirt didn’t really do that well because I think people wanted the “Coliseum” style for the shirt. So I’ve kind of learned that too. You learn where you can slide it in, and where it won’t work but it’s not a bad problem to have. But it’s really neat and of course I feel lucky to be able to do it and I feel a sense of pride that I’m able to do that and be involved, it makes it all very personal to me.
CV: So what can we expect from Coliseum in the near future?
RP: The new record comes out May 5th, and we’ll start touring in June after that. Our current tour dates end for a couple months and then we kind of relax. Then through the rest of the year we’re pretty busy off and on. So that’s it. I’m really excited about the record. We’re really prolific, we write a lot. We have a lot of extra songs and album sessions and I’m trying to pace myself. I’m really bad about releasing too many records, you know? That’s mainly it, putting [the new album] out and getting out there and playing for people.
CV: What are your thoughts on the resurgence of vinyl?
RP: You know, I appreciate it. I think it helps our world of music tremendously. I think it helps small labels and record stores. I think, in most cities, the larger, independent record store has kind of gone away, but these small, closet-sized record stores have popped up. While it’s sad to see the history change, I think it’s good that it still exists. It’s interesting for me. I feel like it’s one of the things in my life that I’ve seen come and go. When I was a kid, we bought cassettes or an LP, just by what was there. It wasn’t like a format mattered to me. I was listening to my records on the shittiest record player, one of those all-in-one things. So you just bought whatever. Here’s the cassette by that [band], here’s the record, and I didn’t really think anything about it. Then CD’s came, and I bought everything on CD and still bought LP’s. Now, for example, I’m a huge Dischord fanatic. So I bought everything on LP or Cassette as a kid, then I bought it all on CD when it was re-mastered, now I’m buying it all again when It’s reissued. I’ll get a Soul Side record and I’m like, “I bought this 5 freaking times!” But you know, if there’s an extra song, or a re-master, or extra photo, I’m always excited about it. I think it’s good. I think it’s kind of the last hope for music because I have a really pessimistic view of Spotify and things like that. I really find that to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. So I appreciate that anybody still wants to buy something physically tangible. The tactile beauty of a record can’t be matched. To me, that is the most important tactile component. To me, there’s like, you go see the band play, hold the record in your hand, and you listen to the record at home. That’s music, to me.
CV: Yeah, it’s the whole experience.
RP: Yeah, I mean that’s what it is. I think that’s an absolutely important element.
CV: So what have you been spinning lately?
RP: I love the new Disappears record. They’re from Chicago. I think it’s their fifth or sixth album. And, it’s amazing. It’s one of those records that just sounds awesome and really cool. It has really good production. I listen to that A LOT. I have to admit that sometimes lately, with records in particular, they’re getting so expensive. And a lot of things I pass on. I prefer labels that handle their own digital sales, like Sub Pop and Merge, and I don’t have to go through iTunes. A lot of times those deluxe copies are like 35 bucks and sometimes that’s hard. I understand that pretty much every record is going to be like 15 or 20 bucks now, that’s cool. But sometimes the 35 dollars, I’m like “Shit…” Yeah that new Disappears [album] is great. There’s a band from Brazil called Rakta. They’re an all female band with a male drummer. They’re a really great punk band. They’re awesome. Warcry, a hard-core band from Portland, I’ve been listening to them a lot, the new Warcry Record.
CV: If there was a fire in your house and you only had time to grab your three favorite LPs, what would they be?
RP: This is easy. It would be Bad Brains’ I Against I, Killing Jokes’ Night Time, and a Fugazi record. I don’t know which one, but I’ll probably take In on the Kill Taker. So, maybe those three. Those are my three favorite bands, so that’s not too hard.
CV: Do you visit record stores while on tour, and if so, what are some of your favorite record stores that you’ve visited, outside of your local favorites?
RP: Yeah, I do. I try to. I really like Celebrated Summer in Baltimore. That’s a great store. A guy named Tony owns that place and it’s been open a few years and it’s awesome. In New Orleans, there’s a store that my friend Bryan from the band Thou runs it’s called Sisters in Christ. It’s just a small store in the front of a venue. It’s really cool; they just did our show there. So they put on shows and they’re a record store, so it’s great. Shake It Records in Cincinnati is great; they put out records and stuff. We were just in Seattle and we went to Singles Going Steady, which is a classic, they’ve been around forever. Yeah so every tour, I’m like, “OK, where am I going to go?”
CV: What are some LP’s that are currently on your wantlist?
RP: Well, I only collect a couple, and I don’t collect for collectability’s sake. Just bands that I’m obsessed with, I want their records. I always buy anything on Dischord or DC-related. So, anything of that world that I find. Outside of Dischord there were all these offshoot labels, so I always buy anything of that I can find. I collect Killing Joke records. They’re one of my favorite bands and they have a ton of records. So I always buy Killing Joke and this band called Crime & The City Solution. I probably have all of the Killing Joke and Crime & The City Solution records except one or two, but I always go out and that’s always the first thing I look for.
CV: What is your dream vinyl pressing?
RP: What we tried to do with this record but we couldn’t do because it just didn’t quite work, and it was a little too expensive. Our new record is printed on a mirror foil board, so it’s kind of reflective with the black ink printed on top of it. We tried to do a picture disc that was a mirror foil. So it was a picture disc that was actually a mirror. But the mirror foil board is too thick. So a picture disc is clear vinyl that’s kind of hollow, and it’s printed on a very slim piece of paper. The blank mirror foil was a thick card-stock and it was too thick. So it was A. Going to be too expensive and B. It was too thick. I was so bummed. That was the attempt that we didn’t get to do this time. Maybe next time!
Coliseum will be embarking on a tour in support of their new album, Anxiety’s Kiss, in June (tour dates TBA)! Be sure to follow them on twitter to stay up-to-date on all things Coliseum!