Welcome to the latest installment of our weekly feature, Sound Off, where Jason P. Woodbury is joined by a different guest each week to listen to and discuss three tracks from local Phoenix artists. If you would like your songs to be considered for future Sound Off columns, please email email@example.com.
Today's guest is Brian Coughlin, guitarist, keyboardist, and vocalist in Phoenix-based indie rock band Kinch. Coughlin is a busy guy -- the band is getting ready for a string of dates with Jimmy Eat World at the end of the month, and is prepping the band's new release, The Incandenza, with hopes to release the record within the next few months.
Coughlin's unique knack for melody and songcraft made him a perfect candidate for Sound Off, so I bent his ear toward three local tunes from hip-hop group Black One, garage rockers Andrew and His Fiesty Felines, and hardcore outfit Come On Die Young.
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Black One, "One Day the Sun Will Stop Shining"
Brian Coughlin: I kinda dug it. I liked the sample choice. Good luck getting something like that cleared. I responded to it [but] I wasn't too keen on the hook part --
Yeah, the hook kind of bothered me, too.
I just don't think it was very...I just don't remember it.
I thought the verses were solid. I liked the line about "missing the date with destiny, she wouldn't go dutch." I like the rap a lot. I like the sample -- it's a little bit weird, it gives the song a weird feel. It never quite locked into a groove. The sample seems to be a little out of sync, in a good way. There's another rap single on the radio that samples Neil Young...the song "Old Man." It's Redlight King, "Old Man."
Yuck. That made me throw up a little in my mouth. What I like about [Black One's] sample is that you could recognize it, but I almost wonder if I would have said, 'Oh, that's a Neil Young sample' if you hadn't said it. Obviously, when you said it I immediately knew -- but I wonder if it would have taken me a second to catch on to that.
Whereas this Redlight King song --
Yeah, it's just so over the top obvious. I like the local song much better than the Redlight King one.
If we're going to do a Neil Young-hip-hop-sample off, I'm going to pick Black One every time. I heard Red Light King on the radio, just flipping through the radio. I don't listen to the radio all the time. I keep it on NPR a lot, but I do listen to the radio for work. I heard this song driving home one night on X103.9 and I heard the sample, and I wondered if it was some sort of remixy thing. But it's kind of like when Crazy Town sampled that entire Red Hot Chili Peppers song. That's not a sample, you're just using the entire song and rapping over it.
Yeah -- my heart was crushed a little bit when Jake [Malone, Kinch bassist] pointed out that one of my favorite Daft Punk, song, "Robot Rock," is just a straight rip of Breakwater's "Unleash the Beast," a soul band from the '70s. There's something interesting about finding something that people aren't aware of, and doing something over it. And there's even something cool about doing some totally obvious and doing something unique with it. The Redlight thing is just kind of lazy, almost. "Here's a song that people already recognize, that already has massive appeal, and all you're going to do is throw a quick easy beat around it," you know?
Whereas this Black One sample isn't so obvious. I really love Neil Young. For them to sample "Southern Man," which is his song about Southern racism, and to combine that with a hip-hop beat -- that seems like a really intelligent, insightful thing to me. That hook is the only thing that throw me. It's a really evocative line, "One day the sun will stop shining," but it doesn't resonate melodically...
I think it could just be tweaked a little bit, yeah. I liked it.
I think it sounds like they are doing exactly what they want to be doing. You know what I mean? They can all play their instruments really well, and they are going after a really specific aesthetic, which sounds like they are pulling off exactly what they want. I just never listen to punk rock. I couldn't even tell you who their influences are, or recommend who I think they would fit on a bill with.
It's funny to me, because they remind me of Planes Mistaken For Stars, who at the time, the late '90s, early 2000s, people used to call stuff like that 'emo.' And now that's such a neutered term, it doesn't imply any aggression at all. With this, the vocals are screamy, I get the sense that they are saying something important. It feels important. It sounds important. The singing parts -- some of the singing bothered me by being a little off key.
Yeah, but I don't know if being off key is a bad thing for what they are doing. You know, like...I just think that if I was recording this song, doing vocals, it would be very difficult for me to figure out what they are supposed to sound like. You get a very good idea, with what all the instruments, it's just a really solid piece of music underneath what's being sung.
I like it. I would rather listen to this than almost anything called pop punk. That stuff doesn't do much for me and this has -
Kind of a guttural thing? Yeah. It doesn't sound super pretty. That's why it's difficult to criticize the vocals, because you feel like they blasted this out in one take.
They seem to have a real grasp on their aesthetic. They artwork, and everything, the limited seven-inch. They know exactly what they want to me be doing and I totally respect that. When bands do that - it's a lot harder to pull of than it seems. They just imagine, 'We're in a hardcore punk band, and the name is going to be Come On Die Young, and we're going to go in and bust out a record, print a hundred copies.' I totally get that, and respect it, and am even jealous of it in some ways. They seem to have such a clear idea of what they are trying to do.
I would have to defer to the judgment of someone else as to how good it is. When I hear this kind of stuff -- if you muted the vocals, I could appreciate it -- but when those come in, it's hard for me to have an emotional response to what's happening with that song, it's like, someone is yelling at me. I, unlike you, listen to the radio constantly, and I'm a sucker for pop song and a hook. I think some of the best bands are the ones that manage to combine elements like this band with pop accessibility.
Andrew and His Feisty Felines are scheduled to perform Friday, September 9, at the Hidden House.
Brian Coughlin: It's kind of funny. I feel like this song is in the genre that I'm most familiar with. Immediately, the most ideas and thoughts were popping into my head, cause I'm not a huge hip-hop connoisseur and definitely not into punk rock, but this one, it's probably my favorite, but I also had the most problems with it at the same time.
Most of my criticism I'm wondering if it would disappear if I listened to more of their songs, and heard more of what they are trying to do. It just seemed like it was kind of, how would I describe it? I don't want to say the word lazy, but in how it's almost too straight forward in what it's trying to do, like it's a very generic chord progression you've heard in a hundreds of songs. It was definitely catchy and stuff, but I felt like it wasn't as exciting as it could have been. What about you?
This is probably the closest thing to something I immediately identify with. I love the aesthetic choices. I love chord progression. It's a bonehead chord progression, and I love that about it. I love the organ work. I'm real particular when it comes to drum sounds, and the drums weren't performed poorly but I wanted the drums to be louder and I'm of the believe that if you can't make something sound really really nice, just make it sound really trashy.
To me, that always works. The song is great. The lyrics are great. I love the scream, the guitar solo. Those are the things I just love. So many bands forget about about - so many bands are concerned with making themselves seem serious, and proving that they take what they do seriously, that they forgot about that you have fun when you play music. I don't think Andrew and His Fiesty Felines are a joke band, that's just as annoying as a band that takes themselves too seriously, a band that refused to take anything seriously, but --
I feel we're talking about the exact same thing. I get that they are trying to have fun with it, and I think that's awesome. But I think they should be even more extreme about that almost, they could take that attitude and turn it on 11. Make it more fun, or more haphazardly thrown together.
With this column, I focus on one song from a band, but I've listened to their other songs, and they just do great stuff, they do a Dough Sahm song and a cover of a Sonics song--
The outro of this song -- the ambulance/organ sound, and the phone ringing -- that's when it clicked for me. Like, 'There's something else happening here.' It made me really curious to hear what was next, so that's the best thing to get out of a song, is wanting to hear more from a band.
I love how utterly ridiculous that is. It's a two-minute, 20-second song, and 20 of those seconds are a siren and a phone ringing. I think shorter songs a great way to go. I liked that about Come On Die Young, too, though this song feels even shorter. It's certainly less claustrophobic, there's less going on. I think that's a lesson that a lot of bands should learn .That's not to say that there shouldn't be six-minute/seven-minute long songs, but more often than not --
Get it get out. I've always been a fan of brevity. It takes a long time to learn that, that you don't need to repeat something four times because that's what every other song does. Less is always more in recording. They found the ins and outs of what works in their song. I want to hear more. It makes me feel like there's more going on than just those two minutes we heard.