Text and Interview: Alec Coiro
Photos: Joe McMurray
You may know Chris Cohen from his work with with Cass McCombs, Deerhoof, Ariel Pink, White Magic, or his current main focus, Park Details Band; but you most likely know him from his 2012 debut, Overgrown Path. And if you missed that psych-folk milestone, you should absolutely get caught up with his new brand new, As If Apart. Chris Cohen is a leader in a musical movement that is often characterized as retro-inflected, but which I often think of as a contemporary version of indie-rock where musicianship replaces amateurism. We talked about the new album, and for those of you interested in how such a thing gets made, the details will be sure to satisfy.
I think everyone is making their own history of pop music.
What do you think changed for you as an artist between Overgrown Path and As If Apart?
As an artist not much — though I had some savings while making Overgrown Path and those were gone for this one.
I’m writing songs that have fewer parts in them and trying to use key changes in a different way. In the past I used key changes as if they were melodies. Now I use melodies as melodies.
Your press release describes As If Apart as “how pop music has turned out alongside itself”; do you see yourself as exploring an alternate history of pop music?
Yes, I think everyone is making their own history of pop music.
What was the studio process like on this album? Who was collaborating with you?
It was like this: I wrote chord changes, riffs and melodies at home on the piano, then made templates with scratch keyboard tracks, made drum beats and bass line to that, tried different combinations of guitar and keyboards, then wrote lyrics and recorded them, then mixed. This took me 3 years for the 10 tracks so maybe 4 months a song in my spare time when I wasn’t doing day jobs. All done in a garage alone on a computer with no other recording equipment.
Speaking of which, can you tell us about your lyrical collaboration with Zach Phillips?
Based on how much I love his various solo projects and bands I asked him to write words to my finished melodies and gave him song titles. They were everything I hoped but even better. Zach wrote each in 20 minutes he said.
You’ve played with a lot of great bands throughout the years. Will you continue to do so, or do you think of yourself as strictly a solo artist now?
I continue to work with other people in lots of different ways. The other project that I care most about is Park Details Band in which I play drums and Yasi Perera plays keyboard and bass.
I don’t think of myself either as a solo artist or a band person — just anything i want to do. I’m not really happy without a mixture. writing songs isn’t satisfying to me unless I play them and vice versa. Playing music alone or only with other people doesn’t seem satisfying. I also like a combination of composition and improvisation.
I’m up for anything if there’s time.
Are there plans for an As If Apart tour?
Yeah, me and my band leave on [Today] for the east coast, then a US tour a few weeks later and Europe in the fall.
Thanks for talking with me.