Philosophical and Breezy: A Conversation with Coast Modern

Coast Modern © Maeghan Donohue
Coast Modern © Maeghan Donohue

Coast Modern refer to their songs as worlds – ones you enter, “feel around”, and explore. They’re three-dimensional, full of hidden corners and beautiful landscapes. Despite each song belonging to its own universe, the five singles they have released so far paint the same picture of Coast Modern: They’re that amicable, feel-good band you want to be friends with. They belong to and make music for this generation – read into the sunny vibes and modern, slang-filled lyrics and you’ll find Luke Atlas and Coleman Trapp’s own ventures into philosophy and “the higher self.”

Their rise to fame has been nothing short of meteoric: having played their first show at SXSW in 2016, they’ve toured with BØRNS, Temper Trap, played at The Meadows Festival in New York City, and are set to release their debut album this May. Atwood Magazine caught up with them after what can only be defined as a whirlwind of a year to look back on their experiences and know what lies ahead for Coast Modern. Check out Atwood Magazine’s conversation with Coast Modern below.

Listen: Coast Modern (discography)

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Atwood Magazine: Your first show wasn’t so long ago - I believe it’s been less than a year - and you guys have grown so much, touring with Borns and Temper Trap, and even playing at festivals like The Meadows back in October. What do you think about this sudden explosion in popularity?

Luke: It’s pretty crazy. I mean, we never really expected to be in a band at all, so to put out our songs and have people react to it in that way is definitely a trip. It’s a ride, we’re white-knucklin’.

In this time, what has been your most important lesson learned as a band?

Luke: You got me (laughs) we’re still learning. I think a big thing for us is to, when we’re writing, be true to the original spark of the idea. That’s true of all of our songs, our whole vibe, to not mess it up, the initial burst that contains everything that’s magic, and it’s easy to lose that. Learning to trust that first explosion and see it through to the end.

And your most rewarding experience?

Coleman: Playing live is probably the most rewarding because you get that firsthand experience of seeing the fans’ reactions, and the energy release of getting to perform, it’s all very rewarding.

Luke: You have a direct feedback.

Coast Modern © Anna Lee
Coast Modern © Anna Lee

In “Hollow Life” you talk about phonies, faking it, and not exactly fitting in. I know that this is a struggle some people face, especially in LA, when they start becoming more popular, going to more events and etc. Is this what triggered the song?

Coleman: It could be. I think it’s a much broader concept about wherever you are you’ll find situations where you flourish and situations where you’ll feel that you’re being pushed out of your comfort zone, which isn’t always bad. I think the escapism in “Hollow Life” is for anyone anywhere, there’s always that saying of “wherever you go, there you are” but I don’t know if that’s 100% true – sometimes it takes a lot of personal strength to take off (laughs) and discover something new.

You just announced your album is coming in May which is really exciting - I know your fans have been waiting for this date for a long time. What else can we expect from Coast Modern in 2017?

Luke: Yeah! Just more touring, hopefully, travelling all over the world. We’re trying to do a lot more crazy videos, broadening what a band does on the internet through video.

What are the coolest places in the world that you’re going to this year? Or your dream place to play a show at?

Coleman: I want to go to Asia! I’m excited about getting to see Asia.

Luke: I’m stoked about Europe too because I’ve never been anywhere over there. Just to leave the country is a big milestone.

I’ve seen words like “trippy,” “west coast vibe,” “genre-bending” used to describe your music - how do you describe your sound?

Coleman: It’s hard for us because we have a lot of discussions about what place genre has in the future. We try and pull sounds and influences from everywhere.

Luke: Like a mosaic.

Coleman: Like a mosaic, yeah.

Luke: Bunch of tiles.

I’ve seen this come up a lot, this idea of the absence of genre. A band not being identifiable by one single genre. What’s your take on genre and music?

Luke: We’re all for the lack of genre. People respond to a personality or a vibe of the artist more than the sonic qualities of the artist or where they fit in relation to other people.

Coleman: Rarely people these days only listen to one genre. They’ll pick out anything that sounds good.

Luke: Yeah it’s really exciting, mainstream, indie, everything is kind of blurry.

Listening to your music, it’s hard to believe that the band is only made up of the two of you. There are so much layers to your songs! What’s the songwriting process like?

Luke: Cool to hear that it sounds like a lot of people. For this record it was Coleman and I in my little bedroom studio, we wrote down a beat or some instrumental ideas, sometimes they’d have a particularly strong vibe. Usually we’ll talk about stuff in our minds or things we’ve been reading, we have a well of stuff, and we go into this world of the song and feel around and try and pluck words out, some random gibberish. You can’t think about it too much, just gotta go and see what comes out. It usually comes out pretty quickly.

Coleman: Sometimes instantly, sometimes they fall together in a moment.

Where do you think your main inspiration comes from when writing music?

Coleman: I’d say philosophy. Trying to find and assess the higher self. Even if some of our songs aren’t about that directly, it’s always been that train of thought that led us to the song.

Luke: Working stuff out.

In “Guru”, you ask for a loved one to be your guru and motivate you to live a better life. Who’s Coast Modern’s guru?

(Both laugh)

Luke: We have a lot of gurus, I guess. Oh man.

Coleman: The fans are our gurus (laughs)

Luke: We’re each other’s gurus.

Coleman: We don’t have a clear answer. I mean, there’s a lot of philosophers, writers and podcasters that we listen to who are actual gurus.

Luke: I don’t think we’ve found our actual guru yet.

Coast Modern © Maeghan Donohue
Coast Modern © Maeghan Donohue

In “Cute”, you guys really speak this generation’s language, referencing Instagram, Pokemon, and being a foodie. Do you think that these references create a proximity between you and your fans?

Coleman: That song is actually a cover, but I think we covered it because we do like the lyrics. That’s something that we want to get into, we’ve always said that we want to be super present – timeless is cool, but like. I don’t know, that’s why that song stuck out to us as a cool cover.

Luke: Embracing the weirdness of the age and not trying to be classic. The speed of the times we live in, not try and pretend you’re from this “golden age”.

You have a very strong aesthetic on all your singles’ artworks - could you tell me a little bit more of how you chose the artist and how you think the artwork represents your music and Coast Modern in general?

Luke: We found her on Tumblr actually, she’s from Argentina and we’ve never actually met her. It’s been this internet collaboration, we sent her songs and lyrics and were kind of like “Do your thing”. We liked her simple, bold style that is a modern way of making art.

Coleman: There’s symbolism.

Luke: It’s fresh, clean. Which is a nice balance to our music which can have a lot of ideas. Also our music is kind of breezy and laid back at the same time so I think there’s a lot of parallels there. But we really let her interpret the songs her own way and give some feedback here and there, but it’s been an amazing collabo.

Your social media accounts are filled with pop culture references - from Stranger Things, to Leonardo diCaprio, to Nickelodeon cartoons - what are the elements about pop culture that you like and dislike the most?

Luke: Memes are hard. Memes are good and bad. I think in general about pop culture, memes, and this internet culture, even though everything feels kind of fragmented and separated – a lot of people don’t watch the same shows anymore, you don’t watch TV – there are still some larger things that everybody gets into, like Stranger Things. It’s cool to play with something like that that most people enjoy.

Coleman: I don’t know, we’re on the internet, we’re speaking with the tools of the internet.

Luke: We want to connect with people, and that’s what connects nowadays.

And it makes sense! Because some people, I feel, are so focused on their aesthetic and image online that they forget to build this bridge.

Coleman: Yeah, that’s a big discussion for us. There are so many bands, and everyone has their own aesthetic and everybody wants your attention, so we kind of want to do something bigger – we want it to be about the music and the people more than about us as individuals.

In another interview you said that fans send you memes online - what was the best one you’ve ever received?

Luke: We just got a really good one, that fire one.

Coleman: Oh yeah!

Luke: We just posted one that a fan did on our Instagram: “Rare pic of man discovering fire” and they put our album art in there, for “Comb My Hair”. It’s a pretty good one. We get so many, I don’t know.

In “Animals” you say “It’s up to me to write/The story of my life” - if you were to write a book about Coast Modern’s story, what would be the title?

Coleman: Downward spiral. Riches to rags.

Luke: Rags to riches to rags. What was the thing we were talking about?

Coleman: The metaphysics of truth. That’s what it would be called.

That’s very deep.

Luke: Very deep.

That would be some philosophical book. Should I ask you to explain why or will this turn into a huge explanation about things that I won’t understand because I don’t understand philosophy?

(both laugh)

Coleman: I mean, we haven’t figured it out yet. We don’t know what it means yet.

Luke: You have to name it something like that, and then you explore it, and then you figure it out.

Does anyone know what the metaphysics of truth really is, though?

Coleman: The metaphysics of truth is just the topic of what is truth. Like, in debating what truth is, they call it the metaphysics of truth. No one knows what the truth is.

Yeah, I took one philosophy class in high school and that’s the only thing I got from it - that no one knows what the truth is. There is no universal truth.

Coleman: There’s one. That there’s no universal truth.

Luke: Ohhhh!

Plot twist! I thought you were going to say something like “we are all going to die.”

Coleman: Well, there’s that too.

Luke: That’s true. Until someone doesn’t. I haven’t died.

Coleman: Yeah, I mean, I’ve never died.

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Coast Modern © Maeghan Donohue

READ: Let Coast Modern Be Your “Guru”

by Nicole Almeida
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