Those of you familiar with heavy Louisville punk trio Coliseum’s previous two albums Coliseum (Level-Plane) and No Salvation (Relapse) will notice a change of pace on House With A Curse. Their newest — self-produced, mixed by J. Robbins, named after a note written in the 1925 film version of Phantom Of The Opera — introduces different elements, paces, and textures into their breakneck compositional repertoire. It also features guest appearances from various folks associated in one way or another with Kentucky — Will Oldham, Jason Noble (Rodan, Shipping News, Rachels), Peter Searcy (Squirrel Bait), etc. Those folks and their assorted histories should give you a sense of what to expect. Or, think vintage D.C., vintage Touch & Go, and one of my favorite bands ever, Laughing Hyenas (aka heavy, howling, post-Negative Approach throat-shredding blues punk). I asked guitarist/vocalist/towering presence Ryan Patterson about House in general and lead track “Blind In One Eye,” a song written in a room where someone committed suicide. On the collection Patterson’s joined by regular bassist Mike Pascal and new drummer Carter Wilson. J. Robbins provided backing vocals on “Blind.” So, OK, think Jawbox, too.
STEREOGUM: You’ve gone through a number of shifts (lineup, label) since the last album. How’d that effect House With A Curse? The initial conception, the writing process, etc.
RYAN PATTERSON: The label change occurred after most of the record was written, so it didn’t affect or interfere with the creative process at all. But the lineup changes and the period of reevaluation before starting on the record had a big impact on the outcome. I started writing songs for House With A Curse in the middle of last year, just a few weeks after we split with our previous drummer, and I spent some time thinking about how I would approach songwriting and the band in the future. There have always been a handful of songs on each record that I’ve written entirely on my own and then brought to the band to learn, but there has also been a lot of time spent in the practice space hashing out ideas and trying to squeeze water from a stone.
I realized that my strength isn’t in being a collaborator, at least not in the writing process, and I wanted to work on writing actual “songs” not a collection of riffs and beats assembled like a jigsaw puzzle. I’d been inspired by Nick Cave’s approach to songwriting, where he goes into his office as if it’s a 9-to-5 job to work on writing music and lyrics. So I started to work on writing music every day, often starting with the bass and drums, using drum machines and multi-tracking software to put ideas into demo form. I really wanted more breathing room in the songs and a much stronger rhythm section focus.
Luckily we found Carter as our new drummer — my brother’s band had played with one of Carter’s former bands in Birmingham and suggested we track him down. He came up to play with us and was perfect — his playing was exactly what we were looking for and we have very similar tastes in music. I feel like Coliseum has always had great drummers, but never a rhythm section. With Carter in place the music could groove, he worked perfectly for the songs I’d already written and I started to write to suit his and Mike’s strength together.
There was never any intention to make a sharp turn stylistically or change direction with the band at all, but I did want to throw out the rules we’d set for ourselves and start with a clean slate in terms of how we approach the songs. This was the most inspired period of music writing I’ve ever done and House With A Curse turned out to be far beyond my hopes or expectations.
STEREOGUM: Who inspired “Blind In One Eye”? Can you explain the storyline? It seems personal, but could also be about a general type.
RP: The title was inspired by our bassist Mike, he’s almost entirely blind in his left eye from a paintball accident when he was thirteen, but lyrically the song’s subject went elsewhere … I go through periods of re-obsessing over certain bands and while I was writing “Blind In One Eye” I was really submersed in listening to and thinking about Laughing Hyenas, who are one of the most underrated bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Their guitarist, Larissa Strickland, died in 2006, apparently of an accidental overdose, and I was spending some time reading about her and re-reading tributes to her written after her death. Around this time, one of our music friends from Louisville, Tony Bailey, died from an overdose and that heavy thought of wonderful people losing their lives to either addiction or to the demons that haunt them started to find its way into the lyrics. At the same time, there was a huge media explosion about the family in California that had abducted a young girl and she was found after seventeen years … I generally tend to drift to darker places when writing the words for our songs, all these things start to sift through and eventually the song emerges. I can’t say there’s a specific storyline, I think the songs’ meanings can adapt and change for me just as they can for the listener. That’s actually one of my favorite things about lyrics, is how the meaning can end up as something completely different than how it started. For now, “Blind In One Eye” seems to be about the allure of those desires that inhabit the darker corners of the our psyche, how some of us can turn away from them, but others find the enticement too strong.
02 “Blind In One Eye”
03 “Everything To Everyone”
04 “Crime And The City”
05 “Cloaked In Red”
06 “Perimeter Man”
07 “Skeleton Smile”
08 “Isela Vega”
09 “Lost In Groningen”
11 “Man Was Never Meant To Fly”
House With a Curse is out 6/22 via Temporary Residence.
06/18 – Louisville, KY @ Skull Alley (Free Record Release Show)
06/25 – Birmingham, AL @ The Bottletree #
06/26 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl #
06/27 – Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic #
06/28 – Tampa, FL @ Transitions #
06/29 – Orlando, FL @ The Backbooth #
06/30 – Savannah, GA @ The Jinx #
07/01 – Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero #
07/02 – Charlotte, NC @ The Milestone #
07/03 – Richmond, VA @ The Bike Lot #
07/04 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar #
07/06 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Barbary #
07/07 – Bethlehem, PA @ Secret Art Space #
07/08 – Brooklyn, NY @ Europa #
07/09 – Allston, NY @ Great Scott #
07/10 – Montreal, QC @ Friendship Cove #
07/11 – Ottowa, QC @ Maverick’s (18+) #
07/12 – Toronto, ON @ Parts & Labor #
07/13 – Syracuse, NY @ Wescott Community #
07/14 – Cleveland, OH @ Grop Shop #
07/15 – Detroit, MI @ Smalls (21+) #
07/16 – Dayton, OH @ Blind Bob’s #
07/17 – Toledo, OH @ Frankie’s #
# w/ Burning Love
Look for the band to hit the Western US and Canada in late August.