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Cold Showers: An Interview With Chris King

Cold Showers pic by Shannon Cornett
2 June 2019

Photo by Shannon Cornett
Cold Showers’ third LP, Motionless (just released May 24th on Dais Records), wields a more developed pop sound that is familiar to followers, yet more sophisticated and evolved than their previous works. Having traversed the realm of synth-laced post-punk expertly for close to a decade, Motionless is the band’s ode to their pop forbearers, their goth-like precedent enhanced with ambient narratives, acoustic overlays and compelling guest female vocals. Enlisting long-time collaborator Tony Bevilacqua (The Distillers) to co-write the album, Cold Showers expand their boundaries and let their creative mastery come to the forefront. The result is a warmly melodic, experimental and evocative pop record.  

After releasing singles on Mexican Summer and Art Fag Records, Cold Showers signed with Dais Records and released their debut LP, Love and Regret in the summer of 2012. With driving bass lines, hypnotic guitar riffs, tom-heavy drums, and deep melodic vocals that bridges the abyss between New Wave and Post-Punk, Love and Regret was met with industry praise and critical acclaim including synchs on hit television series 13 Reasons Why (Netflix), and How to Get Away with Murder (ABC).

Now on Motionless, Cold Showers’ most expressive and decisive record, the band find themselves looking inward and taking control of their creative process, while retaining all of their unique songwriting signatures. Recorded in their own studio in LA with band member Chris King at the production helm, each selection on Motionless sounds like a line drawing that quickly becomes a technicolor collage of crashing shoegazed reverberation. Touring Europe at present, we caught up Chris (guitar), to discuss the making of Motionless, touring and the ramifications of the car accident he suffered last year.

Massive thanks to Bailey Sattler at Grandstand Media & Management for coordinating.

James Broscheid: I am delighted (and relieved to be honest!), to see the band releasing a new LP on Dias! It’s been roughly 4 years since your last LP, Matter of Choice. What accounts for the time between records? 

Chris King:  We probably spent the same amount of time actually writing this record as we did the previous one, it’s just that there were some bumps in the road along the way. This record was supposed to be out last year, but in July I was involved in a serious car accident that delayed the record about 9 months. In a weird way this was a blessing in disguise, because at the time we were pushing full steam ahead to get the record finished by a certain date to stay on our release schedule, but after we had to take a few month break while I recovered, we were able to come back to the songs with a fresher perspective, and we (made) some pretty drastic revisions to “Black Sidewalk”, “Everyday On My Head”, “Tomorrow Will Come” and “Sinking World.“  

After Matter of Choice came out, we were all geared up to tour on that record, but then our old keyboard player Brian (Davila), had a health scare that nearly killed him, and we had to take a step back and figure out our next steps as a band. Jon (Weinberg, vocals), and I started writing a little bit during the Spring/Summer of 2016, but we really started getting serious about making another record around December, and that’s when we brought Tony (Bevilacqua) onboard to assist with writing it.  

JB: As a fan of your guitar work with Cold Showers, you also produced Motionless. With how busy it has been lately, have you fully recovered from that horrible car accident last year?

CK: I have fully recovered the concussion, which was the scariest part of the accident.  When you rely on music to pay bills, and all of a sudden you can’t listen to music for longer than an hour at a time without getting pulsing headaches or feeling dizzy, it can be truly terrifying. I had all but decided to quit music, sell as many of my possessions as I could, and go live with my sister in North Bend, WA (the town where Twin Peaks was filmed), but then my good friend Chelsey (Holland, who provides backing vocals on “Shine” and “Everyday On My Head”), convinced me to setup a GoFundMe (see link below). Anyone who knows me will tell you that there isn’t a more proud or stubborn individual on the planet, so that was actually a gargantuan task! I’m eternally grateful to her for that, because even though my fund raising page hasn’t met its full goal, everyone’s generosity helped me get through the toughest couple of months after the accident when I was unable to work and allowed me to stay in LA continuing to do what I love.    

I suffered a number of back and neck injuries, and while those are still requiring long-term care and may offer some slight inconvenience and discomfort for the rest of my life but, outside of that I’m pretty much able to live my normal life these days.  

JB: As a frame of reference, tracks like “Shine” and “Sinking World” indicate to me what East River Pipe would sound like if fronted by The Wedding Present’s David Gedge. What are some of the band’s influences (in music or not)? Does inspiration vary from album to album?

CK: Inspiration comes from everywhere, and outside of other music it’s hard to really pin down exactly how other elements of my life end up influencing the music we write. I know that just daily life and all the ups and downs that go with it has the greatest influence on our records; acting as a silent hand steering the direction. In general, I am also greatly inspired by excellence in any form, whether it’s the efficiency of one of my favorite and busiest places to eat in LA, Fisherman’s Outlet, the incredible research of mycologist Paul Stamets, or the life of my favorite basketball player, Jalen Rose.  

Some records that I was listening to a lot during the making of Motionless include Silent Shout by The Knife, PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love, Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore, Haha Sound by Broadcast, Blonde Redhead’s Penny Sparkle and Curve’s Doppelgänger. I also realized that a lot of these records were produced by the legendary Flood (aka Mark Ellis), and he had a knack for picking projects for artists that were in transitional phases or really wanted to drastically change their sound or push their boundaries, which was definitely a priority for us on this record.  

JB: “Faith” was chosen as the new album’s first single. What was the thought process behind choosing a record’s lead-off single? And is it difficult to sequence a record? 

CK: We left that decision in the hands of our close friends and the record label. When you’re too close to a record sometimes its hard to see it with the proper clarity! 

JB: The press release highlights Tony Bevilacqua as co-writing Motionless. Is this a bigger role than he had with the last album, Matter of Choice?

CK: On previous records, Tony had dropped in as a friend to record a sax part or a small guitar part here or there. For this record, Tony was a full-fledged member, and sat in on almost all the writing sessions. We’ve been lucky over the years to work with a number of ridiculously talented collaborators, and Tony is one of the most skilled musicians I have ever been around. Most people who have the incredible chops that Tony has find it difficult to not overplay, but Tony’s greatest strength is coming up with simple, catchy phrases or hooks, which I think is the most difficult part of writing a song. Anybody that spends a few hours a day playing an instrument for a few years can shred, but to really convey emotion with a simple part that gets stuck in your head, that takes a great ear and instinct, and that’s where Tony excels. 

JB: It is great seeing the band work with artist Robbie Simon again for the new record’s cover art. Can you speak a bit about that collaboration?

CK: Jon showed me a draft of the Motionless artwork that Robbie had posted to social media long ago and we all fell for it. Working with Robbie requires very little effort.

JB: Hearing someone other than Jon on lead vocals for “Black Sidewalk” was a bit of a surprise on first listen. Who is singing lead here and how did that arrangement come about? 

CK: The vocals for “Black Sidewalk” were provided by Emily Rose Epstein our amazing friend, manager, spiritual advisor, and confidante. “Black Sidewalk” is a song by Sandy Rogers from the Fool For Love soundtrack that we had been talking about covering for 6 years before we finally made it happen. Emily has a great country band called Blue Rose Rounders, and since the original song was kind of a new wave/country hybrid, we thought she was the perfect choice to sing our version. Our approach to Motionless was getting out of our comfort zone.  Why not have Emily replace Jon on a song?

JB:  How has the band evolved over the years?

CK: The biggest change to me has been the writing process from garage to the computer.  Introducing computers into the writing process helped speed things up tremendously, vastly expanded the available sonic palette, and also probably saved me from early hearing loss from the days we spent in a garage!

JB: How were ideas translated to songs on this record? Is it a matter of coming up with a melody or chord progression first and building from there? Are lyrics difficult to pair to a song?

CK: We always start with the rhythm section, whether it’s a drum beat or a bass line. I think that if you can’t groove to a song, there is no way to write a hook catchy enough to make it worth listening to. I’ll loop a drum beat in Ableton (music production software), and then the three of us will all tinker on different instruments until the song starts taking shape. The way we work, everybody writes parts across all instruments, and often parts that start on one instrument end up being played on another. For instance, the little bouncey lead synth line from “Tomorrow Will Come” started as a guitar part, all the guitar parts in “Black Sidewalk” started as keyboard lines, the strings in “Measured Man” started as a bass line, etc.  

For me, I also draw some of my greatest inspiration from sounds and timbres as opposed to melodies. I’ll spend a lot of time noodling with guitar effects or tweaking synth sounds, and then all of a  sudden when I get a sound/tone that is inspirational, it will become easy to write the melody for it.  A huge recurring theme on this record is stacking modern and vintage sounds, or real and synthetic instruments. There are real strings on “Measured Man” but also lots of string sounds from Kontakt sample libraries. The brass in “Shine” is 1/3 Tony playing saxophone through a bunch of guitar pedals, 1/3 old Fairlight samples, and 1/3 a stock Ableton live brass sound through a bunch of Soundtoys effects.  Each part by itself didn’t sound particularly inspiring, but they work together effectively to create something where the sum is greater than each of the individual parts. Every song has a mix of vintage analog synths as well as software synths (mostly uHe’s DIVA), and even though I typically despise direct-in guitars on some songs that have tons of guitar tracks (such as “Shine”), it made it easier to place parts in the mix if I combined mic’ed up amp signals with some direct-in ones.  

JB: How have you managed to settle on the current line-up? I believe you have gone from 5 to 3 members? 

CK: It’s tough trying to juggle being in a band with also trying to live something that resembles a normal life, so we’ve had lineup changes between every record which also develops each album.  We’re still friends with the former members, and very happy that they’re all thriving in both their personal and professional lives. Our lineup currently consists of myself, Jon, and bassist Anthony Cozzi, and whenever we start writing songs again Anthony will be involved in that process, which in itself will help us evolve.  

JB: The band currently has several European tour dates. Are there any plans to go on an extensive tour of the U.S. for this album? With such an expansive sound, are there going to be any touring members when you hit the road?

CK : Right now we’re just focused on this upcoming European tour, and we’ll explore whatever opportunities there are to tour the US later. As far as pulling it all off live, I’ve built a very scalable live set that includes sequenced synths, drum machines, and samples, but it can be adjusted to incorporate live drummers, additional synth players, etc for shows or tours when budget and player availability allows for it. I also do a lot of live guitar looping that allows me to play multiple parts at the same time, making it less important to have a second guitar player. Our live set is constantly evolving, which helps keeps us engaged with the material and excited to play every night.  

JB: As a huge fan of label mates Drab Majesty, Dais Records is the perfect home for Cold Showers. How did that relationship come about? 

CK: Gibby Miller (co founder of Dais), and Jon have known each other for years. A mutual friend of theirs shared some of our music with Gibby. The next day we received an email from Gibby and the rest is history!

Cold Showers upcoming live dates:

06/03: Hamburg, DE – Hafenklang
06/05: Gothenborg, SWEMusikhuset
06/06: Stockholm, SWESlaktkyrkan
06/07: Malmo, SWEPlan B
06/09: Leipzig, DE – WGT
06/10: Brno, CZ – Kabinet Muz
06/11: Krakow, PL – Klub RE
06/12: Warsaw, PL – Poglos
06/13: Prague, CZ – Underdogs
06/14: Jena, DE – Café Wagner
06/15: Cottbus, DE – zum faulen august

07/11: Los Angeles, CA  – Echoplex (Record Release Show)
07/12: San Diego, CA  – Whistle Stop

Order Motionless from Dais Records “Website”:https://www.daisrecords.com/

Donate to Chris King’s recovery fund GoFundMe

For more information visit:
Cold Showers Website
Cold Showers Bandcamp
Cold Showers Facebook