It’s sometimes difficult for some bands rooted in the punk genre to be able to fully transform and transcend themselves into other realms while retaining their core identity. Coliseum are one of those bands to which there are no rules or barriers, insisting even that their rootedness in punk rock was precisely what gave them the freedom to crossover to the post-punk and post-hardcore realms, all through the course of their five studio records. Here to talk about Anxiety’s Kiss, their fifth and darkest album yet is singer/guitarist and main songwriter Ryan Patterson who gave us some interesting insights into the band’s inner dynamic, songwriting process and other of his side activities, among other subjects.
Your new record Anxiety’s Kiss maintains some of Sister Faith musical traits, but it’s thoroughly noticeable that Coliseum’s sound is now stepping onto another level through the incorporation of some industrial and post-rock sounding patterns. Do you feel this new record is opening up the gates to a new creative era for the band?
The outsider’s perspective seems to be that Anxiety’s Kiss is a huge leap forward for us, so who are we to argue? The perspective and inner workings within the band are sometimes irrelevant when it comes to how the music is perceived by fans and critics, I suppose. Luckily, in this case, Anxiety’s Kiss seems to have been very warmly and positively received. For us, this “modern era” of Coliseum began with House With A Curse and this current creative path began with Sister Faith. With Anxiety’s Kiss we did what we always do; challenge ourselves creatively to attempt new things, work hard to be better songwriters and performers, always look forward and never repeat ourselves.
You’re starting to go beyond your core punk sound. The early spirit and straightforwardness is still there, but most songs feel somewhat slower in tempo with an atmospheric vibe. What recent musical influences do you feel have set Coliseum upon this path?
We’ve never felt restrained by genres or expectations. I think that this is very clear from our discography. When I felt that we’d done what we wanted to do with certain sounds or ideas, we tried new things. Ultimately, I’ve always wanted to have memorable, interesting, and moving songs. Personally, I don’t think that punk is an idea that is constraining in any way, that’s the beauty of it. Punk for me is about thinking and living outside of the lines, looking at everything askew in order to find the beauty or ugliness in it all. That spirit is certainly there because it’s part of our DNA and it’s in our hearts, but we’ve always pushed ourselves to look to the future with our music. We’re far away from where we started, but that is still entirely us at the same time. As for our influences, they have been well documented over the years. There are countless bands, artists, and sounds that are important to us and their seeds helped us grow.
Anxiety’s Kiss has been Coliseum’s second effort with the same line-up, something that has never happened previously. How was the songwriting process this time around with Kayhan and Carter, and how do you feel about the band’s inner chemistry at this point?
The band’s chemistry is the most powerful it has ever been and at this point I can’t really imagine Coliseum without Carter and Kayhan. Carter is the band’s longest running drummer and has been absolutely essential in us becoming what we’ve become. Both Carter and Kayhan have contributed more to songwriting each time and Anxiety’s Kiss was a very full-band effort. The music to a few songs were written mostly or entirely by one person; “Drums & Amplifiers” was written entirely by Carter, “We Are The Water” and “Wrong/Goodbye” were written mostly by me if I recall correctly, “Course Correction” and “Sunlight In A Snowstorm” were built on bass parts that Kayhan had written. Then most of the other songs were written together or from sections each of us brought to the table.
You’ve jumped right into the writing and recording of “Anxiety” shortly after “Sister” had been released. What impact do you think that sudden change back into writing mode again had in the final record?
I felt that we’d connected so well on Sister Faith and touched on something special with that record, so I didn’t want to let that energy we’d picked up dissipate by taking a break for many months or a year before starting to work on another record. I also didn’t want to take six months and sit on my own alone writing most of the record by myself. I knew it would be better with all of us collaborating from the onset. So we jumped right into the process of writing a new record less than a year after Sister Faith was released. It was an
exciting and productive time. We wrote Anxiety’s Kiss in a relatively quick time and the songs came fairly easily. I think jumping into it quickly made a huge impact on the album and was crucial in keeping us along that same creative path.
What themes have you approached for inspiration to your lyrics in Anxiety’s Kiss?
Sister Faith had been a much darker and more personal record, dealing with loss and mortality. The title Anxiety’s Kiss relates to the fallout from that time period. The song “Escape Yr Skull” directly relates to the album title but with the exception of “Sunlight In A Snowstorm,” most of Anxiety’s Kiss is a little less personal, but not intentionally so, it’s just how the songs ended up. Obviously inspiration comes from any number of places and the vibe of the music often somehow fuels the content of the lyrics. The first few songs on Anxiety’s Kiss are socio-political, addressing human empathy, capitalist class structure, and victims of police shootings, then “Drums & Amplifiers” touches on my feelings about punk and hardcore devolving into the same trappings as baby boomer culture. From there the lyrical content goes into realms that are a bit darker and more abstract, themes of lust, obsession, dominance, escape.
“Punk for me is about thinking and living outside of the lines, looking at everything askew in order to find the beauty or ugliness in it all.”
Songs like “We Are the Water”, “Course Correction”, “Dark Light of Seduction” and “Driver at Dusk” all bear some distinctive traits such as the use of synthesizers, varied echoey guitar sounds and a darker musical tone. When have you started to feel the need to experiment more with other types of sounds and to write some of these songs with a darker atmosphere?
We’ve been exploring darker elements of our sound for quite a number of years, starting with House With A Curse. That album goes to some dark and dense places, in many ways it’s our Southern Gothic record. It was also where we started to explore the use of synthesizers, although in a very subtle form, and also feature strings, accordion, and other instrumentation beyond the standard guitar/bass/drums. On Sister Faith, we chose to make the record a bit less dense. We kept dark post-punk songs, added more melody and continued using subtle synth textures and effected guitars. With Anxiety’s Kiss, I suppose we wanted all of these elements to be less subtle. If there was synth in the song, we wanted it to be clear in the mix and have its place in the song. We continued to give the guitar more room to be expressive with single notes, texture and melody, while always building the foundation of the song on the bass guitar and drums.
Other than these numbers, what do you feel are the album’s best moments?
Currently, my favorite song on Anxiety’s Kiss is “Dark Light Of Seduction,” but I love them all of course.
Now going back a bit, the band started in Louisville, Kentucky. When have you first started to discover punk music and how do you view the band’s trajectory from that point up until now?
I got into punk, hardcore and alternative music when I was an early teenager, at age 13, via skateboarding and MTV’s 120 Minutes show. I started Coliseum when I was 26. When Coliseum formed, I’d done a lot of bands up to that point that had been short-lived and broken up or fell apart relatively quickly. I wanted to do a band that lasted for a long time and could carve out some kind of legacy. We’ve done that and we’ve done far more than I expected or imagined.
Given all the sound changes throughout your career, have you felt that your fans always accompanied your evolution since the start? What are the first hardcore fans’ opinions about all of the band’s various stylistic changes over the years?
That’s a question for the fans, former or current, not for me. We make music that is sincere and moving and exciting for us and hope that it connects with people. It has always come from the same heart and with the same motives.
Do you have any kind of musical side projects besides Coliseum or any other endeavors outside of the music world?
I’ve spent my entire adult life working toward being involved with music and art every day, so I don’t have any endeavors that don’t involve music and art. I own the company/website ShirtKiller.com, which handles the online stores for hundreds of bands. I do graphic design, creating shirt designs and album layouts for bands, along with most of Coliseum’s art and some of my own art projects. I also play in bands at home when Coliseum is not touring, I’m in the bands Six Bells, Black God, and Whips/Chains. Kayhan is in the band Yautja and Carter is in the band Null. We all stay busy between Coliseum activity.
You guys have been on the road with Old Man Gloom recently. How was that tour, the audience’s reactions to the new material and where are you going to tour next?
Our tour with Old Man Gloom was in early 2015 on the West Coast of the States and it was great. It was just a week of shows but they were all wonderful. We’ve been on tour across all of the States all summer headlining and playing a lot of the songs from Anxiety’s Kiss. People seem to really dig the new songs, it’s the best reaction to a new record/songs that we’ve ever received.
After Anxiety’s Kiss, what can we expect from Coliseum in the future?
The album is very new and fresh so we’re still in the throes of it and aren’t looking to the next step at all yet.