Words by Jonathan Stout
An artist with a clearly defined aesthetic, Colleen Green is just about as “no bullshit” as a musician can be. Often touring with nothing but a First Act electric guitar and drum machine, the beauty of Green’s songs lies in their simplicity, lyrical relatability and melodic hooks that stick with you long after the record stops spinning.
Her newest album, Cool, exists in a similar sonic realm as her previous full length, I Want To Grow Up, but with the additional input of producer Gordon Raphael (The Strokes) this album ditches the former’s anxiety for chill confidence. Raphael’s touch can be heard in the dueling lead guitar lines of “How Much Should You Love a Husband” and the krautrock drum intro of “Natural Chorus” which are both vaguely reminiscent of the early Strokes sound. Even though the album tries out some new approaches, longtime fans will still be pleased with classic Colleen Green style rockers like “I Wanna Be A Dog” and “It’s Nice to be Nice.”
All in all, Cool leans far less on the heavy Ramones style pop punk influences of her early material and sinks ever more comfortably into Green’s own patented sound, which becomes more solidified with every album.
Off Shelf: The last time you released an album that sounded as fleshed out as Cool was in 2015 with your album I Want To Grow Up. After that, you retreated back to the more Lo-Fi solo aesthetic with your 2016 self titled EP. You’re also known for touring solo much of the time- in the end, do you prefer to make music solely on your own or do you like collaborating with others?
Colleen Green: Every one of my songs to date has been written solely by me which is the only way to be sure my vision and personality is communicated in a pristine way. The 2019 song “Profile Picture” with Jon Daly was my first collaboration, but it was more his song that I helped with and I felt comfortable with that; it took the pressure off me. I’d like to collaborate more with others in the future if for no other reason than I’m lonely and bored but I also don’t trust anyone and still find it hard to be vulnerable with others musically and lyrically.
OS: Where I Want to Grow Up focused on the anxiety of straddling youthful partying with adult responsibilities, Cool is slightly mellower but also exhibits more confidence. Do you feel like you’re in a better/healthier place now?
CG: Yes and no. I’ve identified my issues but am still struggling with them. I do feel more confident than I have in the past, and I think this has come from age and experience.
OS: How did you link up with Gordon Raphael to produce your newest album? How did Aqua end up getting involved?
CG: “Under Control” is my favorite Strokes song, and the guitars on my demo for “I Believe in Love” really reminded me of that. That’s when I knew I wanted to work with Gordon. Jonathan Poneman from Sub Pop knew Gordo from back in the day and just asked him. We talked and I knew he was someone I could feel free and comfortable with.
Aqua has been a friend of mine in LA for several years and we had been working together a bit. He’s a big drum machine and synth guy – not to mention a huge Strokes and Gordon fan – so it made sense to bring him in for help.
OS: You’ve created and maintained a really reliable sound on all of your albums. When creating songs on your own, what does your recording set up look like? What hardware/software, etc. do you use to program your beats?
CG: The sadly now deceased Yamaha RX-11 that I’ve had since 2008 is what I’ve used to make demos for all of my albums so far. You can hear it on Milo Goes to Compton, Cujo, and Sock it to Me. I also still use an older version of Garageband to edit and record.
OS: It’s been a rough year and a half for musicians- with touring and gigging falling through, etc. How have you maintained and navigated through these tough times?
OS: You recently started your own unique Patreon service. What kind of content can fans expect if they subscribe?
CG: Unreliable livestreams and inconsistently posted cover songs.
OS: Your custom painted t-shirts are really cool – I especially like the “Not Richard but Dick” Dead Milkmen one. What inspired you to start creating them?
CG: Thank you! When I first started, I was destitute for a number of reasons. I lived really close to a Goodwill and a Utrecht art supply store. I knew absolutely no one in LA let alone someone who printed shirts, nor could I have afforded their services anyway, so I would just go to Goodwill and buy interesting looking ones and paint them myself.
OS: What’s an out of state destination that you always like to stop during tours?
CG: I always play at Hotel Vegas in Austin TX.
OS: Speaking of touring – what is 2022 looking like for you? Are you planning any events or tours?
CG: I want to and am currently looking for a booking agent for the first time ever.