In anticipation of Coast Modern’s debut album—the aptly titled Coast Modern (I’ve also seen it referred to as “The Album,” which is respectfully meta but confuses my grammatical sensibilities)—dropping on July 28th, in the year of our Lord, twenty-k seventeen, I received the chance to chat with the duo’s Luke Atlas.
He’s a delightfully cool fella, and the conversation we had left me very excited about the music and experience Coast Modern looks to cultivate. They also wrote edu-rap songs for NASA at one point; so yes, there will be an entire post on that fun little sub-genre coming soon.
Expect to be seeing a good amount of these two odd-bois as the release date approaches on their “The Album” (spoiler alert: I love it). Until then, a conversation you can ponder while listening to “Dive.”
The Indie Sound: I really like listening to people’s first albums. Especially nowadays, people are debuting music everywhere because we have all these streaming websites available to us. You two have a crazy confident sound already, it’s remarkable.
Luke Atlas: Yeah. We’ve been at this for a while.
TIS: How long have you been in the industry?
Atlas: We’ve both been producing and writing for probably at least ten years. Just for other projects and stuff. This has been our little baby and our first go at doing a proper band. It’s really cool.
TIS: How did you get your start?
Atlas: I started like in high school. Just jamming with friends—we had little bands. Then I wanted to get more into writing and producing, so I moved to L.A. and that’s where I met Coleman. Just through mutual friends in the backroom of a studio out here in the city.
TIS: Where are you from?
Atlas: I’m from Seattle originally.
TIS: Why L.A.?
Atlas: It’s just the place to be. It seemed like everybody—I wanted to be in pop and stuff, and there’s pretty much only one place to be. That’s L.A. You gotta be around the people that are doing the stuff, so you can bump into people. And that’s kind of what happened.
I met Coleman within a week of moving here and I didn’t know anybody, which is insane. One of those magical things that seem to happen here just because everybody is in the industry and creative minded.
TIS: When you met Coleman, did you two immediately decide to make music together?
Atlas: No, we were just kind of trying to get any opportunity we could. We took a little job doing songs for NASA. Like educational rap songs.
TIS: For NASA?
Atlas: Yeah, they have a traveling show. That came my way, and we were like, “um, let’s try this.” That was the first big project we worked on together. It’s very hard to incorporate physics into hip hop, but we did it really well. And we were like: “o.k.” Like, if we can handle that weirdness, then maybe we could do other stuff.
TIS: I want to hear more about this.
Atlas: I mean, we just made these songs in my bedroom in Hollywood. It went out to this traveling show. We got to go to in this middle school in Compton and see it performed live. They took these rap songs we made and set them to choreographed dance moves and traveled around the nation. It was pretty nutty.
TIS: Do either of you have backgrounds in physics?
Atlas: No. They sent us a book. Like: “read this, study up.”
TIS: And you had to make a rap out of it?
Atlas: Yeah. We had to distill it.
TIS: Are those raps out there? Like, could I find these?
Atlas: Not really. It was mostly just for the show. Thankfully.
TIS: You’re not proud of them?
Atlas: No. I mean, it’s great. It’s very… very different. Somebody’ll find it someday, I’m sure.
(It’s me. I will.)
TIS: So, how long have you been working on this album?
Atlas: The album kind of started the moment the band started. Basically, Coleman had left LA after getting a bit burnt out on the scene here. He went to Colorado and just kind of had a normal life. He wasn’t really doing music but he would send me little acoustic things every now and then. But it was very different from the pop stuff I’d been hearing. Very different from the pop and hip-hop stuff.
I was like: there are some sparks here. And I added some beats to some of them. Some ended up online, just on Bandcamp. Like we just had to put something out, just for the hell of it. I didn’t really think anything of it. But actually, the label we’re on now hit us up out of the blue. And was like, “hey, we really like this stuff.” So that, and then just feeling there were some sparks with these new songs—that we were doing exactly what we wanted to do and not trying to fit into some pop scene or something. That kind of sparked us, like, hey we should really make a go of this and make a real band.
One of the first songs we wrote was “Hollow Life.” That’s the first one that came out, and I guess that’s the version that’s on the album. And we’ve been working on [the album] ever since. Just song by song, and releasing singles here and there. Now it’s fucking here, yeah.
TIS: It’s a pretty large album. There’s a lot going on in it. Is there a through-line to it, or is just that process of you making it over a few years? Just song by song. Or is there like a scope to it?
Atlas: I feel like it’s partially a record of this experience forming this band and kind of growing with it. And also growing as people, cause we’re both very into learning about… I don’t know the right word… like self-actualization. Reaching for something, and meditating.
We’re kind of just exploring things we’re thinking about throughout all the songs. The growth through the record happened kind of in real time. Something like “The Way it Was,” which is near the end of the record, was kind of near the end of the writing process.
I’m just thinking about, um, as a record. You know, we made it my bedroom in LA. It’s very much a product of this place and this headspace, like new beginnings and the inspiration and excitement that comes from something new.
TIS: So it’s kind of autobiographical in a sense?
Atlas: Yeah. It might not be the most obvious on the surface. They’re still pop songs, but we put a lot of ourselves into each one of these.
TIS: You can tell. There’s a lot of dexterity in the music you’re making, but it all seems to come from the same headspace.
Atlas: It’s very varied. That’s part of just keeping it fun for ourselves and that’s who we are, sampling from all over the place.
TIS: A lot of the terms you’re using involve very meditative, introspective concepts. Are you both actively into that?
Atlas: Yeah. We’re just kind of exploring any way to broaden consciousness and spread that in a shiny wrapper. In a way that you might not be realizing you’re getting a view of these ideas, you’re getting transported to a sort of different world through the song. Because our writing process is very much a flow state. Just very quickly, whatever comes out. There’s not a lot of thought behind it, consciously. I think people can recognize some of that—maybe tap into that themselves, which is cool.
TIS: Do you guys have some type of ritual for getting yourselves to that place where you can just, like, free flow?
Atlas: I mean it’s tough. There’ll be like ten days where you just producing garbage and you’re wondering if you’re washed up. But then there are days where you really reach a peak where you’re like: “Fuck it, I’m done. I’m just going to play around and do whatever.” You’ve got to treat it like a game, I guess.
So, we’re just making sure to laugh or do something that we think, “oh that’ll never make it, that’s too weird” or whatever. And that’s usually the moment when something cool will just come on a lightning bolt. Because we just let down our guard and are messing around. Literally.
TIS: I can really relate to that. Where you’re just kind of stuck in that state of, “everything I’m making right now is garbage” and it builds up until you’re just like: “O.K. fuck it all.”
Atlas: Yeah, I think you kind of need that. That ebb and flow.
TIS: You talked about how you want to transport people to this different world. You know, like, understanding your own headspace and how you can express it in these different ways. Do you have a clear image of who you think is listening to this music? What do you think they’re going through? And what are you trying to tell them?
Atlas: I think it’s most people today. We’re more connected than ever, yet feel this distance between us still. I feel like we’re lacking a sort of community or just kind of not… it’s easy to turn off your brain and just not engage with what’s going on. Just distract yourself endlessly, but you still have these nagging feelings inside like something is wrong or something could be better.
I think part of the looseness and the freeness of the music could inspire someone just to be like: “these guys, they’re not super polished, perfect rockers with slicked back hair. They’re like going for it in their own way.” And maybe that’s inspiring. I hope it just lets people feel more free and less rigidly tied to how things are supposed to be under the shells people put up.
There’ll be like ten days where you just producing garbage and you’re wondering if you’re washed up. But then there are days where you really reach a peak where you’re like: “Fuck it, I’m done. I’m just going to play around and do whatever.” You’ve got to treat it like a game, I guess.
TIS: We have these various forms of mass communication now. And you two, as a band, are very personality driven. Even your music videos and your interviews and what-not have a strong sense of personality. How are you trying to mediate that connection you’re going to have with so many people?
Atlas: We’re really just trying to be very open and really just ourselves. And be very weird. Just because that’s who we are. And we really just want to treat fans and people out there on the internet like they’re people. Like they’re emailing us or something so we’re going to write back.
We’re learning a lot of people’s stories and hearing a lot. It’s so much better for us to be engaged with people and see how they’re experiencing the music. It’s not worth it to us to be all shiny and clean. You know, some of us are weird. I’ve never seen that before. But it feels right for this band in a strange way.
TIS: It is unique. And props to you both for doing that. It’s a pretty brave, tough thing to do to not approach what could be a persona as a persona. Just trying to be open.
Atlas: Yeah, we see this product as more than just a band or just music. It’s kind of a gateway into community, or… something. I don’t know. We’re building something here. And it’s just cool to see people coming along and we’re figuring out what we’re building as we go.
TIS: Do you both feel confident in what you’ve made here? In terms of Coast Modern, this band, and this style you have that’s really this experimental kind of free-flowing thing.
Atlas: Yeah we’re extremely confident because we’re not hiding behind anything. It’s just us as weird as we want us to be. And we did everything we wanted in the moment. If that doesn’t come across then at least we were honest and we put ourselves out there. That’s the best we can do. And it seems like people have responded to that, which is crazy to see.
TIS: Are you guys constantly working on stuff or are you thinking about taking a break?
Atlas: We’re always working on music. It’s like a compulsive habit, we just can’t stop. It hasn’t gotten to official album territory but we’re constantly making stuff. That’s why we released a mixtape recently. Just had a surplus we wanted to clear it out a little bit. It feels good to get some baggage out.