Interview and photos by: Makenzie Creden
Ahead of their show at Sleeping Village last month, WLUW sat down with Tim Darcy and Evan Cartwright of the band Cola to spread some love, talk introspection, and recommend some literature for creatives.
Check out the full interview below!
How did you guys connect? Because I know that you and Ben were in Ought, and then Evan, you were in U.S. Girls. So how did you guys find each other and realize, “oh, there’s some chemistry; some music making here?”
Tim: Ben and I met in university just through the music scene and we were both in a band called Ought and we were friends with Evan and also like ran into him on the road all the time touring with various excellent projects. We always loved him as a person and were in awe of his drumming so we
Evan: We would’ve met at a Montreal show. We played on the same bill.
Tim: I think it was Pop Montreal.
The album, Deep in View. It’s amazing. Is easily my album of the year, but that’s just my humble opinion… The title, Deep in View, that’s an Alan Watts anthology. Why Alan Watts? Why “Deep in View?” Can you just tell me a little bit about that?
Tim: He’s somebody who I had come across at various points over the years, but during the pandemic, I got more into listening to his lectures, in particular, and a few of his books. I actually didn’t read the book Deep in View, but came across it. The title just kind of instantly jumped out at me as a sort of summation of a lot of the themes that were coming up lyrically on the album, so I proposed just nicking it to Evan and Ben and they were into the name.
Evan: Yeah. I mean, I love it.
Tim: The name of the book is The Deep in View and I think it has like, you know, maybe like more of like a meditation specific context… So it felt like a little bit of a shift; it’s not a dramatic one, but to drop the “the” and put it on a rock record, I guess.
I love it. Again, he’s brilliant, and the album’s brilliant, and I feel like there are a lot of parallels. Like, the album makes you think and look in. I read in a past interview, that y’all said that the songs are very ambiguous emotionally. Like it’s hard to pinpoint whether it’s a happy or a sad song. Was that kind of the goal going into it or was that just how things ended up?
Tim: I mean, I think for me, like coming at a song from a lyrical perspective, there’s always like, for me a goal of if it is gonna be a more melancholic song or maybe dealing with more kind of dire human emotions or something– dire is an intense word to use– but, for there to be like a kind of an invitation to catharsis at the very least and ideally some kind of like uplift built into it. Again, at the very least, a kind of sense of like communal.. just a shared humanness around some of these emotions.
I like that.
Evan: And I think musically, we were trying to achieve kind of subtle moods. Yeah. Nothing that was clearly melodramatic or anything. We’re trying to find these moods that would just kind of sit in nice ways.
I feel like the album is so interesting in that way, because the relationship between you guys, as the artist who is putting it out there into the world; you put all of your heart and soul into that… Then the listeners come in, but they have their own thoughts and their perspectives and you know, their feelings. I feel like there’s, there’s an interesting kind of relationship there with your album…
How, how do you craft that sound to be very subtle? For me, music is emotional as hell, so how do you manage to craft a subtly emotional album?
Evan: I feel like, I mean, with this album and the way we made it, I thought we were able to achieve some of that subtlety just by taking a lot of time with things; just constantly revisiting what we had done and tweaking and tweaking just until it felt like everything was just perfectly balanced; like every song was just perfectly balanced.
How long did the album take approximately? I know that’s kind of a hard question.
Tim: I think our first session together was fall 2019, and obviously because of the pandemic, you know, everything got really drawn out. We tracked the record in May of 2020, so it was one of the longer collaborative writing projects that I’ve ever been a part of. In a way that was really nice. I mean, especially during the pandemic, having these in-person practices, to the extent that we were able to do an in-person practice, to look forward to was yeah. Kind of amazing.
I’ve read a lot, I feel like a word that gets used to describe y’all and your music is “introspective,” and maybe that’s more of the lyrical side. How do you use lyrics and music as a vessel for introspection and for catharsis? What does that mean to you?
…loaded question…. Sorry.
Tim: Evan just put out a really amazing solo record under his own name, so I feel like he would have interesting thoughts about introspective lyric writing as well, so this doesn’t have to be shouldered just by me.
I guess, you know, maybe because I’ve engaged in different different styles of lyric writing… Like in the band that Ben and I were in before Cola: Ought. I think, generally speaking, the lyrical perspective was more outward looking, and that just brings up different things. Like, there were like elements of playful confrontation and for me it’s more like exterior proper nouns, ideas, things like that. Then the interior landscape is often, I think, harder to write about because there’s this like real struggle with simplicity where it can be, I mean, especially when you’re talking about emotions, I feel like there’s like a real ineffible quality to some of these things. Sometimes there’s a play between like not wanting to force cleverness in a way that will like distract from sincerity, if that makes sense.
I like that.
Evan: I’d say Tim too, something I really like about your lyrics is there’s to me it feels like there’s always this trinity present where there’s image, there’s musicality– like, so often I hear you squeezing these little alliterations and rhymes in a way that’s just, it’s just musical. Then the third is these semantic pairings that rather than touch the imagination– like image-wise in your imagination– or touch your ear musically, they kind of speak to your imagination, like you are forced to think of what these things mean. Sometimes they’re a pairing that doesn’t necessarily make perfect sense, and yet you’re forced to think about it. I find those three things are almost always present in, in most of the lyrics I hear you singing.
Tim: Well that’s definitely one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about my lyric writing, and I’m probably gonna remember that for the rest of my life.
I mean, as a listener, I agree. That’s spot on.
Tim: Yeah. That’s really sweet. I mean, yeah. Thank you. I also feel wowed. Your ability to, I guess particularly as a vocalist, you’re such a good melody writer that I won’t even go into that because it’s quite frustrating…
But I think like your ability to, um, I think introduce like this quality of playfulness to these really sincere moments of lyricism without like… I feel like when I do that, I still struggle with the “wink” and I know it’s this kind of cloying, toxic masculinity that’s just creeping in. You’re able to so beautifully let go of that, but like still have this intelligence in the way that you present these emotional ideas that just really blows me away.
Evan: Well thank you. Is this an interview or is it just a love session??
I was about to say, I love the way you guys talk about each other, your friendship and your collaboration is beautiful. That was beautiful. And again, as a listener, I agree.
So moving on though… “Blank Curtain.” Why that one for the opener?
Tim: Uh, I don’t really remember. I think the label, that was the one to start with and I mean, I think we agreed. I think we agreed.
Evan: It also sets a tone. We really like playing it first in the show because it sets a certain tone. It’s almost like hitting a gong, just like then by the time that song’s done, everyone kind of knows that the music has started, but it’s not super energetic. It’s not like we’re not hitting anybody over the face.
It’s not energetic, but it is bold and it does grab your attention, so I definitely see what you mean there.
Another song I had a question about, my personal favorite, “Mint.”That’s the one song on the album that does have kind of a more specific tone to it. It feels lonely. It feels solitary. But also kind of making peace with that feeling in a way. I wanted to ask what was the inspiration behind that song, and what does it mean to you guys?
Tim: Yeah, I mean, I think you kind of hit the nail on the head. To me, like when Evan was talking about some of my writing being imagistic, that’s definitely the song that comes to mind. Yeah, there there’s like a sense of making peace with it, but also just kind of processing that feeling of solitude. I really liked the idea of a song that’s kind of bound up in a home or an apartment… so like really infusing it with these really strong images was like a nice contrast because to me it’s such a static song and it’s, maybe like the choruses are like trying to break out of a feeling a little bit…
Instrumentally, what was your inspiration there? Or was it just kind of following the tone that was set by the lyrics? What came first lyrics or the instrumentals for that one?
Tim: That was one where they, they came out almost all at once. Which is always a cool feeling.
Evan: Weah, musically, I really love playing that song. I really love playing that song live. I think just because I guess we call it the chorus, I just find an energy in that moment that isn’t anywhere else in the whole record, like the whole collection of songs. It just feels like each chorus the song just kind of breaks. Yeah. Like it kind of breaks in two, and then it starts again in the verse… just like that energy.
Y’all are literature people, so I’ve read (allegedly.) So what’s a book for a music lover? This is my fun question for the day.
Evan: Well, one that I would say would be for any creative person, Sheila Hedi’s Motherhood. I read that a few years ago. My girlfriend read it actually out loud to one another. For any creative person, she’s just kind of dealing with the idea of mothering and contemplating whether she is already like a “mother” as a writer, whether her work is what she is mothering in her life and whether she needs to have a kid or not… It is just an amazing book and it’s about the creative act.
Yeah. That’s a really interesting like perspective on it. What about you?
Tim: That’s such a good answer. I’m trying to think of something like specifically related to the creative life or to music… Okay, I recently wrote a book of poetry called This Clumsy Life by Bob Hicok, and it doesn’t really relate to creativity beyond the fact that I guess a lot of his poems are about him being a writer and trying to write a poem… He has this kind of flow where so often he starts by sitting down to write, so like you get caught up in that… I was really moved by it because he’s writing a lot about loss and like his family and loved ones aging and I guess after the pandemic especially, that really struck a chord with me. Yeah. So I’d recommend that.
Evan: Can I throw another one on top there? “Broken Sonnets to Orpheus,” which are a collection of sonnets, maybe like 40, all sort of around or written, to Orpheus. Any music lover I think would really love them because they’re all about song and what happens when we sing. I think in his case he was just imagining poetry as song. I’m not sure if he sang these sonnets, but he really delves into that moment of making sound.
I love that. Thank you for sharing that. I know that’s a very hard question. Really put you on the spot, but I appreciate you giving those recs. With that being said, what’s next for Cola?
Tim: We’ve got two more shows on this tour and then about two and a half weeks off, I think. Then we’re doing two and a half weeks-ish in the UK. Should be really fun. Then we’re gonna start working on another record this fall. Yeah. We’ve already got a couple new songs which are gonna play tonight.