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Coastal - Interview

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 21 / 6 / 2005

Coastal - Interview


Shoegazing Utah group Coastal recently released their second album 'Halfway to You' after a long absence. Back for a second interview with Pennyblackmusic, Ben Howarth chats to frontman Jaosn Gough about it and touring Britain with Low

Earlier this year, Coastal released their second album, titled ‘Halfway To You’. It is a fine release, and one that I will happily recommend. The band has long been a favourite of mine, and has a long history with the website. Their first album (titled simply ‘Coastal’) was one of the biggest sellers in the shop over a long period of time, despite the fact that the Provo, Utah-based quartet had at that stage never visited Britain. I first spoke to the band in 2001, when they were still enjoying the status of having had their single played on the John Peel show. With another excellent album out, it seemed the right time to get back in touch with Jason Gough, their songwriter and lead vocalist. “I do look often at Pennyblackmusic, because you guys have been so supportive” he says. “And we have always sold more records in the UK and Europe than in the States. Though I’m not so sure about that now, what with Amazon.com being so important. Actually, when Peel died, I was very sad. But I will always be able to say, ‘He played our stuff!’, and be very proud of it.” Of course, Peel never played music that he didn’t enjoy. It isn’t hard to see why he liked Coastal. They have pretty melodies, and are a likeable blend of slowcore and shoegaze, somewhere between Low and My Bloody Valentine (without sounding like either individually). The new album has some truly beautiful moments, and is worthy of undivided attention. Unlike the first, it has a broad range of instrumentation, and I think I like it ever so slightly more. During a trans-atlantic phonecall, we discussed the recently released album, and Jason’s plans for Coastal. PB: The first thing I would like to talk about is the new album, ‘Halfway To You’. Are you happy with it, and is it as good as the last one? Jason Gough: Well, you know, when we were first done, I thought they were just different. I didn’t want to say that one was better than the other. But now, I think that it is. It has a bit more diversity, the songs are stronger, we have evolved a bit as a band, although we didn’t want a radical departure. My philosophy has always been that if I like a certain sound I want to stay within that sound. We might draw in an acoustic guitar here or there, but we’re not suddenly going to turn around and do a techno album or something really upbeat. PB: Listening to the album, the production just seems slightly different, slightly cleaner and neater. As a result, the music just seems somewhat fresher. Was this deliberate, or was it just a result of the time between the two albums? JG: Well, as far as production goes, our first album was produced by a friend of ours, we had no real experience and he knew a little bit more than we did. It’s been four years since then. We have done other things. We went into a proper studio to record the “Winter” EP that we put out and we’d never done that before. I really didn’t like it, to be honest. I guess I like to have a little more control. So with that album, we just learned a bit more. For the most part, we record at home, don’t spend a lot of money and just do the best we can. There was one difference this time, not that we were loud last time, but this time we were even quieter, because we actually had kids this time. My daughter was asleep upstairs by 8 o’clock, so we had to record very quietly, which became a bit of a running joke! But we learned a bit more, how best to position mikes and things like that, so that would explain why the album sounds a bit tighter or cleaner. Maybe not tighter, but cleaner! PB: Was this put together as an album, or was it a collection just of your favourite songs? Were songs written with a specific purpose within the album, or not? JG: Well we never approach an album as a theme. I know bands that are really meticulous and their albums are entire stories. We're not that way are all. There are recurring themes of loss and sadness, although there are a couple of upbeat, happy tracks on the second album. One of the songs was an older song, and one of the interesting things about the song writing on this is that we became a bit separated in our locale. Josh our bass player is now about 25 minutes away at the south end of the valley, and our drummer was actually in Iraq for most of the time we were recording this album. He only appears, playing guitar, on one song on this album and I play all the drums, except for one song. A mate at work here filled in on 'London In February'. Otherwise, the funny thing is that it is more like a solo album, and I wrote all the songs and Josh would play a bass part, and Luisa, my wife, didn’t play keyboards, she just sang. It is the only way that it would have got done.It isn’t that I wanted it that way. But once I got into the songs, I just wanted to finish it as quickly as I could. It was very different from the first time round, when we’d been playing the songs live for months in advance of recording. PB: Does that mean that when you play live the songs have changed? JG: Do you mean the new album? Well, the funny thing is that we really haven’t played. We’ve only done one song. We played 'Eternal' when we played in London, and that’s it. We are doing some shows in California in August so right now we are in the process of actually learning to play some of these songs live. PB: The last time I spoke to you, you said that you didn’t think you were going to do much touring at all. But as it turned out, you’ve been to England and have done quite a bit of touring. What provoked the change? JG: Well, just opportunities came up. The trip to the UK started as a vacation. Luisa and I were going to go and we wanted to meet our friends Lorna from Nottingham, who we have a close relationship with and I helped them get signed to Words on Music, the label we are on. So we got talking, and I got talking with Low, and it turned out they would be there at the same time. But it was just going to be a vacation. It wasn’t planned as a ‘tour’, but it worked out that we could use Lorna’s equipment and it just worked out. We’ve come close to doing some festivals in Spain, and I hope that this year might be the one where that works out. But we’re at the point where for us to tour, it really has to be worth it. It isn’t that we don’t enjoy it, but we’re all married and we have kids and careers and we can’t really do it just for fun. A gig at a festival in Spain would warrant all the practice, but we just don’t play out locally anymore. I would consider a full tour, but it would have to be as support to a bigger band. We just don’t have the time to do the promotion. We are playing in California, but the reason for that is that our friends Lorna are coming over for the first time, and it would be nice to play, and not too hard to set up. I miss playing out live more often, I really miss it, but not the small shows a band of our size has to play. It isn’t really worth it. PB: Do you have any other bands that you are in contact with, similar to Lorna? JG: It’s funny you should mention that, because just the other day I was debating whether or not we wanted to get in touch with the Meeting Places, because they are from Southern California. And there’s a band that Words on Music, our label, has re-released recently, For Against, very influential American band, and I’ve never spoken to the singer Geoff the bass player/singer in my life, and he called! I guess either Mark Ostermeier or Eric Ostermeier from the label gave him a copy of our album, and he called me at 12.30 at night, glowing, saying he loved the album. For me this was a flattering and humbling experience, because these guys were doing it right when I was first getting into music, to have this guy gushing about my little band. Other than that there is Eric and Mark from Should, who are incredible, and also run our label, but besides that, not very much. PB: Another thing we discussed last time was the internet. You used the internet, rather than touring to promote yourselves, and of course now the use of MP3s has exploded. What are your thoughts on this? JG: Well, the funny thing is that we don’t use it quite the way we used to. In the early days we were quick to get on message boards and MP3.com was very influential in any exposure that we got. But these days we don’t have the time to network like we used to. We have fans who are friends, like if we go to LA there is a group of people there. But beyond that, its not that I’m no longer interested in using the internet.It is just that I don’t have the time and we’ve had more success than we ever thought we would. We’re not a huge success, but we’re an established part of the slow core scene I guess, and I’m elated. I probably said this when I talked to you last time. I never thought we would play a show outside of our room, so to get this far and play in different countries is amazing. So I’m not interested that much. We have a good situation with the label and they don’t expect us to tour, I’d love to sell more cds, but we aren’t in this for the money, and at this level, it is a nice hobby. We can record when we want and I see no need to ever disband Coastal because whatever situation we are in, we will always get around to recording music. We are in a good situation, we can do it on our terms, with no expectation, and it’s a healthy attitude to have, I think. Even if I could make a living off music, I don’t know if I would do it. I think if it is a job, some of the magic goes. I can’t imagine making music in a corporate, radio friendly way. I’m happy with the indie scene. PB: Have you had much thought about any future music you release ? JG: I haven’t really thought about a new album. There are some offers on the table to work with different labels for some split EPs, and if it sounds like it will be well done. If we’re approached, I like to know who else has agreed. We had an approach from Italy, and they had My Morning Jacket involved so it sounded good. It is nice to pick and choose a bit. PB: You also released 'Northern', a 7” on Becalmed records, with tracks from the first album. Can you see yourselves working with them again? JG: I wouldn’t rule it out. It is a great label. We got to meet Jose, who runs it, when we came to London, and that was great. It is a shame that he can’t release vinyl anymore, and I’m glad we were able to have the chance to do a 7”, but I would love to do something with him. And he is one of the main reasons I’m so keen to get to Spain! PB: You seem to be very content with the position of the band, but are there things you would like to do that perhaps you haven’t. What ambitions remain for you, with Coastal? Particularly, what is there left to do with the music? JG: Hmmm… I’m perhaps going to contradict myself here, I mentioned techno earlier. Perhaps techno isn’t the right word, but I listen to electronica a lot. I don’t know if Coastal is the right avenue but I really admire tasteful sampling and electronic drumming, and I think if we did that in the realm of ambience with Coastal we may be able to pull it off, kind of like what Slowdive did with 'Pygmalion', you know, different but still them. I’d find that interesting, but I don’t really have the knowledge or equipment to do that. Perhaps we could partner up with Lorna or someone. We’ve kicked around the idea of doing a Coastal vs. Lorna EP for ages, and now we’re on the same label, who knows? But I do like staying within the same vein, the same sound but at the same time there is a temptation to explore, mainly because of music I’m listening to. But, of course, the change to using more piano and acoustic guitar on this album was big evolution. I’m looking forward to getting another chance to play around. And Words on Music have made it clear that they are ready for album number three, you know! And they’ve grown a lot as a label since we did the first album. PB: Is it definite that you will still be working with them? JG: We have had some offers, but they have been so good, and so professional and I’m more than happy to work with them. PB: Do they have a big role in artwork and suchlike? JG: Well, this time we have had more autonomy. They weren’t exactly dominating, but because it was our first record, we let them decide things. This time, we have proven ourselves and felt more confident in our decisions. They rarely change the music, although they did master it, and they were fine with the artwork, a painting Josh did. It worked fine! PB: Okay, I think that covers everything. Thanks a lot! JG: Great. Thank you too.

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Interview with Jason Gough Part 2 (2002)
Coastal - Interview with Jason Gough Part 2
PB: How do you feel about the Coastal album now? JG: Today I’m really happy with it since I’ve just read an extremely positive review forwarded from the label. In fact, I’ve hardly read any negative press - I’m just waiting for the bomb to drop! I thi
Interview with Jason Gough Part 1 (2002)


Beneath the Snow and Streetlights (2015)
Wintry yet spellbinding third album from long inactive Utah band Coastal, which consists of five new songs alongside various compilation tracks and other rarities
Halfway To You (2005)
Coastal (2001)

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